Almost every major metropolitan area has an animal control team working day and night, rescuing abused and abandoned animals , and responding to wildlife stuck in an urban habitat.  Philadelphia is no different.

ACCT Philly has 12-14 Animal Care Officers – also known as ACO’s – working around the clock to keep Philadelphia’s pets and animals safe.  “It would be great if we had more officers,” says Tara Schernecke, Director of Field Services. “But our ACO’s do a fantastic job and work tirelessly 24/7 to make sure all calls we get are addressed.”  If you think about it, 14 ACO’s to answer the calls of almost 1.6 million Philadelphians is a daunting task. Our ACO’s go above and beyond to make sure the animals and residents of Philadelphia are cared for.

The amazing ACO’s of ACCT Philly highlight their rescue work on our Facebook page.  What most ACCT Philly followers don’t realize, though, is that animal control officers oftentimes have to make split second decisions on what the best course of action is in rescuing an animal in need.  

“Our ACO’s will always err on the side of safety,” Schernecke points out.  “[but] at the end of the day, we will always remove an animal from a dangerous situation as fast as possible.”

So what does that mean?  

It means that our ACO’s are equipped with tools which allow them to handle frightened, injured, or dangerous dogs in a way that keeps both the officer and animal safe.  Included in this toolkit is bright orange leads (another name for leash), and a catch pole. Though some animal advocates question the use of catch poles, it is a critical tool to help our control officers work quickly and effectively.  To better understand the role a control stick has in animal control, let’s look at why it is used.

Sometimes, control officers encounter a sick, injured, scared or aggressive dog which will either refuse to come near the ACO or is in a position where our ACO’s cannot physically reach them.  In these instances, the catch pole can act like an arm extension, and allow them to safely grab a dog. What do they do, though, if the animal still refuses to move when they are secured by the catch pole?  

The important thing to remember here is that if a dog is trapped in a drain or unwilling to move from an unsafe location, it is critical we remove that dog from the unsafe condition as quickly as we can.  This sometimes means we need to use our catch poles to assist in moving that dog. Although we understand some people are concerned with the use of catch poles, ACCT feels catch poles are necessary in ensuring the safe removal of animals from unsafe situations.

Even our Executive Director, Vincent Medley, has served his time as an Animal Control Officer.  He too has experienced situations where the only way to get an animal into the safety of animal control is to utilize the tools in his command to secure a dog and move it into a control vehicle.  “Sometimes, as a control officer you encounter dogs who are scared, or under-socialized, or maybe have never even been on a leash before,” Medley points out. “As a control officer you want to make sure both you and the dog can interact safely, and you need to be able to handle a dog without the risk of you or the dog being injured.”  Medley explained that what officers try to do when they handle a dog with a catch pole is to loop the lead around both a front leg and the dog’s head, so they are held in a make-shift sling. This enables the ACO to move the dog more effectively and ensure it is not injured when moved. After all, the end objective for an ACO is always to ensure a dog gets the care it needs, as quickly as possible.

Remember, when Philadelphians are buckling down in bad weather and huddling under blankets in the warmth of their homes during blizzards, ACCT Philly’s Animal Control Officers are hitting the streets, eager to help.  When the summer is in full swing and Philadelphia’s residents are keeping out of the heat, our ACO’s are out in the heat making sure pets and animals are healthy and safe. Their passion and their devotion to the animals of Philadelphia is what keeps our furry residents happy and safe.

The work Animal Control Officers do is not always work that is fully understood by the citizens they serve, which is why we thought it high time we provide an educational and informational article on the breakdown of life as an ACO.  We at ACCT Philly appreciate their dedication, and know our followers appreciate them too!

If you have any questions about what services we provide, or would like to learn more about what ACO work involves, please reach out to media@acctphilly.org or call 267-385-3800 x 136.