Pitbulls have made headlines across the Valley in the last few months. Men being mauled to death, hulking dogs threatening the lives of children and officers being attacked by vicious dogs.
But lost in the discussion of tranquilizing, euthanizing and shooting dogs is the discussion about a better way to capture loose dogs, such as pitbulls, without having to kill them. The Lindsay Department of Public Safety may have found the answer.
For the last month, LDPS has been using the Raptor … net gun in what is becoming a new battleground for city budgets – animal control. Lt. Chris Hughes said the department spent about $2,000 to purchase the gun made by California-based Humane Capture, a company that specializes in CO2-propelled nets for the capture of small and large animals.
“Feral dogs are becoming a problem in every city, this is another tool to try and capture these dogs before they bite someone or injure themselves,” Hughes said, after his department received 87 calls regarding loose or feral dogs in the month of December.
Unlike dogs that are pets, Hughes said feral dogs are particularly hard to catch because they bolt at the first sign of officers. Hughes said there was a particular group of Chihuahuas that were causing barking and even trying to bite people in the downtown area. Unfortunately, every time officers approached them they would run through bushes, into fields, up woodpiles and over fences.
“Domestic dogs will eventually just come up to you because they are used to people,” Hughes said. “Feral dogs run and they know their territory well.”
Hughes said the first several times they used the gun did not go as planned. Their fist attempt the gun did not build up enough pressure to fire the net. The second time it was shot over the dogs head and the third time the Chihuahua got its head through one of the holes and was able to run away with the net. The fourth and final attempt, Hughes said officers fired the gun at close range and it worked to perfection.
“You know those dogs that stand in the middle of the road and hold up traffic,” Hughes said. “Turns out the easiest way to catch them is to drive right up, have someone hang out the window and fire the net gun.”
The gun looks similar to a trumpet with a horn on one end. Nets have to be folded precisely and loaded into the gun properly. The gun is activated when the back end is twisted toward the gun, puncturing a carbon dioxide cartridge, similar to those used in paint guns. The canister cools as it builds pressure, which takes several minutes before it is ready to fire. Once you are ready to fire, the back is turned all the way to the end of the gun. Point, pull the trigger and prepare for a loud noise. The net than flares out toward the target thanks to weights and snares on the end of the web.
“It makes a pretty big boom,” Hughes said. “I think we were all a little surprised with how loud it was.”
Before purchasing the gun, Lts. Hughes and Bryan Clower talked with Placer County Animal Control about the effectiveness of the net gun. While every tool has its limitations, Hughes said they immediately heard about the benefits of the net gun in certain situations.
“It’s not just about the officers,” Hughes said. “In many cases when animals are running from officers they have cut themselves trying to squeeze through tight spaces or ducking under pipes running at full speed.”
Hughes said of the 19 dogs captured in December, about half were captured using the net gun. The company makes different nets for different animals, the difference being the spacing in the netting. Small animals would use a 2-inch net, while large animals could use a 4-inch net, both of which are loaded and fired from the same gun.
“I would recommend this to any animal control department,” Hughes said.