Animal Control Officer Featured on “San Diego’s Most Wanted”

A couple opossum babies were among the animals that County animal control officer Shalimar Oliver can be seen dealing with during an episode of "San Diego's Most Wanted."
February 21, 2012 | 4:56pm

It just figures. 

It had been a jam-packed week, business as usual for Shalimar Oliver, an animal control officer with the County’s Department of Animal Services.

But the day a film crew from Fox 5’s “San Diego’s Most Wanted” followed Oliver hoping to catch some action, the calls dried up to a trickle.

“I’m like, ‘I knew this was going to happen,’” said Oliver.

Two unrelated reports of dog neglect didn’t amount to much. The best call of the day came last, and it was mostly fluff. But happy-ending, baby-animal, adorable fluff.

While the action was minimal this time, Oliver’s response to the calls highlighted a major role of County animal control officers: educating the public about animal welfare laws and responsible pet ownership.

The ride-along took place earlier this month in City Heights, and the show used the footage, along with archival footage of animal abuse investigations and the County’s shelters, to paint a quick sketch of the job of County animal control officers. The episode aired last week and is now available online. The segment begins at the 18-minute mark of episode #38.

Watch the four-minute clip, and you’ll see Oliver handling fuzzy terrier with a badly matted coat. Oliver said these owners had two dogs, and other than the lack of grooming, the pets were being lawfully cared for with water, food and shelter.

And even the dreadlocked coat might have seemed, to the owners, a form of doggie fashion. But as Oliver explained to the dog’s family, such tight knots can pull at skin, irritating the dog and possibly causing skin lesions and infections.

“It’s an important issue we need to have owners address,” Oliver said.

Oliver said the owner promised to trim the dog’s coat after she explained the possible complications of matted fur.

The next call was mostly left on the editing room floor. Oliver was sent to investigate a report of a possibly neglected pit bull/boxer mix. But the nervous parolee owner, who at first thought he was in trouble for something, didn’t want to be shown on camera.   

However, when Oliver examined the dog and found that the animal was simply elderly and thin—not neglected—the owner lightened up a bit, the officer said. Oliver wrote him a ticket for failing to license the dog, but the owner had no hard feelings in the end. Still it wasn’t much of a TV story.

Hoping to give the camera crew something, Oliver asked another officer if she could take one of her pending calls—a report of a mother opossum hit by a car with possible surviving babies.  

“She was like, ‘...I already went out there. They’re all dead,’” Oliver recalled her fellow officer saying.

But Oliver has a soft spot for opossums. She wanted to check one more time for any babies that might have scrambled away.

Sure enough, when she arrived at the alley where the mother and other deceased opossum babies had been found earlier, two teeny faces were peering through a fence, Oliver said.

Oliver said she understood how her fellow officer missed the baby animals, they were so small. But Oliver was determined to leave no critter behind this time.

“They’re the size of the palm of your hand, so I’m fanning all over the front yard with my hand,” Oliver recalled.  “They were filming me, and I thought, ‘This is going to be wasting their time.’”

Finally satisfied there were no more babies, Oliver called a volunteer at Project Wildlife, who agreed to care for the opossums.

A couple weeks after the filming, Oliver reports the opossums are doing great.

“They are holding on strong and gaining weight every day,” she says by email. “When I first brought them in they were the same weight as 3 pennies…and now they are almost 100 grams. I could not be happier!!!”

The opossum pictures here are show how well the animals are doing now. Follow this link and choose “Episode #38 - 2/11/12” to see them when Oliver first found them. Again, the Animal Services ride-along is at the 18 minute mark.

 You might also want to drag the scroll bar to the 8:19 mark in the show. Dr. Jonathan Lucas of the County Medical Examiner’s office is interviewed for a segment on the rising problem of prescription drug-related deaths.