Call Of Duty
County animal control officer helps pets and people
By Cathryn Rakich
It was a sweltering summer day in 2022 when county Animal Control Officer Jessica Solano responded to a call about a dog named Bowbii.
Bowbii, a 170-pound Caucasian shepherd living outside, was severely malnourished, immobile and covered with maggot-filled skin infections.
“It was the most challenging call I have ever done,” Solano says. “The dog needed urgent medical care and the owner had failed to provide that care.”
Solano impounded the dog, transported him to the Bradshaw Animal Shelter and worked hours assisting the medical staff with Bowbii’s injuries. She went home, wrote the report and submitted it to the district attorney at 1 a.m.
“The owner of the dog had a previous criminal history, and we were able to get an arrest warrant the next day,” Solano says. “The owner was arrested five days after I impounded Bowbii.”
Solano testified in a jury trial against the owner, who was found guilty. “He is currently serving his time in a California correctional facility,” she says.
Solano is one of 14 animal control officers in Sacramento County (not including the cities of Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Folsom and Rancho Cordova, which have their own services.) Bradshaw Animal Shelter averages more than 20,000 calls annually for animal control assistance.
“Our priorities are sick and injured animals, aggressive stray animals, investigating bites, investigating neglect and investigating cruelty,” says Luna Anona, Bradshaw’s public information officer. “Officers need to clear those calls before they can get to calls for issues like barking,” a common complaint.
Solano, who became a county animal control officer in 2020, averages about 15 calls a day. “Some calls may take 15 minutes, but another may take a few hours,” she says.
Animal control is available 24/7. After 10 p.m., emergency calls are handled by the animal control officer on standby.
“Many people still see animal control officers as dog catchers,” Solano says. “They don’t realize we do so much more—from being able to reunite lost pets with microchips and their owners on the spot, to writing arrest warrants and playing a vital role in serving justice in criminal animal abuse cases.”
The job isn’t easy, says Annette Bedsworth, director of the Bradshaw shelter. “They regularly encounter extremely difficult and upsetting situations, but their work is vital for both people and pets.”
Tough situations include aggressive dogs. “Dog attacks, especially severe attacks on humans, are very difficult and one of the hardest parts of my job,” Solano says. “They are extremely emotional situations for all involved, both the victims and the dog owners.”
Solano graduated from Animal Control Officer Academy through the California Animal Welfare Association. Animal control officers must pass a drug screening, DOJ/FBI background check and psychological test.
Solano does not carry a firearm but keeps a .410 shotgun in her vehicle to “dispatch” animals when necessary.
The job comes with risks. In 2012, a Sacramento County animal control officer was shot and killed by a man evicted from his home the day before. The officer was at the house to retrieve the pets still inside.
Solano says any anxiety she experiences “depends on the call. People don’t make me nervous. I am more concerned about the welfare of the animals.”
Penny Scott, a local volunteer dog trapper, has worked with Solano. “I had trapped a dog late in the evening who turned out to be a bit aggressive,” Scott says. She called Solano, who was off duty. “Not only did she come and assist, she offered to take the dog home.”
Then there’s the goat. Scott received several messages to help trap a loose goat on Highway 99. “It was running in and out of traffic, cars were trying to avoid it, people were chasing it,” she says.
After trapping the goat inside Sacramento city limits, Scott called the city’s Front Street Animal Shelter and was told it would not accept the goat. Not prepared to take the animal home, she went on social media to find temporary housing.
“I get a surprise call saying, ‘Bring the goat to Bradshaw Animal Shelter,’” Scott says. “Jessica, once again, was not only helping me, but also this goat.” Following the goat’s stray hold, when no owner came forward, the animal went up for adoption and found a new home.
Solano, who grew up in Sacramento with a variety of family pets, always knew she wanted to work with animals. Now her focus is keeping community animals safe and healthy.
“Officer Solano’s expertise, compassion and tireless commitment have made her an invaluable asset to our team,” Bedsworth says. “She is consistently assigned some of the most challenging and complex cases because of her ability to handle them with remarkable proficiency and care.”
Cathryn Rakich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, X and Instagram: @insidesacramento.