Should Genesee County Animal Control (GCAC) officers be allowed to carry a firearm while on assignment?
This issue is circulating county boards. On Wednesday, June 5, the Genesee County Government Operations Committee
unanimously voted to approve arming animal control officers and sent it to the Board of Commissioners.
GCAC Director Paul Wallace supports allowing his officers to carry a firearm.
“They are charged with capturing up any dog running off leash, but they also check welfare on dogs that are in abandoned houses, that are tied outside without shelter, that are used in fighting rings or simply running loose with no license. It goes without saying that some of these dogs are dangerous,” he said.
These officers conduct raids with local police units, the FBI and the animal taskforce to different kinds of cases involving hoarding, drugs, dog fighting and human trafficking. Currently, these officers are armed with chemical tranquilizer dart rifles, which take several minutes to take effect.
“If the animal is aggressive, they have nothing but their wits and a catch pole to defend themselves,” he said. “Public Safety officers have come under recent attack, all over the country, and the frequency and ferocity is increasing. Each of our ACOs (animal control officers) can tell multiple stories of being threatened by dog owners and their associates, many times where weapons were flashed at them.”
Police cannot always escort these officers on assignments.
“These public safety personnel are doing a difficult, dangerous job that no police officer would do unarmed, including me,” he said.
Legal issues are being worked out.
Clerk John Gleason said he hopes it comes to the Board of Commissioners soon, and that he fully supports this measure. If it passes, he expects the officers to be trained.
“These folks are doing a public service. When they go to deal with a volatile dog, they should have every means available,” he said.