Animal Control



The Hamden Police Department Animal Control Division consists of two officers who are presently using Veterinarian and holding facilities in North Haven. Despite the lack of on site facilities, the Division continues to rescue and rehabilitate numerous wild and domestic animals in the town and has been involved with programs such as adoption services and training clinics for animal owners in the Town of Hamden.

Christopher T. Smith -Animal Control Officer.
Steven Gimler - Assistant Animal Control Officer.


 Phone: (203) 230-4080


According to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), safe handling of dangerous animals helps keep the shelter staff safe and reduces stress in the animal. They recommend that staff not put their faces directly in the animal's face. Also, workers should never approach a dog from the back where he may be startled. The handler must be focused on the situation at hand. You should position your body in such a way that you are able to jump out of the way if the need arises. Sitting on the floor cross-legged is not a safe position when handling dangerous animals.

Signs of Aggression

Jacque Lynn Schultz, ASPCA Director Special Projects for, explains signs of aggressive animals and techniques for safe handling.

Signs of aggression in dogs include snarling, growling, charging the cage, standing still and staring intently at people, and ferocity. She recommends that if an animal demonstrating this behavior does not need to be handled, it's best to leave it alone to see if it calms down. If you must handle a dog behaving this way, ask for a partner. Your partner should hold the dog from the back so that the dog is facing you, and you should muzzle the dog with a correctly-sized muzzle, if available. A leash wrapped around the dog's nose and under his chin will serve as a temporary muzzle. Stroking a dog gently on his chest is a method shelter workers use to calm anxious dogs.

Aggression and fear in cats will display as hair raising, back arching, hissing, swiping at workers, looking frantically around and cowering in the back of the cage. Use a towel to throw over the cat to subdue it. You should wear a thick, long-sleeved sweatshirt to protect yourself from scratches and bites. Heavy-duty leather gloves should also be part of your safety equipment.

Veteran animal shelter workers learn to recognize and anticipate under what circumstances an animal may act in a dangerous manner and become adept at handling fractious animals.

Handling Animals

If avoidance is not possible, Schultz advises the use of a "catch pole" with dogs. The catch pole is standard equipment in every shelter, and it is also referred to as a "rabies pole." The pole has a long, telescopic wooden or aluminum handle that can be anywhere from five to 12 feet. On the end of the pole is a noose-like snare. The shelter worker can get up to 12 feet from the dangerous dog, and using the snare as a sort of lasso, places the snare over the dog's head and then tightens it. The dog can then be maneuvered as necessary.


Other methods of restraint include the use of a slip-lead (a leash designed so that the animal cannot slip out of it), long-handled nets and cat graspers, towels placed over the animal, muzzles (if possible), sedation and special methods of holding.

The "safe hold" of a dog involves hugging the dog just behind his head and placing your hand on the dog's head. Shelters workers use the "safe hold" administering a sedative if necessary.

Cats grasped just behind the head on the back of the neck (scruffing) cannot move. It is extremely important that the person holding the cat in this manner never let go until the cat is safely contained. Shelter workers and ACO's also sometime use a "cat grasper." This devise consists of a five to 12 foot telescoping pole with long tongs on the end that can be opened and closed by working the handle. The cat is grasped in front of the back legs, not its neck. Another cat technique is what shelter workers call the "kitty burrito." This safety method involves wrapping the cat in a towel burrito style, with only the cat's head exposed. This is used to hold a cat for administration of a injectable sedative.

Training for Safe Handling

Animal shelters incorporate training for their workers and volunteers as a safety protocol. They sometimes use "lunch and learn" in-service classes offered on a weekly or monthly basis, dependent upon how often volunteers and workers rotate in and out.

The American Humane Association (AHA) offers Safe Handling of Dogs and Cats workshops on-site at shelters nationwide. The workshop covers topics such as how to anticipate dangerous situations, understanding canine and feline body language, and utilization of capture tools. The presentations come in 90 minute, half-day and full-day workshops.

The Humane Society of the United States University (HSUS) also offers on-site courses in safe animal handling for those working in animal shelters.

Read more: Shelter Protocols for Dangerous Fractious Animal Handling |