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DENISE ROSEN

Like other law enforcement officers, Denise Rosen wears a uniform, has a badge, and carries a walky-talky. Her white truck has a County logo on the door and several small vented compartments on each side. The vehicle is unmistakable. It’s the dogcatcher’s truck.

But Denise Rosen doesn’t like to be called “dogcatcher.” She’s an animal control officer. Catching dogs is only a small part of the job she has held since 1992.

Denise grew up in Malibu and has always been an “outdoors” person. After high school, she spent ten years in Queensland, Australia working on dive boats to the Barrier Reef and for white water rafting companies. After returning to the U.S., she found another job that suited her - working outdoors and with animals for LA County Animal Control, headquartered at the Agoura Animal Shelter.

Denise says that everyday on the job is different. “People will call in when they find an animal. A youngster once brought in the morning paper and unfolding it on the breakfast table found a rattlesnake had crawled inside. I get snakes out of people houses. I’ve gotten owls out of chimneys; removed injured possums from back yards; rounded up stray horses and loose pigs.”

Picking up injured, stray, or viscous animals can be dangerous. To capture them Denise often has a difficult decision to make – to use a slow, kind, and gentle approach or long pole with a noose called a “come-along.”

Denise explained a bit of the law. An owner walking his dog loose, violating the leash law, can be fined from $80-$135. “Animal nuisance” is a euphemism for a dog defecating on public property. That can result in a similar fine. In fact, you can be fined if you’re simply walking your dog and do not have a bag in your possession ready for your pet’s accident. “Public nuisance” usually means a bothersome barking dog. If barking bothers a neighbor, they have to fill out a complaint form. An animal control officer will then check for an animal’s license and provide a warning to the owner. If barking is a persistent problem, a petition from three or more neighbors is usually required to bring more definitive legal action.

Animal control officers do not routinely go after dogs that bite. Bite reports have to be made by the complaining party. Once a report is made, the owner is required to quarantine his dog at home for 10 days. If it is a serious event or multiple events, a citation as “a community hazard” is made and the courts become involved in deciding the fate of the animal.

Stray animals – dogs or cats – are held for one week and then, if they’re suitable, they’re put up for adoption. If animals are ill or unsuitable as pets, the department has the discretion to humanely destroy them.

On any given day Denise Rosen can meet up with iguanas, snakes, birds, rabbits, pigs, bobcats, or horses. On the day we spoke, her walky-talky squawked, “Dog in traffic.” She cut our conversation short and dashed off. Denise Rosen, animal control officer, is still sometimes simply the “dogcatcher.”