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Nov 04

The Evolution of the Animal Services Officer

Posted on November 4, 2019 at 9:44 AM by Lori Calvery

dog catcher
“Run Buddy! The dog catcher is here!” A proclamation any Animal Services Officer who has been in the business for a while knows all too well. Animal Services Officers, also referred to as Animal Control Officers, have been around since the late 1800’s. Animal Services departments were initially created to clear the streets of loose dogs and provide public health services, such as rabies control. Since then, the animal welfare industry - and the value people place on an animal’s life - has evolved significantly. As a result, in modern times, what we Animal Services Officers do is so much more than just rounding up stray dogs.
animal control officer with dog
So if we’re not just rounding up stray dogs all day, what is it that we do? Just like fire fighters and police officers, Animal Services Officers are compassionate, highly trained staff who provide lifesaving efforts every day for animals in our community.

First and foremost, we respond to all animal bites to humans. From minor, understandable incidents to severe and heartbreaking scenes. This is one of the top activities that Animal Services Officers are called to respond to. Making sure that all people and animals involved are safe and that all bites are properly recorded and investigated is a top public safety priority for our officers. In the event that a bite is the result of a wild animal or other rabies candidate (bat, skunk, etc.), our officers work with the County’s Health Services Department to test the animal for rabies and conduct community education regarding rabies protection in the affected neighborhood.

We also investigate animal cruelty and neglect allegations, most of which end in a simple educational conversation with owners but can also leave us driving home in tears and disbelief at the things we see.

We respond when two animals get into a fight, or when people let their pets run loose, and work to educate the public on topics such as responsible pet ownership, animal safety and coexistence with animals in Contra Costa County.

We often get called to rescue animals in need, from deer stuck in fences to horses on the freeway and kittens in storm drains.

We enforce the County’s leash lawsanimal licensing requirements , and other animal related laws and ordinances.

We respond to calls for aggressive and injured animals, often by ourselves supplied with only the tools in our trucks. Because we are highly trained in elements such as handling aggressive animals and responding to injured animal calls, we are often able to manage these situations with skill, grace and compassion, ensuring the health and wellbeing of all people and animals involved.

animal control officer with bald eagle
And after all of that, yes, we still catch stray dogs. But when we catch those dogs, we don’t just load them in our trucks and bring them to the shelter. We are in the business of helping to re-connect lost animals with their families. We scan them for microchips, we ask neighbors if they know where they belong and we try our very best to get that pup home before bringing it to the shelter.
stray dog

Our job is unique and exciting but not always pretty. We often spend our days doing a thankless job. We return daily because we care tremendously about the animals and our community. Certainly not for the glory.

Here in Contra Costa County we are lucky to have a dedicated Animal Services Department with a Field Services Unit that provides 24 hour service, 7 days a week. We respond tirelessly to thousands of calls for service annually. So next time you see one of our big white trucks in your neighborhood, call us over and ask us what we did that day. You may just hear the greatest story ever told.

Alana Weissman,
Animal Services Officer
Contra Costa County

Contra Costa Animal Services is currently hiring for the position of Animal Services Officer. 


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