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Rowan Animal Control officers now armed

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
The Rowan County Health Department has purchased five .22-caliber rifles for Animal Control officers to use as needed when responding to calls involving wild or rabid animals.
One possible problem with the purchase, Animal Control Director Clai Martin told the Board of Health Tuesday night, is that they’re all registered in his name. Board member Mike Fuller questioned whether Martin could be held responsible if the rifles were stolen and used in some type of crime.
Director Leonard Wood asked Martin to work on getting the registrations switched to the health department.
Board member Dr. Bob Tannehill asked Martin why he chose rifles over shotguns. “You have to be a good shot with a .22,” Tannehill said, “but you don’t have to be a good shot with a shotgun.”
Martin said he contacted Animal Control departments in 11 area counties and found out that all of them use .22-caliber rifles. “They were surprised that we didn’t already have any,” he said.
Board members voted unanimously at their last meeting to adopt a weapons use policy allowing Animal Control officers to carry guns. Martin said at the meeting that the policy stemmed from a call in which a woman was attacked by a rabid fox, and the responding officers had nothing but a catch pole to protect the woman or themselves.
Three of the five Animal Control officers have already received training from Sgt. Lane Kepley of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, a state-certified weapons trainer, at the Peace Officers Club. All three were tested at the end of the training, Martin said, with one earning a perfect score and the other two a 98.6 out of a possible 100.
The other two officers and Martin will be taking the training in the near future.
Once officers are trained, Martin said they’ll start carrying rifles on calls.

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