Animal control officers receive certification during class in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2016

Doug Eddins, with the American Animal Cruelty Investigations School, demonstrates how to use a pump powered gun to deliver a tranquilizer dart.  Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Doug Eddins, with the American Animal Cruelty Investigations School, demonstrates how to use a pump powered gun to deliver a tranquilizer dart.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Animal control can be a difficult job, putting officers in the path of not just cats and dogs, but sometimes larger animals that are harder to catch or potentially deadly.
When traps, lassos and other commonly used methods to detain an animal are either impractical or impossible, animal control officers may have to rely on the use of chemical capture and immobilization methods, such as darts shot through guns or administered by hand.
This week animal control officers from Picayune, Ocean Springs, Moss Point, Harrison County and Demopolis, Alabama attended a two-day course that provided them with certification in conducting animal cruelty investigations, but also went over the use of devices that can be used to immobilize an animal that might pose a threat to the safety of the officer or the public, said American Animal Cruelty Investigators School Director Doug Eddins.
Sgt. Stephanie Nowlin with the Escambia Animal Services, said the use of chemical capture devices is just another tool animal control officers use to humanely move an animal that might be a danger to itself or the public.
They also help the officer capture the animal without being bitten. Eddins said thousands of dog bites occur each year, which can lead to lost man-hours and personal liability lawsuits.
Instead, a department can invest in one of these devices for about $500, protecting the officer and the public.
The certification course the officers took is the same one mandated in the state of Florida for all animal control officers. While Mississippi does not mandate certification, the participating departments sent their officers to the course anyway, which was held in Pearl River County at Picayune’s Intermodal Transportation Center and a gun range in a secluded area.
The first day of the course entailed a class, where participants learned about the history of poison darts, and other methods of immobilizing animals, which goes back thousands of years to tribes in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Other topics covered in the course included the types of modern equipment available, pharmacology of the chemicals used and how they affect animals, officer safety, public safety and animal safety, Eddins said.
The second day, participants headed to a shooting range in the Stennis Space Center buffer zone to practice using various kinds of firearms that can deliver the darts under various situations.
They can vary from CO2 rifles, modified guns that use a blank shell to propel the dart, and blowguns. Under certain situations it might even be best to deliver the chemical by hand.
Eddins said each device is suited for certain situations. If the animal is in a trap, or otherwise close, then a blowgun would work well to deliver the dart. Blowguns are also essential when trying to chemically sedate a small animal, since some of the high powered guns could do more harm than good.
Typically, the use of chemicals to catch an animal would be used only when the animal is hard to catch with a trap, it could fatally attack a human or if there is a risk of transmitting a communicable disease, Eddins said. That means their use is usually a last resort by animal control officers.
Drugs encased in the darts are the exact same types used by veterinarians while performing surgery.
But, there are some risks to the animal as well, such as cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest and shock.
“You have to be responsible with this. If you’re going to do it you have to do it right,” Eddins said during the course.
As such, Eddins instructed the participants to monitor the incapacitated animal closely.

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