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Loose animals have towns’ police running wild

Staff writer

Police around Marion County have had an adventurous month of animal-control incidents.

Marion and Hillsboro police are dog-catchers by necessity. Their communities have no official positions for the job.

Peabody has a part-time dog-catcher, but if the dog-catcher is not working, it falls to police to handle issues like loose dogs, police chief Bruce Burke said.

The big issue, however, isn’t who handles loose canines but where they come from, he said.

“Our No. 1 problem with animal control in this community is dogs coming in from out in the county, or they’re being dumped on us from out in the county,” he said. “People expect us to take care of the situation even though the dog was picked up in the county. That’s a misuse of funds and resources.”

It also becomes the duty of Peabody officers to handle wild animals around town, but like Hillsboro and Marion officers they have limited resources.

“If it’s a raccoon, they’ll tear your trap up, and if it’s a skunk, you have to have a special trap,” Burke said. “We have one skunk trap and don’t have any for raccoons.”

Being ill-prepared for an animal call happened to Hillsboro assistant police chief Jessey Hiebert when he was called about a three-foot-long rat snake in downtown Hillsboro.

Hiebert had just come from a call about a loose dog and didn’t have the right gear for to handle a snake.

“We don’t have the equipment for that,” he said. “We sure don’t have anything for snakes.”

Hiebert held the snake down with a broom while fire chief Ben Steketee wore a leather glove to restrain its head. They released it onto city property away from downtown.

While police often are the ones people call for animal complaints, Hiebert said, the issue is difficult because there is no animal control person in Hillsboro.

“We’ll pick up dogs if they’re running loose, especially if they’re aggressive,” Hiebert said. “To call us for the skunk in the window-well, possum under the shed, or the snake in the street, we do what we can, but we have no equipment to handle it.”

Marion police had similar issues, as they caught multiple raccoons this month, having to kill one and releasing another.

Police often have to kill wild animals when they are caught because there is no way to know what disease they might have.

While they aren’t as common as some animals, Burke said armadillos could be especially concerning.

“We have no way of catching an armadillo, either, because they carry leprosy,” he said.

Some armadillos naturally carry bacteria that cause the disease in humans, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it is unlikely that coming in contact with an armadillo will lead to someone getting leprosy, the CDC cautions against contact with the animals for general health reasons.

Last modified July 30, 2020

 

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