A day on duty

A day on duty

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - There is no such thing as a "typical" day at New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Animal Services.

The day starts at 7:30 a.m. either rushing out on the first call or taking care of a mountain load of paperwork.

Considering that the victims of abuse situations can't speak for themselves, there is an abundance of record keeping to handle their cases.

It doesn't take long for a call to come in from somewhere in the county.

The officers and deputies are assigned individual districts but usually end up just about everywhere while provided backup and bringing rescues back to the shelter.

Most of WECT's ride-along time was with Officer Stephen Watson. He received a call one afternoon that a man came home to find his puppy nearly dead with a broken neck.

Like most calls, the scene revealed much more once officers arrived.

Inside the home, puppies were crawling everywhere - clearly a breeding operation. In New Hanover County all breeder's must have a permit or be subject to fines.

The puppy was barely alive. While Watson attended to the dog's care, the other officers noticed a pit bull locked in a filthy cage on the side of the house.

An uncomfortable conversation began with the owner who quickly began tidying up the cage and explaining why the dog was living in such poor conditions.

You might expect the officers to immediately seize any animal they find in sub-par housing, but there is not enough space or resources to provide for them all at the shelter.

Instead, you'll see officers explaining in great detail the expectations, ordinances, and consequences that are now ahead of them. Follow-up on issues is a routine part of the day.

Often, a call will turn into a finger-pointing competition. Residents want to know who complained about their barking dog or tell officers the "real" problem is the pet next door.

Complaints and concerns are always anonymous. The public is often the eyes and ears for the officers, and they do not disclose who lead them to someone's door.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating situations to watch the officers deal with again and again, is the storytelling.

Now potentially facing fines for breaking an ordinance, WECT watched weeks of charades all to get out of the impending consequences.

On a porch full of dog feces, the owners had an elaborate explanation as to why the sight and smell weren't as bad as it looked.

Residents are up against years of experience and common sense in all of the officers.

"A dog poops two or three times a day, and that whole porch was covered in feces, so they had not cleaned that fecal material off that porch in several days," explained Watson. "I was born at night, but it wasn't last night!"

Raccoon sightings are some of the more common calls.  Most residents know that a raccoon rambling around in broad daylight is a wary sight.

However, with new construction and housing developments pushing wildlife out of their habitats, people see wildlife more now than they ever used to.

Rabies exists in New Hanover County which is why it's critical to make those calls to animal control if you or your animal ever come into contact with a "rabies vector" (raccoon, fox, bat).

Suspected cases are decapitated, and the head is sent to a State lab for brain testing.

Untreated cases are fatal which is why it's critical to report incidences, vaccinate your pet and get treated yourself.

The shelter offers free clinics for rabies vaccination, so there's no excuse not to have your pet current.

When riding with Deputy Brandon Parker, we headed to the edge of the county where a man was suspected of running an un-permitted breeding operation.

"A lot of younger folks get these animals and want to get into the business of breeding, however, they aren't educated on the vet care needed for these dogs," Parker said. "A lot of times we see overbred dogs that get sick or are extremely emaciated."

There's no hiding a mother that has recently delivered a litter - her stretched out belly is a clear giveaway.

There's also little hiding an illegal operation since most openly post on public websites to sell off the dogs. It's easy income with high consequences.

Make sure you see it's veterinarian paperwork and vaccination history if you ever buy a pet from an individual. Or, adopt from the shelter where you know it's guaranteed.

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