PIEDMONT -- Monica Heuston's love of animals has landed her a job as the Piedmont Police Department's new animal control officer.

"I've always wanted a career working with animals and helping animals and humans to coexist," said Heuston, who took the oath of office Aug. 22.

Heuston replaces George Cyr, who retired last December after working with the department for 20 years. About a dozen people, including police Chief Rikki Goede and Capt. Scott Wyatt attended the swearing-in ceremony, which was administered by City Clerk John Tulloch. Chief Goede welcomed Heuston and gave the audience a little background on her new hire.

"I never had to hire an animal control officer before; I appreciated the help from Captain Wyatt," Goede said. "I think we made a great hire in Monica."

Heuston, 32, was born and raised in Suisun City. She attended UC Santa Cruz, where she pursued a major in biology. She switched majors and universities and graduated from Towson University in Maryland with a degree in sports management, with dreams to become an athletic director.

"She played on the college basketball team -- that's something we have in common," Goede said.

However, Heuston, who has two dogs and two cats, decided that she really wanted to work with animals.

"Monica decided to go back to what she loves -- working with animals," Goede said. "Her goal is to become a vet."

Before Piedmont, Heuston worked for a veterinary hospital in Concord, where she served as a doctor's assistant and pharmacy technician. She's also a volunteer with the Suisun Wildlife Center and the Marine Mammal Wildlife Center in Sausalito. Heuston's mother, Paula Holland, as well as Heuston's husband, Jeremy, attended the swearing-in ceremony at the police department.

"I'm very happy and proud of her," Holland said. "I'm a little worried about situations that she might find herself in, but she's very levelheaded, so I think she'll be careful."

London Rivera, who has been an animal control officer in Piedmont for seven years, welcomed Heuston to the team.

"Things are going well; Monica is really good with animals," Rivera said. "We're dealing with the typical strays, uncooperative animals ... Monica is learning about local wildlife issues and how to abate those problems."

Piedmont's animal control officers respond to injured animal calls, cruelty calls and also handle dog licensing -- including off-leash dogs. Piedmont Animal Control also has a contract with the city of Emeryville to patrol their streets -- though not to handle dog licensing. Heuston's swearing-in concluded with coffee and cookies -- and a proud mother and husband.

"This is a great day for Monica," Paula Holland said of her daughter.

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