PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) – It’s a golden anniversary for a man with a golden heart. After 50 years of working for Paterson – almost all of them as an animal control officer – Paterson Animal Control Chief John DeCando was honored by Mayor Andre Sayegh with a key to the city.

“It’s been a long run,” said DeCando. 

DeCando has protected pets and wildlife in the city for half a century, from dogs and cats to deer and raccoons, even emus. Through the years, he’s worked with organizations like St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center to protect animals whose owners struggled to care for them. He’s even had a hand in helping lawmakers craft legislation to protect livestock and give more legal rights to animals.

“I believe every animal has a soul,” said DeCando. “That’s from my heart. I don’t have a million dollars, but I can tell you I do have a million-dollar heart.”

This is no retirement party, though.

DeCando will keep working until “the Lord decides it’s time to call it a career,” he said.

“If you love your job as much as I love mine, you never have to work a day in your life,” said DeCando. “I can’t wait for tomorrow morning to go to work.”

With the holiday season approaching, DeCando asked those who can give back to your local food shelter and animal shelter.

“I ask them, when they go shopping, buy a couple of extra cans of dog food and cat food, and bring it down to the local animal shelter so they can actually give people who don’t have nothing that food,” said DeCando. “That would be a blessing if they could do that.”