Animal lover finds her calling

Alyssa Ellison became chief of the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office’s animal control unit in 2019. She works closely with veterinarians and fellow law enforcement on everything from high-profile animal seizures to lost pets.

Ellison said she has worked in everything from welding to bartending, and working with animals is what she finds most fulfilling.

“When factory work went to pot, I started working part-time as a kennel attendant at my local shelter,” she said. “I’ve always loved animals and if you ask my mother she will tell you I’ve always had some kind of way with them.”

From her days working in the kennel, she befriended a local humane agent and began going on ride-alongs. In Ohio, her former home state, humane agents operate somewhat like animal control officers do in Virginia.

While at the shelter, Ellison learned to give animals their vaccines and medications and became certified to perform euthanasia. At another shelter, she worked as a veterinary assistant in a spay/neuter clinic.

Her veterinary career eventually led her to Washington, D.C., where she became the shelter manager for the Washington Humane Society. But the commute from Spotsylvania County wore her down.

She applied to be an animal control officer in Spotsylvania County and learned that she would be expected to answer calls when she was the closest person to the scene, whether it was animal-related or not.

The idea of being in law enforcement was something that had been in the back of Ellison’s mind since childhood.

“I’m an only child, raised by a single mom,” she said. “And growing up, the few times she dated, she wound up in a domestic violence situation, and every time we’d move, he’d wind up finding us. He always wanted to fight the cops, too. Well, there was this big, bald cop, and he’d always make sure he got the guy in custody right away, and he’d wait with us if there was an ambulance coming ... little stuff like that.”

Now a single mother with three kids of her own, Ellison said that the big, bald cop, whose name she has lost over the years, was her inspiration for wanting to get into law enforcement.

“So when they told me that I would be a fully sworn law enforcement officer and that I’d have the chance to help people the way that I was helped back then, I was really excited,” she said.

After 18 weeks at the police academy, she went on to work for seven years at the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. She took advantage of being an officer to take classes and obtain certification as a master underwater criminal investigator, as well as in licensed water rescue.

Last March, she became aware of the vacant chief’s position at the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office, and she applied. She was sworn in that month.

“I love animals, and I love helping them when they need it the most,” she said. “That’s what people did for me. I’m just returning the favor.”

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