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RIDE ALONG: On patrol with San Diego Humane Society's officers

Posted at 6:26 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 21:26:19-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Work for San Diego's Humane Society did not slow down during the pandemic.

ABC 10News recently rode along with officers during their morning shift. Officer Tracy Hahn and Sgt. Melanie Hutchinson are based out of the San Diego Humane Society's Oceanside campus, but they cover calls from Del Mar to Vista.

"It was a dream job, and it's exactly where I want to be," said Officer Tracy Hahn.

Officer Hahn joined the team just six months ago.

"I think it's the most direct way to help a community," said Officer Hahn.

That help is needed for creatures large and small. For example, The Humane Society's wildlife center is caring for ducklings recently rescued off the freeway after the mother duck got hit by a car. Another unusual call involved a peacock.

The peacock was seen calling from a roof in Carlsbad. Officers found feathers in the road and believed it was hit by a car. The officers used recordings of peacocks on their cellphones to lure the bird down and get it to care at an emergency vet.

The officers say most of the calls they get are for dog bites, welfare checks, injured wildlife, and animals running at large.

The morning ABC 10News spent following the officers, a call from a hospital sent the pair to a mobile home park. A woman who lives in the park had been bitten by her cat.

"Anytime that there is any bite, the cat is observed in the home for ten days," Officer Hahn told the woman.

On a busy day, the officers say they respond to up to twenty calls. Not all involve furry friends. Recently, neighbors in El Cajon spotted a stray iguana walking down the sidewalk. An officer safely captured and reunited him with his owner.

A more dramatic scene was captured a few weeks ago in Escondido. Two horses were stuck in a trailer that had detached from the truck and flipped over. It was a delicate rescue, but the team was able to safely load the horses into a new trailer with no significant injuries.

"A lot of people are first-time callers, and they're surprised that we'll come out for an injured seagull, or owl or snake," said Officer Hahn.

As the weather warms, officers will get more calls about snakes. They're trained to move a rattlesnake within thirty minutes of a report.

"Don't be afraid to call us and ask for help," said Officer Hahn.

San Diego's Humane Society has one of the largest teams of humane officers in California. They provided lifesaving care to more than 45,000 domestic and wild animals last year. Nearly 30,000 pets were placed in new homes.

Officers say they're seeing an increase in dog bites, likely due to under-socialization during the COVID-19 lock-down.

"Dogs who were adopted during quarantine are now being taken out to parks and/or in homes where gatherings are becoming more common. The dogs may be nervous with strangers and protective of their owners that they are familiar with, leading to bites," said SDHS spokeswoman Nina Thompson.

Humane Officers say they're also seeing a high number of violations of the leash laws throughout the County.

"When it comes to Humane Law Enforcement, the biggest problem for San Diego Humane Society's Humane Officers is compliance of leash laws. Dogs off-leash often lead to dog-on-dog attacks, which turn into turn bites to humans when dog owners attempt to separate fighting dogs," said Thompson.

The Humane Society Offers the following additional information and safety tips:

On-leash safety: Don't take the risk, it only takes seconds for a dog to attack another dog or person, and you will not be able to stop it in time if your dog is off-leash.

Keeping your dog on a leash prevents bites and fights. It keeps dogs safe and clean and reduces the stress for everyone.

Report off-leash dogs by calling 619-299-7012, press 1. Violators may be cited.

On rattlesnakes: With warmer weather, we're seeing more rattlesnakes on trails and in backyards. Rattlesnakes are most active April through September, enjoying basking on warm roads and sidewalks near dusk.

If you spot one, don't attempt to move the snake on your own. Our Humane Law Enforcement Officers are trained and prepared to move rattlesnakes within 30 minutes of a report! Call 619-299-7012, option 1, for assistance with snakes.

Whether you're out for walks or just in the yard, stay alert to help protect yourself and your pets from snakes. Find more tips to prevent harmful encounters at

On cruelty: If you suspect animal cruelty or neglect in your neighborhood, please report it to San Diego Humane Society by calling 619-299-7012 (press 1 to report animal abuse).

Humane Law Enforcement: San Diego Humane Society has one of the largest teams of Humane Officers in California. These officers are in the field seven days a week to educate the public while they investigate animal cruelty and neglect, enforce state animal welfare laws, educate the public on proper care, and rescue animals from emergency situations.

Heat safety:

1. Always provide plenty of cool, clean water for your animal. When away from home, carry a thermos with fresh water.

2. Leave your pets at home as much as possible. While you may think that they will be lonely, they will be much more comfortable in your cool home than riding in a hot car.

3. If you must take your pet along for the ride, don't leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. Even with the windows open, a parked car can quickly become a furnace. If the temperature outside is 80 degrees, the temperature inside your car can quickly climb to 120 degrees. If you see an animal in a car, call San Diego Humane Society at 619-299-7012 or your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

4. In extremely hot weather, don't leave your dog standing on the street, and keep walks to a minimum. Your canine companion is much closer to the hot asphalt and his body can heat up quickly. His paws can also burn on hot asphalt or concrete. If you're going to be on hot pavement, consider bringing along a towel or blanket for your dog to rest on, giving his pads a break from the sweltering heat of the pavement. Be sure to allow for plenty of breaks and find shady spots to cool off.

5. Don't force your animal to exercise in hot, humid weather. Exercise your pet in the cool of the early morning or evening. Never run your dog next to a bike during the heat. In addition to the hot air, the hot pavement increases the risk for heat stroke.

6. Dogs can get sunburned too — don't forget to protect hairless and light-coated dogs with sunscreen.

7. Always provide plenty of shade for an animal staying outside the house. Bring your pet inside during the heat of the day and let them rest in a cool part of your house. If you take your dog to the beach or park, make sure you can provide a shaded spot for resting.

8. A clean coat can help to prevent summer skin problems, so keep your pet well-groomed.

9. Take your companion animal to the veterinarian for a summer checkup. Have the doctor recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.

10. Be alert for the signs of heat stress: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red tongue. If you believe your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, contact your veterinarian right away — it could save your pet's life.