Animal Control Enforcement



Animal control enforcement agencies face a unique set of challenges involving aggressive animals, assault by animal owners, and special equipment requirements such as control poles and bite sticks.

Aggressive animals are a given part of the duties. Most of the time the use of control or catch poles resolves this difficulty with a minimum of risk to the animal control officer, animal, and the public.

Dealing with upset owners also comes with the job...to a point. People get emotional when you touch their pets. Some are overwhelmed with gratitude that you've recovered their lost pet before it could be hurt.

Others appear to see their pets as an extension of themselves and/or their libido. They expect the animal to be able to roam at large doing what it wants, regardless of laws or by-laws. They are furious when you take 'Fido' into custody.

Add to that that they now have to update licensing and pay the pound fees to get their animal back. You have the potential for a real emotional upset and outburst.

For 90% of these owners officer understanding and verbal de-escalation techniques are all that are required. It's the 10% that give us all the problems. Even among otherwise law abiding citizenry it is amazing how emotional, illogical, confrontational and sometimes down right assaultive some people can get when you're holding their pet.

Not all pet owners are law abiding citizens to begin with and those with criminal, particularly aggressive, tendencies are even more prone to initiate a physical altercation. Staff need to be trained to handle these eventualities. Otherwise staff will be seriously injured and hold their department liable.

Alternatively staff may overreact and cause serious harm to their aggressor in which case the aggressor or their family will sue. In a worse case scenario the department can find itself being sued by the animal owner/aggressor and their staff member.

The unfortunate mindset with old style security and enforcement agencies is that they tend to wait until something goes wrong to fix it. Training will always be a whole lot cheaper than litigation.

Meanwhile animal control staff who feel cared for and supported are more productive and less likely to become sullen and drawn into altercations.

It's a win/win mitigation solution.

Bite Stick Training

One of the most effective ways to deal with a vicious dog attack is the trained and judicious use of a bite stick. There are a variety of styles of bite stick available but today the most common is the collapsible baton.

This choice has become popular among animal control departments for the same reasons as security and law enforcement agencies prefer it; ease of carry and ready deployment.

Ease of carry is a huge issue. Whether you're talking a bite stick or an impact tool. If it's awkward, heavy, or gets in the way, then it simply gets left in the vehicle.

In other words, it's not available when the animal control officer needs it. The same applies to ready deployment. Longer fixed sticks and those with things like balls on the end can be more difficult to get into use.

You don't want to lose time when you've got 42 teeth heading your way as fast as four legs will carry them.

Besides, I've noted that dogs have much the same reaction to a collapsible baton being snapped into the open mode as most human attackers do. They suddenly decide that maybe this wasn't such a good idea...and back off.

The biggest difference between an impact tool and a bite stick is that the bite stick is not used to strike the animal, but to literally fill it's mouth and keep it from biting you. Most officers can become proficient with their bite stick after only 8 hours of training.

A question that constantly comes up with regards to bite sticks is the department's concern that the stick will in fact be used as a baton against human attackers.

This is very rarely the case and in those instances when it does occur is usually readily justified. Anyone may improvise as they see fit within the parameters of law to protect themselves when attacked. In this instance, a bite stick could become a weapon/impact tool of opportunity.

Training should not ignore this possibility but should address it openly and clearly and emphasize that the training is geared to using the collapsible baton as a bite stick and that no training has been provided to use it as an impact tool. Thus, responsibility and liability for it's use in this case would fall solely upon the officer who elected to use it.

Conversely animal control officers could be properly trained in the use of the collapsible baton as an impact tool in departments where a history of assault on staff supports a need for this training. Provided of course disengagement tactics and alternate subject control methods are taught first.

Regardless of impact tool training, bite stick retention should include training for the eventuality where in the animal owner attempts to seize the bite stick. There are owners out there who will deliberately put a vicious dog on an officer. The same people wouldn't hesitate to prevent you from using your bite stick to protect yourself from the animal.

Animal control officers are often expected to work in harm's way and as such deserve proper and appropriate training for handling aggressive animals, assault by the owners, and the proper and lawful application of their bite stick.

Officers so trained can approach their job with greater self confidence and a greater confidence in their department.


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