Officers train on animal capture, rabies

BY Jan Murray

Officers train on animal capture, rabies

In the 21st Century, policing a community can and likely does involve more than patrolling the streets in a vehicle. In some towns and cities, like Daleville, the police are also in the  business of animal control. Thus, a need to know how to appropriately handle animals of various types in a safe manner, both for themselves and for the public, is imperative.On June 14, Director of Public Safety Harvey Mathis took steps to make sure his men and women in uniform are properly prepared to interact with the animal world. Mathis took more than a dozen officers to the Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary in Level Plains to be trained how to correctly identify animals that might be rabid and how to capture a variety of animals, rabid or not.“Every Daleville officer works animal control for the public and we need to be knowledgeable on how to handle animals properly. We work in cooperation with Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary to help recover animals and get them back out,” explained Mathis. “It’s not about dispatching (putting down) animals that people call about. We look for a safe way to get them back out into their environment where they will no longer bother people. The only way to do that is to learn from the professionals on how to handle the animals….We just want to make sure that everybody acts and behaves with knowledge and not just out of myths and what they have been told.”Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary Director and Rehabilitator John Morse told the officers to be careful using the term rabies because just because an animal is out at a time of day when it normally isn’t is not a reason to consider it rabid.“A lot of animals will act strange,” said Morse. “But what I teach people is, is that there are three indicators if an animal has rabies.” He explained that five animals in Alabama can carry rabies without exhibiting any symptoms but if the animal being observed is one of the five vector animals— fox, coyotes, raccoons, skunk and bats— the first criteria is met. Secondly, Morse explained, the animal should be observed from a safe distance and if it stumbles off balance while standing, then a second criteria is met. Thirdly, if the animal cannot walk in a straight line, Morse said, there is a good chance the animal is rabid and will need to be killed and its brain sent for testing.DPD gets numerous calls about animals acting strange, Mathis said, adding, “I want to make sure my officers are well aware of what they need to do and today, we learned steps on how to do that.”“The chance of you getting bit and getting the rabies virus is really slim…The further you get bit from the stem of your brain the more likely your body is going to reject that virus,” Morse said. “But, that’s not your call. If you are bit by a wild animal you are going to have to go to the health department and they will tell you what to do.”Rabies is a disease caused by a deadly virus that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and prevention is considered the only treatment, since once symptoms occur the disease is always FATAL.Morse advised that if particular individuals are primarily responsible for acting on suspected rabid animal calls those individuals should get the pre-exposure shot which will help the body reject the virus if a bite from a rabid animal occurs.Morse demonstrated how to properly use common trapping tools officers have access to, such as catch poles. Before attempting a capture, he told the officers to have a plan, adhere to the plan and follow through. In addition to the five common rabies vector animals, Morse also demonstrated how to properly capture snakes, birds and alligators.Morse said that officials and private citizens can call the sanctuary at (334) 447-8110 for assistance in any wild animal trapping situation, including suspected venomous snake encounters. BBWS is a 501(c)3 non-profit and gladly accepts donations to aid in the organizations care and rehabilitation  of numerous injured, sick and orphaned wild animals and birds.

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