A day in the life of an Animal Care officer

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Video by kgun9.com

A day in the life of an Animal Care officer

CREATED May 17, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - We love our pets but sometimes we need protection from animals---and they need protection from us.
That's where officers from the Pima County Animal Care Center come in.

KGUN9 On Your Side had a chance to spend a day with Officer John Rademaker of the Pima Animal Care Center.  He told us: "The job has good parts and bad parts.  It has cruelty, it has neglect and it also has puppies and kitties."
Preparing for a day looking out for the welfare of animals, Officer Rademaker says there are no slow days.

He checks his truck to make sure the air conditioner will keep animals cool. 

"If I picked up a dog right now I'd take it in as opposed to driving around with it.  If I got the kennels down in the 80s it's no problem to have a dog with you the whole day."
People often put their pets in danger by not realizing how hot cars can become in even moderately warm weather.
The first stop for this shift is the case of a dog owner who seemed to not realize her puppy's kennel only has shade for part of the day.

He tells the owner: "So you're gonna have to rig something up so the dog is not in full sunlight this much of the time."
She gets citations for not having the dogs licensed and vaccinated.  But also gets information on proper care and places to get low cost vaccinations.
Officer Rademaker checks a tip that this dog may have been abandoned---and he is aggressive about guarding his turf.
The officer documents what he sees, and keeps a careful distance from the fence.

"I came up to a wall one time not knowing that the dog had access to a box or something on the other side and as I came walking up to the wall , the pit bull was ale to get on whatever he got on and kind of got over the wall and bit me in the nose. Luckily he hit me so hard that he knocked me back before he had a chance to bite my nose off."

At this house there are signs the residents may have moved.  People often keep dogs away from the commotion of a move and pick them up with the last of their things.  The dog has shade, food and water, so he posts a notice that an officer will re-check in 24 hours. That saves him from having to capture the dog with a snare pole.

"It acts like a five foot metal leash and keeps the dog away from you, allows you to control the dog and to direct the dog where ever you want it to go once you get it.  Getting it is sometimes exciting..."
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said: "That still does not sound like 100 percent protection." 
Rademaker: "Very very few dogs when they realize that they're not the alpha dog will actually come aggressively towards you so most of the time they're trying to run away from you."
A worried neighbor called to help a young dog in the yard next to her home.  There's little doubt the residents abandoned him.

Pamela Odom tells Officer Rademaker: "They told me Saturday they were moving to Scottsdale. I just can't believe they would leave an animal like that. 

Rademaker: "Well we're going to impound the dog today." 

Pamela Odom: "He's really a nice dog." 

Rademaker: "Is he? Good."
Another officer left a 24 hour warning at the house the day before.  With that time expired Officer Rademaker, takes the dog and finds he is as nice as the neighbor says.

The dog seems so happy and friendly, Rademaker struggles to hold him still to take a photo for his report.

He says, "This can sometimes be the hardest part of the whole thing."
Even being processed into the shelter the dog shows a friendly personality that should give him good prospects for a better life with an adoptive family.

Craig Smith said to rademaker: "He seems to be doing okay with the other dogs even knowing they're nearby."

Rademaker: "He doesn't seem to be particularly dog aggressive either so...." 

Smith: "So that's probably good for his adoption prospects". 

Rademaker: "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah."

Smith: "That he seems to be okay with other dogs."

Rademaker: "Yeah.  He's obviously good with humans and if he's good with other dogs, he's got a chance."

Later, we learned some sad news about the young dog who seemed so adoptable.  Veterinary exams at the animal care center uncovered serious health problems that mean he will probably have to be put down.