Back in 1985, Morris McCall was talked into applying for a job at the Idaho Humane Society's shelter. That was his first job, and he's still there. Now, however, instead of cleaning cages and taking care of stray dogs, he's the animal control supervisor, running the show from the Humane Society's heaquarters near the Boise Airport. After 21 years of working around animals, he's managed to come home with only one dog and one cat. If you ever need to know how to catch an emu or a wallaby, he's your man.
How many pets do you own?
I own one dog, and one cat.
That's awfully restrained for a guy who works around stray animals.
You learn to not take everything home.
How did you come by them?
The dog was a stray puppy with its mother at Barber Park. Probably about seven years ago. We trapped the mother in the live trap. She had two puppies in the bushes, and I kind of fell in love with one of the puppies. That was the first dog I took home. The dog's name is JJ. That's just the name that fit him.
He had to stay with the mom about two weeks, where I babied him here at the shelter. Then I decided to adopt him.
He's a Visla-chocolate lab. A very energetic, hunting dog type. He's a huge dog, about 100 pounds. It's 100 pounds of muscle.
I adopted the cat here when it was about 7 weeks old. It had been beat up by some other cats, and lost a leg. So he's missing a front leg, since he was about 7 weeks old. He's probably about 14 years old now.
We call him "Bugs." The kids named him that because he hops like a bunny.
So that was a deliberate decision to just have one?
It's like having kids. You don't want to have 10 kids if you can't take care of them.
When you started, what surprised you about the job?
I suppose the first few years I never really pictured myself cleaning out dog kennels, you know what I mean?
How does working here compare to being an animal control officer in other states?
I did some training in New York. Some of the stories I heard there were pretty wild. I don't know if you've seen Animal Cops on TV. It's really like that over there. They do all kinds of stuff. There's lots of cruelty going on over there. It's not that bad here.
What's the most exotic animal you've dealt with here?
Those little small kangaroos, a wallaby. We got a call from a lady that claimed it was just running down Orchard. We thought she was crazy, but when we got there, sure enough, there was this little kangaroo hopping down the road. He belonged to a pet store. It was their personal pet. It was friendly, came right up to me.
I've caught all kinds of stuff. Ostriches, lizards, you name it. I've seen about all of it.
Ostriches can be dangerous, right?
They are dangerous. We once had emus. I did not know they were dangerous. The owner came up and instructed me on that fact. They kick people, and they can kill you.
How do you catch them?
You catch them from the side or behind. You kind of grab onto the feathers on the side of them, and walk beside them. One guy on each side. They're used to it, I guess.
How does the decision get made to remove a pet from a home?
It would have to be a pretty extreme situation for us to just out and out take them. We try to work with people. If we go in and it's blatant cruelty, I guess we'll impound them. We have the ability to write citations. A lot of people don't realize that we're Ada County deputy sheriffs. We don't have arresting ability, but we do have the ability to write citations, and we do that every day.
Last month there were 112 violations. That's actually a little bit low for us, but last month was a little bit slow.
Does it slow down in the winter?
It does. We get a lot of cruelty calls in the winter. Dogs left out in the cold, no water, like that.
Probably 50 or 60 percent of our calls are barking dog complaints.
What do people tell you when you come to them for barking dog complaints?
They come up with everything you can imagine. It's like talking to someone about speeding. There are so many excuses, it would take all day.