Having the Right Tools

Being an animal control officer is much easier than being a police officer; I’ve always been able to predict the behavior of an animal, but I am still trying to figure out people.  Given the tools that are available to animals (teeth and claws), it is necessary for animal welfare workers to have the right tools.

Muzzles:  as I have mentioned previously, if you need a muzzle for a cat, you have already lost the battle.  However, muzzles are effective tools for potentially aggressive dogs.  It is important that if you see the need to put a muzzle on a dog, that you use the right size.  A muzzle is useless if it doesn’t stay on the dog.

Catchpoles:  a catchpole is for the safety of an individual.  Anyone who has used a catchpole knows that it can be a public relations nightmare.  Many dogs have never been on leash, so you can imagine how they will respond to a pole.  Using a catchpole on a cat is much like using a muzzle; it is always hard to watch.  It is too easy to harm a cat, so make sure that you catch one of the front legs; otherwise, consider using a net.  Catchpoles are one of those tools that you should ALWAY carry away from your vehicle.  I walked up on a Rottweiler with only a leash and quickly discovered how stupid that was.

Pepper spray:  pepper spray is extremely important to carry if you are stupid enough to get out of your vehicle without a catchpole.  On a side note, the owner of the Rottweiler filed a complaint against me for using pepper spray on her dog, she should have file a stupidity complaint against me.  I had the right tools but didn’t have them immediately available.  Fortunately for me, the sergeant investigating the incident was attacked by the dog and was nearly shot.  I received no disciplinary action other than the verbal abuse I received from myself.

Nets:  nets make me think dogcatcher.  I hate using nets on poles.  My officers use giant nets in Atlanta.  I hated them, but I saw that they were very good at using them and the animals were safe… I overlooked my objections.  Nets are really the only way to catch and control aggressive cats.  The problem is getting a cat out of net and into a carrier.  I have found most gloves insufficient for handling cats.  It is also very hard to find an experienced person willing to test a new set of gloves on a cat.

Metal clipboards:  other than a brick wall, there is no better protection to keep from getting bit than a sturdy clipboard when by an aggressive dog at the owner’s front door.  When the dog rushes out the door, the clipboard is what you feed it.  You use it as a shield.  You continue feeding it until you can back away and get into your vehicle.  I’ve rarely found the owner willing or able to control their pet during one of these incidents.   If two dogs come rushing out at you, you pepper spray both and hope that the spray stops one of them.  The clipboard may be your only protection at the door, so make sure you spend the extra money to get a metal one.

Snake tongs:  I hate snakes.  The first tools I purchased when I started work as an animal control officer was a snake tong and snake hook, even though I had never encountered them in my work.  No sooner did I have the new tools in my vehicle that I got my first snake call.  So, be careful what you order.

Gloves: one of the most useful tool that I ever had was a Neptune Glove.  You probably have never hear about them because I may have been the only one who ever bought one.  It looked like an attack sleeve used in training police and military dogs, but had an additional covering of chainmail on the outside of the glove.  Although the glove was expensive, it paid for itself the night that I got called out to remove a badger from the truck of a car (long story).  Chainmail is used on smaller gloves for people working with knives.  There are gloves rated for animals, but I have never gotten anyone to test them on a feral cat.

Flashlights:  when working at night, remember that it takes two hands to work a catchpole, so make sure you get a light that you affix to your head or pole.

Duct tape and cable ties:  I can’t think of any use for duct tape while working, but it is still a useful tool.  Maybe you can tape your flashlight to your catchpole.  In a disaster, duct tape usually fixes anything… like an emergency repair to a animal carrier that lost half of its screws.  Which reminds me that cable ties are handy when you’ve lost all of your carrier screws.

CO2 fire extinguisher:  This is one of the most effective tools in breaking up dogfights.  The extinguisher provides a momentary shock to the dogs that will hopefully break up the dogfight… once administered, it is important to quickly move in with leashes or catchpoles.

The most important tool is the one you decide you need when you don’t have it; so, in each situation, think about what tools would make your job easier (safer).