WORTHINGTON — After working as a correctional officer at the Nobles County Jail for nearly five and half years, Laura Garcia has made a career move that has kept her in law enforcement while complementing her love for animals.

Garcia began her new job as the city of Worthington’s animal control officer on Sept. 14. She had been working at the jail since February 2015, and she’s enthusiastic about the change.

“It’s about the love of animals; I have a pet myself,” Garcia said Monday at Prairie Justice Center, out of which she works. ”It’s also just being more involved with the community and teaching the community more about animal care awareness.”

Garcia is the proud owner of a 6-year-old beagle, Callie, who adds no shortage of happiness to her life.

“She just gives unconditional love,” Garcia said. “It's great coming home and just having her excited — she's just a big ball of energy.

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“She's quite a joy, and it’s just so much fun playing with her and going on walks — I take her for her exercise and I get my own exercise in. It’s a great way to relieve stress.”

Garcia, who’s originally from Texas, came to southwest Minnesota in early 2015 when she moved to Windom. She had just become engaged (she hopes to be married in October 2021), and had graduated from college shortly beforehand.

Garcia attended Texas A&M International in Laredo, Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice while minoring in psychology. Minnesota, naturally, is quite different from Texas, but Garcia has grown to embrace her new environment.

“It was a little tough to get used to it, but I’ve become a fan of winter,” she said.

She’s also become a fan of exploring Minnesota and the region, as she has enjoyed taking Callie to several parks and going hiking with her. She hopes to bring that same sort of passion for her own dog to her new job.

“I receive calls for animals that are at large and also if there are any animal complaints, like a barking dog, or if someone has a concern about the welfare of an animal, I go take a look at that,” Garcia described. “I work with several organizations around southwest Minnesota as well, like Tracy Animal Rescue, to place any dogs or cats … and to get them to a new home.”

Garcia said she’s “available at any hour, every day of the week” to offer her services as animal control officer, and that she also speaks fluent Spanish. She invites people to contact her on her cell phone at (507) 329-0070.

“I’d like to welcome the community to please reach out if they have any concerns about an animal, or if they would like to know more about the program for adoption that we have,” she said.