A Day in the Life of an Arlington Animal Control Officer
By Valeria Sanchez
Posted on April 12, 2019, April 12, 2019

Animal Control Officer Juan Santana

Not all heroes wear capes. Some are animal control officers who patrol the City of Arlington rescuing animals from harm and danger.

Juan Santana, lead code compliance officer for Animal Services, has been working as an animal control officer in Arlington for 12 years. Every day at work he never knows what to expect because it’s always something new.

“Many people think the job of an animal control officer is repetitive,” he said. “Where you catch a dog and put it in the shelter and then you’re done, but there’s so much more to it than what people think.”

“I wish it was that easy, but it’s notat times you have to catch a dog on the freeway, or loose horses in a park, you just never know. I mean we’ve had to round-up cows and trap feral hogs,” said Santana. “The best part of this job is helping citizens find their animals, and at times saving wildlife.” 

Santana’s first call of the day was about a baby opossum that got into a resident’s vegetable garden. It wasn’t the first time he’s reported to a resident’s house on an opossum call. 

When he got to the scene, the opossum was in a trap the resident had set. Opossums are nocturnal, and Santana said it was likely the opossum was out eating in the vegetable garden the night before. Santana rescued the opossum from the trap and put it safely in his truck to be  released to the wild, or given to a local wildlife rehabilitator.

A possum captured by Juan Santana.

Opossums are common to Arlington. Although they do eat plants, they are sometimes thought of as helpful for making meals of insects and small rodents that prey upon gardens. When young or orphaned animals are found, they are cared for best by their mother, rather than a human. Learn more about opossums and how to discourage visits from them on the city’s urban wildlife website. Local wildlife rehabilitators, such as Rainbow Wildlife Rescue also offer great information about what to do when you encounter an opossum. 

Santana does about an average of 15 to 25 calls a day where he goes to the site to solve a problem. On another call, a racoon had fallen into a residents recycling bin. Human interaction with raccoons is especially discouraged, because they are known carriers of rabies. The urban wildlife website offers more education on raccoons, as well as local wildlife specialists, 911 Wildlife, which also does raccoon removal. 

After 12 years of experience, Santana said he has learned how to address problems efficiently. 

He said he doesn’t quickly jump to solve a situation unless it’s an emergency; he observes the scene and thinks of the easiest and safest way to handle the circumstance. 

Animal Control Officer Juan Santana

Responding to the raccoon call, he took his gear with him and asked the residents to stay back as he entered their backyard alone. He was able to get the raccoon out of the recycling bin and into a cage. 

Arlington Animal Services heroes are not only helping dogs and cats, but wildlife, too.

“It’s satisfying to know you are helping people and animals,” he said.

Animal Control Officer Juan Santana

News, Animal Services