Officer keeps animals under control

Newton Animal Control Officer Dustin Grant isn’t your average dog catcher.

Yes, he manages the city’s stray cats, dogs and the occasional wild hog, but if you’ve got a complaint about a neighbor’s pesky unkempt grass, he manages that, too.

“We handle a lot of dogs running loose, especially in summertime,” Grant said. “But there’s more to it than that.”

As the city’s only animal control officer, Grant responds to and addresses residents’ animal complaints, as well as city code violations.

Grant receives anywhere from three to 12 service calls daily. The complaints range from a stray dog on someone’s property to violations of the city’s nuisance code, which include junk vehicles in residents yard and grass growing higher than 15 inches.

“Some days you have your slow days, and some days you have your busy days,” he said. “It really just depends on the situation.”

He said people are surprised to discover how many service calls he responds to on a regular basis, and sometimes he’s even surprised by what he finds on a service call.
Grant once received a service call from a woman who claimed she had a pig running loose in her backyard.

When Grant arrived at the residence, he realized the pig was actually a 200-pound wild hog, and it took another officer to help Grant wrangle the animal and remove it from the property.

“That’s probably the strangest animal I’ve ever caught,” he said.
Unlike stereotypical dog catchers of the past, Grant doesn’t carry a net to capture stray creatures. He uses a catch pole with a loop around the end to corral larger animals, and he also has a metal pole for capturing snakes.

After he captures stray animals and secures them in cages in the back of his animal control truck, Grant takes the animals to the Catawba County Animal Shelter.

Of all the animals Grant helped control throughout his career, he’s been bitten once.
“I was bitten by a cat,” he said.

Any possible risk for rabies is accessed on a case-by-case basis.
“I can pretty much tell what the potential for rabies is,” he said. “If it’s a known risk, then you’d get a rabies shot.”

Sometimes, the animal control and code enforcement aspects of Grant’s job coincide.
He once responded to a complaint of stagnant water in a resident’s yard, and when he arrived at the location, he found a missing animal that drowned and decayed in the stagnant water.
“The smell was terrible,” he said.

The economic downturn forced some pet owners to abandon their animals, and Grant has seen that effect his job as animal control officer.

“The number of stray animals has definitely increased since I’ve been here,” he said.
Most city residents are receptive to Grant’s work when he removes stray animals from their property, but it’s when Grant addresses a complaint that things often change.

If you’re the person someone’s complained on, they really don’t like it,” he said.
Grant has worked for the Newton Police Department for more than two years, but he’s always loved being around animals.

“I’ve had animals all my life,” he said.