PET HAPPENINGS - JULY
Randy Zimmerman ~ Not Just the Dog
by Carol N. Wells
Just the words, Dog Catcher or even
Animal Control, raises peoples hackles. The stereotypical
visions that spring to mind from dog catchers writing tickets to
stealing a dog from its own yard, is anything but comforting. Randy
Zimmerman, one of Moabs Animal Control Officers, is changing
all of that. And if discretion is the better part of valor, Randy
Zimmerman fits the bill and Moab is lucky to have him as the Dog
Along with taking care of Moabs wandering animal population,
Randy is working on public relations through being in the public
eye, talking with people and getting them to realize that he is
their pets best friend. He is involved with the Humane Society
of Moab Valley and frequently helps them on their pet adoption days
so he can meet and talk with people.
peoples perceptions, however, is not an easy task. When Randy
approaches people, they dont see a person, they see an authority
figure after their dog, and before Randy has a chance to speak,
hostility and defensiveness are already at the fore. So, Randy began
by changing his uniform to a more relaxed, casual look. Though his
navy blue polo shirt has his name and title embroidered on it, he
wears his badge on his belt, where its visible, but its
not the first thing you see.
In fact it works so well, that sometimes he isnt immediately
recognized, as Randy explains, I walked up to a guy walking
his dog off leash downtown and started to talk with him, asking
him if he was new in town and aware of our leash laws and such.
Just about the time he looked like he was going to tell me where
I could go, he started to read my shirt and suddenly
says, Youre the guy! The dog guy! I nodded and
offered him a free leash. He actually said thank you.
When approaching people about the leash laws, Randy is never about
writing a ticket. In fact, in all cases he will do everything he
can not to write a ticket. Supported by the Chief of Police, the
department has purchased approximately 100 inexpensive leashes that
Randy hands to people as he talks to them about leash laws and the
importance of keeping dogs on a leash. Though locals may protest
about living in Moab forever and never having to leash
their dog; the key word here is enforcement. The leash
laws for the city and the county state that dogs must be licensed,
have rabies vaccinations, and whenever the dog leaves your property,
he must be on a leash. Incidentally, the same rules that apply to
dogs, apply to cats as well.
So Randys version of enforcement is a friendly,
helpful approach to try and put people at ease. Randy says hes
noticed an improvement since hes started the leash campaign.
When it comes to catching dogs, Randy will do everything in his
power to get the dog home before taking it to the animal shelter,
Randy maintains, This is where licensing is so important.
When a dog wears a license, I can track down the owner and return
the dog to them. I always check for a license, first. Even if you
chase a dog, chances are, hell run for home, anyway. Thats
when I try to find the owner or someone to talk to that will be
responsible for the dog. If I cant find, or dont know
the owner; or there isnt someone around who will be responsible
for the dog, then I have no choice but to take it to the pound.
The law actually states that I can retrieve the dog from its own
backyard if it has been roaming or become a nuisance, but thats
not what Im about. Id rather talk to the owner about
the problem and try to educate them a bit. Its also one way
I have of telling people about the licensing law.
I asked Randy how he handles cats, since most cats dont even
wear collars. Cats are tough, since a cat will run up a tree
or into the first hole it can find. If theyre not wearing
break-away collars, a lot of times they can strangle themselves.
Most often, they end up going straight to the pound, since we have
no way of knowing who to contact. People dont call the pound,
asking for their cat like they do for dogs. People seem to consider
cats a more disposable animal. They just dont care, so most
of the cats end up being euthanized. The first place people should
call when they lose their pets is either Animal Control, or the
Animal Shelter - the pound. After three days, the law states that
the animal becomes the property of the city or county and it is
legal for us to adopt them out. One thing we are not, is animal
disposers. And by that I mean, there are people that call us to
come pick up their pets because it just isnt working
out. If I notice the same person is calling over the same
issue with a different animal, Ill tell them to take the animal
to the pound themselves. Then they can pay for the euthanasia and
face the music. Hopefully it will make them think before they get
As Randy and I talked, his beeper went off and he was
informed about one of his next stops; someone having a chicken
problem. So I asked Randy what kinds of calls he deals with,
and he told me, Everything from skunks to raccoons, even bear
sightings and deer. Although the bears and deer are left to the
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Last year we had a run on skunks.
This year, its a run on squirrels.
What kinds of dog cases are you most often called about, other than
roaming or loose dogs, I asked. Most of the abuse cases in
Moab have to do with neglect and heat issues. Either the dog isnt
getting any water or food, or itll be about dogs being stuck
in cars, downtown. A lot of times Ill wait for the owner of
a vehicle that has a dog inside it. If you want an idea of what
thats like, try putting on a fur coat and laying down on the
front seat of your car with the windows cracked, while its
parked downtown for about half an hour. See how long youll
last. Ill wait for the owner to show up first, so I can talk
to them about how deadly it is for a dog in that situation. What
helps me here, is the infrared heat indicator that I carry. I can
shine the infrared light right through the windshield and it will
read the inside temperature of the vehicle. Usually on a 100°F
day, the temperature on the seats reach 135°F to 150°F,
depending on whether its parked in the shade or the sun. Once,
I waited for 30-40 minutes for the owner of a vehicle to show up.
I can see the dog panting like crazy, inside the car. In this situation
I normally call in to the staff sergeant, which I dont have
to do, and then I get into the vehicle to let the dog out and get
him into some shade. In this case, the owner still hadnt shown
up, so I left my card and took the dog to the pound for his own
safety and well being. The owner was actually decent about the whole
Randy and I went to my vehicle so that I could see how the infrared
heat indicator worked. I had cracked all four of my windows about
2 inches when I had parked the car, about 45 minutes before. When
he read the dashboard, it registered at 200°F, the side panel
of the door, which is fabric and was not in direct sun, registered
at 138°F. I dont think I need to wear a fur coat to figure
this one out.
During the March Marathon, says Randy, even on
a cooler, 70° day, the temperature on the seats reached 115°F.
I asked Randy if animal control has the authority to remove animals
from an abuse situation and had he ever had to do that? Yes,
said Randy, We do have the authority. The Humane Society does
not. The worst case Ive witnessed was a call about someone
not taking care of their dog, and the caller thought the owner might
have abandoned the dog, which had puppies. The owner had indeed
abandoned the animal, and she had gotten so hungry, that she had
eaten two of the puppies. We rescued the mother and the other two
pups, all of whom were later adopted out to good homes. We tried
to catch the owner, but we never found him.
Catching abusers of animals and bringing them to justice is important
because if the abuser has no compunction about treating animals
inhumanely, then it will be no problem for the abuser to use human
But public relations and watching for the welfare of Moabs
animals isnt the end of Randys work. Currently, he is
also working diligently on establishing a Dog Park for
Moab. Though he has a location in mind, he declined giving me the
exact locale as he was still working on the particulars. We
need a dog park not only for the locals but for the tourists as
well. During the hot summer months, as we all know, the heat makes
it impossible to excercise your dog in a place like sandflats, or
most other areas. The key is trying to convince the city council.
If people support the idea of having a dog park, then they need
to let their city council members know.
Randy Zimmerman was part of drilling in Moab when the uranium boom
was having its bust and moved to Salt Lake for awhile to work for
his fathers drilling company which took him to Morton Thiokol
and Hercules, and was also involved in coal mining. But he decided
that drilling work wasnt really his thing and
moved back to Moab in time to come across a job opening as an Animal
Randy himself, owns two Akitas whom he saved from an abusive Kennel
situation. The welfare of animals is his chief concern. He also
has Euthanasia Certification which is not required in
the state of Utah.
Randy informed me that the word Euthanasia means painless,
peaceful, good death. When its required of him and there
is no other hope for an injured, suffering animal, Randy is able
to help them have a good death.
All in all, it is a good life, that Randy is after for Moabs
pet population. I, for one, am grateful that he is one of Moabs
Animal Control Officers. So when you see this guy in the animal
control truck waving at you, wave back, its Randy Zimmerman.
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