Originally created 09/17/06

Grime pays: Animal control

EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to Grime Pays, a semimonthly series focusing on area workers whose jobs are hot, strenuous or just plain dirty. If you think your job is grungy enough to capture the spotlight, call Rainier Ehrhardt at (706) 828-3853.

Joe Kallas likes his job. And he freely admits it's a dirty one.

The 34-year-old Martinez resident works as an officer for the Columbia County Animal Control, where he does everything from roadkill clean-up to rounding up livestock on the loose.

"It's a good job," he said, "you never know what to expect."

On a recent Monday, Mr. Kallas retrieved a raccoon caught in a Martinez resident's trap and picked up a deer that had been struck by a vehicle. It's just another day's work for Mr. Kallas, who has been with animal control for four years.

On busy days, he said there can be up to three dead deer in the back of his county truck.

"In the summertime, when it's good and hot, sometimes the smell will get you," he said. "You have to have a strong stomach sometimes."

His truck bed is cleaned out with water and bleach. Roadkill is disposed of in the county incinerator.

Mr. Kallas uses latex gloves to load and unload the dead animals, though he doesn't don any other protective clothing.

"A lot of us keep a spare change of pants at work," Mr. Kallas said. "Getting the blood on you is what kills you."

Dealing with live animals is more physically challenging. It's difficult to catch stray animals, especially cats.

"If they don't want to be caught, they won't be caught," he said. "A lot of people don't realize the leash law is in effect for cats as well as dogs."

The animals are either returned to their owners or taken to the animal control office, where they are boarded and put up for adoption.

"It's real rewarding getting animals off the streets," he said.

Mr. Kallas says his worst experience was responding to a call at a home on Columbia Road, where a mother and daughter were living with 92 cats.

"Odor-wise it was the worst, with feces everywhere," he said. The woman was ordered to pay boarding fees and other charges for the animals totaling $5,382.

Mr. Kallas was promoted to the county's wastewater department one week after being interviewed for this story.

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