Animal control officers see net gain in snaring dogs
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 15, 2014 3:50PM
From left, Porter County Sheriff David Lain and animal control officers Greg Nemeth and Dough Crandall untangle a net from a net gun used to capture stray dogs during a training exercise Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at the Porter County Expo Center. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 19, 2014 12:28PM
VALPARAISO — With a boom, a net shot out of a carbon dioxide-powered gun, nicely capturing a Labrador retriever protecting a bear cub Tuesday at the Porter County Expo Center.
Except the lab was a plywood cutout, and the bear was a stuffed animal, and both were very, very stationary.
But officers with Porter County Animal Control were still pleased with their capture, which wasn’t the fake animals but the equipment used to snag them. Tuesday’s exercise gave the county’s three animal control officers the chance to train with net guns, which they said will be invaluable in capturing stray dogs.
The guns, at around $650 apiece, arrived a month ago, but the training exercise was the officers’ first chance to use them. Each net gun comes with four nets, in two different sizes, though the officers will likely need to order more once they start using the guns.
The guns, which can propel the nets upwards of 40 feet, help fill a gap between using a pole snare to capture animals, and having to use greater or deadly force, such as a tranquilizer gun or a bullet, said animal control officer Patrick Cassin.
“This will give us another tool to catch those dogs without having to resort to more deadly methods,” he said. “This will ideally hold the dog still long enough to get that catch pole around the animal and get it in the truck.”
The hardest part of the exercise seemed to be folding the nets back up so they could be reloaded into the guns. The nets tangled easily and some snagged or ripped. Sheriff David Lain said the department will need to order more, and those used to actually catch dogs may not be salvageable anyway.
“There’s a lot of trial and error with this,” he said.
The net gun will be particularly useful when a dog is running loose around a neighborhood or in traffic, people are reporting the animal as being aggressive, and animal control officers can’t get it.
“This way we can catch it,” Cassin said. “I don’t mind the aggressive ones. It’s the ones that are 10 or 15 feet away and we can’t catch them.”