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Animal control officer keeps busy in the city
By TIA LYONS
The life of an animal control officer can be pretty challenging, especially when the officer encounters an animal that is not a typical, domesticated cat or dog. Just ask El Dorado Animal Control Officer Wayne Crow.
"A lot of people are under the impression that all I do us ride around all day picking up cute little doggies and returning them to their homes or adopt them out and that's not the case," he explained.
Crow said the El Dorado animal control office has received calls in reference "to every type of animal you can think of."
He further stated many of the calls involve situations that fall beyond the scope of the job description for the ACO, explaining the main interest of animal control is to capture wild dogs-at-large, tamed pets - to return to their owners -, livestock, and fowl-at-large.
In addition, Crow explained that in his capacity as animal control officer, he tries to protect animals from irresponsible owners who commit acts of cruelty against them, as well as safeguard citizens from animals who pose a threat to public well-being.
Crow said he also monitors and polices illegal dog fighting in the area.
"Oh, we've had calls about bulls, cows, pigs, goats, deer, raccoons...," Crow said. "Of course, we've had to say no to many of these calls, such as squirrels in the attic, possum under houses, raccoons, vermin. I've had to tell people I am not an exterminator."
Crow added he tries to capture those types of animals only if the creature has bitten or scratched someone or is creating a public safety hazard.
Nevertheless, Crow said he has found himself in some precarious predicaments while dealing with animals during his more than 20 years of law enforcement experience.
He recalled his first animal encounter with a "reindeer" while working as a patrolman with the Smackover Police Department.
"I was sitting in my patrol unit 27 years ago on Dec. 22, when I heard this ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling. Then I saw this little dog come from behind a building with a bell around its neck," Crow said.
However, as the animal got closer to the unit, Crow realized it was a deer.
"He kept trotting to the door, and I thought it might bite me, so I raised the window," he continued. "He stuck his head through the crack and poked his nose through the window and we became great friends. He ate my potato chips, and I think he even ate some tobacco I gave him."
Crow said the deer followed him the rest of the night while he did some foot patrolling, "but no one believed" his tale.
Crow said he thinks that peculiar experience set the stage for more to come with his job as animal control officer in El Dorado.
He then recounted some of the more challenging animal situations in which he has been involved, including the capture of an Afghanistan goat, which left both him and the goat submerged in a creek.
And the failed attempt to capture a pet bull that had escaped from its owner's back yard and wandered near Morning Star Child Development Center.
"That bull ran me up a tree," Crow exclaimed. "I went there with my little corn in a bucket, and the bull was coming at me real slow. As he got closer, he got to walking faster and faster, then I got to walking backwards, and it started running after me, and I turned around and I ran up a tree and then the bull stood at the bottom of the tree."
"Now I can take defeat," Crow continued, "But when you've got 300 children laughing at cha' and pointing fingers, that's a little more than defeat, that's humiliation."
Crow said he was not sure if the bull intentionally charged him up the tree or was simply trying to eat the corn, but it kept him "treed" for about 10 minutes before returning to its yard nearby.
Crow admitted his ego was also bruised by other experiences in which he was injured by the seemingly meekest of pint-sized creatures.
"There was the mockingbird attack and my 10-year track record was broken when I got bit by a Chihuahua," he laughed.
While describing the "mockingbird attack," Crow said he had received a call about a stray dog in a woman's back yard, and upon he arriving on the scene, he found "the dog on its side, screaming, and looking up in the air."
Crow said he assumed the dog was mad until he "was hit up side the head by some claws."
"It was a dive-bombing mockingbird. I didn't even get a chance to see what was going on. I ran to my truck with that bird behind me, and that dog got up and ran away," Crow said. "Needless to say, that dog was glad to see the animal control officer that day."
He went to say that for his first 10 years as animal control officer, he possessed bragging rights of never having been bitten by an animal until he encountered a Chihuahua.
Crow also remarked he has been bitten on the shoulder by a horse, though the two "gained a respect" for each other after Crow responded to the bite.
"I bit him back. We had a disagreement and then a mutual understanding," he said.
Many of Crow's helpers have also been injured while assisting with animal captures.
He relayed an incident in which two inmate trusties sustained a broken ankle and a sprained wrist, respectively, while trying to catch six pigs that had wandered from a wooded area into the West Lake addition and were wreaking havoc on the residents' lawns and flower gardens.
"We caught four of the six pigs, and needless to say, we did not miss the other two," Crow commented, adding he kept one of the pigs - which he named Fat Albert - at the city pound until it reached 300 pounds.
Crow also discussed some close calls he has had with exotic animals, mainly with big cats, that have been kept as pets within city limits. He said on one occasion, he ran into a woman's home uninvited after being frightened by a cougar.
"A woman called about a large, 40-pound kitty-cat in her yard and thought it was the neighbors' cat. I thought of this as another challenge," Crow said.
Thinking that a "40-pound cat" was odd, Crow responded to the area and saw a "huge, empty cage on bricks" in a yard.
"I then I heard this meow. I turned around and it was an 80- to 100-pound cougar," Crow laughed. "I did not knock. I ran inside this woman's trailer."
Crow said the cougar's owner then told him the animal was friendly and "just wanted to come inside." He said the animal then climbed on the couch and took a nap.
He said later that year, he responded to another call regarding a cat, and it turned out to be a panther in someone's yard. Crow explained that incident led to the adoption of the city exotic animal ordinance approximately three months later.
Crow also said some of his more humorous experiences have involved less-intimidating animals that have found themselves in tight situations
He told of the time he was sprayed by a skunk that had gotten its head stuck inside a jar and was loose in the downtown area.
"I got this idea to put a rope around the jar and jerk one way while the skunk went another," he laughed. "Well it worked, but in the meantime, I ended up with a familiar smell that was disliked by many. But I thought I did a good deed."
Crow said his years of experience as an animal control officer have taught him a greater respect for animals, a respect that prompts him to "aid and love them whenever possible."
He said he also wanted the public to know that animal control "ain't all about dogs."
"No, you're bad wrong if that's all you think," he said.
While thinking back on his numerous animal adventures, Crow revealed one more challenge he wants to face before eventually retiring.
Catching an alligator.
"I've always had this itch, this urge, hankering, to catch an alligator," he said "I want to catch a two-foot-long alligator, not a 20-foot one. One that'll take my finger off and not my whole body."
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