Having the Right Tool

Animal control officers have it easier than police officers because we can usually predict the actions of those that we deal with.   Our cliental have their own set of tools, like teeth and claws and we need to have to proper tools to prevent our own injury and protect the animal.  The most important tool is the one that we don’t have.

Catchpole: the catchpole is the most important tool we have to prevent injury to ourselves and to control the animal.  Even used properly, it can be a media nightmare when its use is watched by others.  The trick in using a catchpole is to gently control the animal with minimal force.  The catchpole should be tight enough to keep the animal from escaping, but not so tight as to choke the animal.  It is the one tool that you should ALWAY care with you.  When facing an aggressive dog, the last place your catchpole should be in in the vehicle.   When I would go out into the field with my officers, I always carried my own catchpole because I knew that it worked.  Always keep your equipment in working order.

Muzzles:  as I mentioned previously, using a muzzle on a cat means that you have already lost the fight.  The trick to muzzling dogs is to use the right size; too small and the dog can’t breathe, too large and the dog removes the muzzle.

Gloves:  The only glove that I ever found that worked on cats was the Neptune Glove.  The glove looked like the attack sleeve used in training police and military dogs, but was covered by chainmail.  It was expensive, but paid for itself when I was called to remove a badger from the trunk of a car.   I haven’t seen it on the market for years, but there are a lot of new materials available that claim to be puncture resistant.

Pepper stray:  I used pepper spray once, when I foolishly stepped out of my vehicle without a catchpole.  I discovered that a leash provides little protection from a cornered Rottweiler.  Pepper spray come in many concentrations:  Halt is at .003 %, others are at 5%, 10%, and 20% for bears.  I always carried Halt, but many animal control officers want to use the concentrations used by police officers.  Although it is infrequently used, to keep the pepper in suspension, you need to vigorously shake up the can at least once a month.

Clipboard:  A metal clipboard is the best protection when approaching pet owner’s home.  We have all experience dogs pushing their way past the owner to get at the intruder on the porch.  In these situations, I have yet to come upon a pet owner willing or able to control their pet.  For that reason, the clipboard provides a small shield from the animal.  The dog wants to bite you, so you feed the dog your clipboard.  You keep feeding the clipboard as you step slowly back to the street to your vehicle.   In situations in which two dogs run out at you, you pepper spray them both and use the clipboard to feed to the one that keeps coming.

Snake tools:  snake tongs and snake hooks are valuable for dealing with snakes.  I hate snakes and found that they don’t make 20 foot long snake tongs, you’ll have to work with tongs that are 4 or 5 feet long.

Hazmat equipment:  if you ever have to go into the home of a hoarder, you’ll appreciate having disposable coverall, booties and gloves.  A facemask with the methane/ammonia cartridge will be necessary in the worse cases.  Make sure you keep track of the expiration date on the cartridges.  The facemasks come in various sizes, so it is important to find the right size to fit you.

Flashlights:  remember that using a catchpole requires two hands, so a flashlight that isn’t fixed to your forehead will only get in the way if you need to use your catchpole.

Flex ties:  It is not uncommon to find yourself in a hoarding case that you need to borrow pet carriers.  The carriers are often broken down and the screws are frequently missing.  Flex ties is a good temporary solution in an emergency.