Shirley Zindler
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Animal Control Officers
A Dangerous Job

As animal control officers, we put our lives on the line every day trying to make a difference. We go in with other law enforcement to dangerous situations, drug busts, domestic violence, murders and other crimes. We deal with aggressive animals and unstable people.  Often we are called in because someone has lost everything, their money, their home, their pride. When we arrive to take their animals it can be the last straw.

The recent shooting death of a fellow animal control officer in the Sacramento area is a grim reminder of the dangers we face every day. Officer Roy Marcum was called to a home where the owner had been evicted the previous day and left some pets behind. I've lost count of how many similar calls I have responded to. As Officer Marcum approached the home, he was shot and killed by the former resident.  Officer Marcum was described as a devoted animal lover and was there to help. What a loss for his family and the community.

I've been bitten, kicked, scratched and run over in my years in animal control, but the human encounters have been by far the scariest. I have been threatened, had the wall punched next to me and gone into homes with armed suspects, all to try and make life better for dogs and other animals. I wear a bullet proof vest and carry an asp, pepper spray, a shotgun and a rifle. I hope they will keep me safe.
My love of dogs and other animals keeps me coming back in spite of the risks. It's such a thrill to make a difference. A fun rescue or finding a beloved lost dog can keep me smiling for weeks. Removing a dog from a bad situation and finding a better home for it feels like such an accomplishment. For the most part, the good, responsible people are glad to see us and abusers and law breakers aren't. That tells me I'm doing my job but those who would abuse an animal, may also harm a person.  It's critical to stay alert and aware on the job, and sometimes that's not enough.  
My thoughts got out to Officer Marcums family and friends.


Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

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Submitted by AegeanBreeze | February 4 2013 |

As one who calls Animal Control often due to finding strays roaming around, I salute you. Thank you for all you do and the risks you take every day. I join you in offering the Marcums family my best wishes.

Submitted by jo | February 8 2013 |

God bless Officer Marcum and his family. And thank you Officer Zindler for the tireless effort you and your collegues make every day.

Submitted by Basil Brown | February 8 2013 |

Thank you for the work you do! The animals and animal-lovers appreciate it. Please take good care of yourself.

Submitted by R. Childress | September 5 2013 |

Hello everyone.
First, my heart goes out to all ACO's who have made such sacrifices for the animals we love. Second I also am an ACO in an increasingly dangerous place. After recent events my partner an I see in danger! I have been told that getting vest probably will never happen for us. My question is... does anyone know of a program or organization that could help us obtain one on our own?? I'm by no means asking for anything free, butt need help to afford one. At this point there will places we wont be going back to due to danger. This breaks my heart because its like the bad guys win, and the poor animals now have no protection.

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