Watch Welch's speech in video by Karen Hartford.

UPDATED, Oct. 27: Arlington Officer Diane Welch has been named one of two top animal-control officer for 2019, Acting Chief Julie Flaherty announced Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Nominated for the award by Arlington residents, Welch will be recognized at the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts (ACOAM) Certification Academy graduation ceremony and awards banquet on Friday, Oct. 25, at the Courtyard by Marriott in Marlborough, along with co-recipient of the award, Milton Police Department ACO Nancy Bersani.

ACO Welch was among those graduating from the ACOAM Certification Academy, a 96-hour, 12-week program that trains officers in a variety of areas, including animal capture techniques and strategies, livestock and exotic animal handling, wildlife issues, dog-bite prevention, animal health-inspector duties, rabies protocol and local bylaws and ordinances.

"We're incredibly proud of ACO Welch, and the reputation she has built with our community as a kind, skilled animal-control officer," Flaherty said in the release. "We are so fortunate to have an ACO here in Arlington who has an incredible talent for working with animals, and also has the drive to include and educate our community as well."

Arlington ACO Diane Welch has been named Massachusetts Animal Control Officer of the Year 2019. (Photo courtesy Arlington Police Department)ACO Diane Welch and pal. / APD photo

The annual Massachussetts ACO of the Year award is given by the Animal Rescue League of Boston and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It recognizes exemplary officers who have a dedicated, humane attitude, enforce pet responsibility laws appropriately, conduct public-awareness and human education programs and develop partnerships with other agencies that work with animals.

Welch comments

Welch comment to YourArlington the day before the official news release: "Thank you so much for your congratulations! .... The amazing residents of Arlington nominated me and wrote letters. The most amazing letters.

"When the MSPCA notified me, I was speechless (an unusual state for me, as I am a talker). I ran up to tell my boss, Captain Curran, and I started to cry. I kept it to myself for a week. I was so so completely overwhelmed and humbled.

"I have been Arlington's ACO for just over 1 year! I'm a rookie! I am so grateful to the Arlington residents that have supported me, believed in me, believed in my motto of 'kindness matters.' I have worked hard all my life...I'm not afraid of hard work. Being ACO is by far the hardest, most rewarding, most overwhelming job of my life.

On Friday night, Oct. 25, she received her diploma for the Animal Control Academy and her award.

Arlington supporters attending the awards banquet to honor Welch included Flaherty and Capt. James Curran from the Police Department and Arlington residents from the community organizations A-CAT (Karen Hartford and Wendy Fields) and A-DOG (Joan Black, Ellen Leigh with Ricky and Sue Doctrow).

Acting chief Flaherty, Capt. Curran also honored >>

Animal Control Officer Diane Welch holds an owl. (Courtesy Photo Arlington Police Department.)Welch holds an owl. / APD photo


ACO Welch was sworn in as the town's ACO in July 2018, and since then has become well known in Arlington for her expertise working with animals and sense of community.

Since she began her role in Arlington, Welch has worked with local volunteers and trained them to transport injured animals to animal hospitals and assist when cats and dogs are missing or found, crafted educational programming for residents including a 'Living with Coyotes' event, and has used social media to further promote the humane treatment of animals and provide additional educational opportunities.

Each month, she posts a Facebook newsletter, including videos of animals, at the Facebook page @ArlingtonMassachusettsAnimalControl.

Additionally, Welch has made numerous visits to schools and local scout troops to discuss animal care and wildlife support.

Resident comments

Amanda Gazin, an Arlington resident, wrote in the application nominating Welch for the award: "In my 63 years, spent in rural, urban, and suburban settings in Massachusetts, I cannot think of another ACO I have known by name. I have certainly called them on occasion, and while almost all were helpful, none had the community presence and obvious total commitment to animals and to people that Diane Welch has." 

Welch has a wealth of experience working with animals, and has been a state and federally licensed falconer for 25 years. She has been called upon by the Massachusetts State Police numerous times to help capture and rescue injured birds of prey in the Danvers area, and previously served as the president of the Massachusetts Falconry and Hawk Trust.

She also owns a dog walking and training business, and has several years of experience working for the Burlington Science Center, where she cared for more than 60 animals, including snapping turtles and owls.

This news announcement was published Tuesday, Oct, 8, 2019, and updated Oct.  27, to add video and attendees.