Equipping your Field Staff

Some of the best training films for Animal Control Officers have been provided by Hollywood. Nothing sets the scene better for preparing for an on-scene arrival than watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds; or the 1998 reboot of the movie Godzilla. Let’s not forget the entire Jurassic Park series. Nothing gives me goosebumps better than watching a couple of animal control trucks arriving on the scene BEFORE the Army has been called out.

The success of a “mission” is best determined by the equipment that is available for each officer. The maintenance of animal control equipment is of paramount importance. My first ride along with my field staff showed me the need for me to bring my own equipment. Nothing puts fear in you better than confronting a vicious dog with a catchpole that hasn’t been properly maintained. I still carry my own catchpoles wherever I go because I refuse to ever use the equipment maintained by anyone else.

Every time you debrief from a call, you should consider the items that you could use to have made the call easier. From these debriefs you come up with ideas for the equipment that you one day might need. I remember formulating the idea for an inflatable beach ball that could be pulled through draining pipes to help round up stray kittens that have fallen into the drainage systems. I created a 50-foot catchpole with an infrared camera to lift dogs that had fallen down wells or deep holes. The funny thing about creating these devices, you find that you’ll rarely ever use them, but when you do, nothing else works.

Something as simple as having a head-mounted flashlight helps at night when both of your hands are needed to handle the catchpole. Depending on your budget, which is often the most limiting factor, net guns, tranquilizer guns, and snake tongs are always helpful when the need arises. Always go in with the right equipment and ensure you know beforehand how to use it. Always think things through; it doesn’t do any good to have snake equipment if you don’t have the proper container to put the snake in after you catch it.

Also, keep in mind the laws of physics. If you ever use one of those nice long extension catchpoles to remove a cat from a tree; you’ll soon learn how you lose the advantage of leverage with the weight of a cat on the end of a long pole. At best, you can hope for a controlled crash when bringing the cat down to earth. Don’t let your heroic efforts harm the animal you are saving. Always conduct your business as if it might become viral on YouTube because there is a good chance it will. Keep in mind that using a catchpole doesn’t always look humane on video because its primary intent is to keep the person on the other end of the pole safe. But it is sure a lot better than trying to wrestle a dog on the end of a leash.

I know that some of you are saying that you have not been in the business as long as this guy and won’t encounter a Velociraptor in your lifetime. At this point, my eyes glass over as I contemplate my old war stores. There is nothing like rehashing the old stories, whether they are real or imagined.