Anne Arundel County police trained to help animal control

For the 10 officers in the Anne Arundel County Animal Control division, covering the entire county 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can be challenging.
Last year brought with it an average of 30 calls a day. On hand to answer those calls during the week are four officers, one per district. 
For officer Christina Williford, who has been on the job for three years, it is not only the work that can take a toll, but also the sheer amount of territory they have to cover.
"On the weekends, we only have two officers and each officer covers two districts and that's the whole Anne Arundel County," Williford said. 
That can make for some less than ideal wait times, and frustrated people on the other end of the phone, especially during the busiest summer months.
"Once we get out there and explain to them, 'Sir or ma'am, I'm sorry that's it's taken this long, there's only two of us here.' sometimes they're understanding and they're okay with it. But other times, they're highly upset. We do what we can and get it taken care of and then, they're happy with us."
They have always gotten relief from the Anne Arundel County Police Department, which has at least 60 to 80 patrol officers in the field to animal control's two.
However, in the past few months, some new tools on the police side have added to their ability to answer animal control calls.
Chief Kevin Davis says about 40 patrol sergeants now carry catch poles with them.
"One of the things we task them with is to listen to the radio for those calls for service where a potentially dangerous animal is involved. Once they hear that, the patrol sergeant dispatches himself or herself to the scene with this tool," Chief Davis said. 
Every patrol officer will also soon have ultrasonic devices.
"It can clip onto your belt. It's got a button you push. Humans can't even hear it," said Michael Stringfellow with Invisible Fence. "It's ultrasonic, so it's almost like putting a blast horn up to a dog. And they're like, 'hey ok! I hear you! I see what you got now.' So, it just gets their attention and again in many cases, it's not going to stop every dog, but in many cases just gets them to back down a little bit and say 'okay, I'm not sure what it is you got there but I might want to look to you and see what else you got,'" 
Stringfellow donated the first 100 of the ultrasonic devices to the police department and says 350 more are on the way. 
It was a February incident in Pasadena that caught Stringfellow's attention and pushed him to reach out. 
According to police, a patrol officer doing a neighborhood canvas was startled by a family's dog, and ended up shooting and killing it. 
While that officer didn't know he would come across a potentially dangerous animal, it was a wake up call for Chief Davis, who was tired of sending his officers into those scenes unprepared.
"While deadly force remains an option, it's an option now that is further down the road here in Anne Arundel County. There are some steps in between that our officers now know they have the tools and the training to take before we consider deadly force," Chief Davis said. 
It didn't stop with the catch poles and ultrasonic devices.
Officers also got training from the American Humane Society.
"I know we're not talking murders, rapes, robberies and burglaries, but how law enforcement interacts with families' pets is really important not just in Anne Arundel County, but in society. ... The community thinks that 'oh, the county has an animal control section.' We certainly do, but they are not going to be able to get there first," Chief Davis said. 
"Not that we want to turn our police officers into animal control officers, but we've got to be able, and we are able now, to do better with how we respond to incidents involving potentially dangerous animals." 
Print this article Back to Top

Stay Informed