Holiday Guide 2009: Animal service officer

When there are only 27 people in the entire county who do your job, and your job is to protect animals all over the county 24/7, it's inevitable that you are going to work a few holidays. So when Laura Tuttle, an animal services officer for Orange County, pulled a Christmas shift last year, it was no big deal, really.

"We didn't have any big, horrible calls on Christmas," recalls Tuttle. "That was a gift n itself."

Not to say Tuttle wasn't busy; she handled 14 calls in an eight-hour shift from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. That's a lot more than usual.

The county's Animal Services Division operates on a skeleton crew on holidays, with one officer at the shelter and one officer out on the road. On a normal shift there are two officers on the road — one in the northern part of the county and one in the south — at any given time.

On holidays, officers only respond to emergency calls, like sick or injured animals, police who need help getting an animal out of a house, bites, etc. There are a lot of things that happen on a normal shift that Tuttle, at least, will overlook on Christmas. She'll probably be a little more lenient when it comes to ticketing dog owners who let their animals run loose or don't have rabies ID tags, for example. That's the county's little gift to you, the irresponsible pet owner.

After a relatively quiet Christmas, it was back to the usual for Tuttle. You'd be surprised how often that includes kids who shoot her the finger when she drives by in her truck, adults who swear at her and unknown people who chuck rocks.

"I thought it was going to break the windshield of my truck," she says, recalling that last incident. She even had someone pull a gun on her once. Animal control officers in Orange County are not deputized, and they aren't armed, so driving around can get dangerous. It didn't for Tuttle last year, but the potential is always there.

"It's not everybody's dream to work on Christmas, but it's fair because we get to rotate. It's not too bad."


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