Local News

Animal Control Officers Seek Extra Protection Against Dog Attacks, Owners

Posted May 24, 2002

— Some jobs are more dangerous than they used to be. Consider the job of animal control officers.

The growing popularity of dogfighting has many county animal control departments asking for handguns and bulletproof vests.

That is because many dogs bred to fight are also trained to fight. Treadmills help build up their endurance.

"This is handmade especially for pit bull terriers," said Officer Robert Richardson of Halifax County Animal Control. "They put bait in front of him and he runs until he can't run anymore."

Two dogs recently charged towards Richardson.

"Luckily, I came out with my shotgun. If I hadn't had my shotgun, I wouldn't have made it back to the truck," he said.

It is not just the dogs that make the job more dangerous; it is also the owners.

Breeders and owners have a lot of money tied up in their animals, so they are willing to go to great lengths to defend them.

"A lot of gambling goes on," said Jeff Dillard of the Halifax County Division of Environmental Health. "Sometimes a person can make thousands of dollars in one night off of a dogfight. A lot of the people are probably armed, you've got drugs at the same time."

This is why Halifax County will soon issue bulletproof vests and concealed handguns to its animal control officers rather than just rifles and tranquilizer guns.

Wake County served as a model for new training procedures and policies. Departments throughout the state are discovering the job of animal control has gone far beyond rabies control.

"Eight years ago we didn't have the problems we're having now," Richardson said.

As long as the dogs make money for their owners in the fighting ring, he expects the problems and danger will continue.

In Halifax County, as in most other counties, animal control officers cannot make arrests. Officers will receive handgun training for self-defense only.

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