Dog warden retires after 25 years

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Jim Evans recounts tales of dog wranglings

By Ron Benningfield

Jim Evans has had many unusual calls for help during his 25 years as LaRue County dog warden.

“I’ve had calls for me to come and get possums, coons, and horses,” said Evans, who is retiring at the end of the year. “I’ve even had a call for me to catch a skunk and a three-foot lizard.”

As dog warden, his actual responsibility was to pick up only the canines, so he would usually refer the callers to the appropriate people who could capture the other animals. He has had his hands full, sometimes literally, with dogs.

“The number of calls I get vary, but usually the most come on Monday, with several on Tuesday and then tapering off,” said Evans, who lives in Hodgenville.  “For some reason, I seldom get calls on Friday, but they pick up again on the weekend.”

In some years, he averaged picking up 40-100 dogs a month. The most he remembers catching in a month was 150, with more than 40 coming from one place.

Evans has an enclosure in his GMC truck bed with eight separate compartments that can haul up to 26 dogs, depending on their size. Part of the hazards of his job is getting those animals to cooperate in entering the cages.

“One of the worst bites I got was from a Lassie collie when I tried to put it in one of the cages,” Evans said. He had received a call about the collie and a beagle being attracted to a small female dog that was in heat. While Evans was attempting to catch the beagle, the collie was gentle and not threatening. 

“I put the beagle in, but when I picked up the collie and headed it toward the holding compartment, the animal bit me through my upper arm,” he said.

“Whenever I take a dog, I always try to find its owner, but couldn’t find who owned this dog and had to put it down,” he said. As a precaution, he had to take a series of rabies shots.

Evans received another painful bite on a trip to Lyons station to pick up a big mixed breed that had been playing with its owner’s grandkids, but because of its size, had knocked them down.

“The grandparent called because she was afraid the kids would get hurt,” said Evans. “She told me the dog was good natured, but when I got ready to put him in the truck, he took off the end of one of my fingers.”

Though most animals he catches are non-combative, many have no identification on them. Evans urged dog owners to keep collars with owner contact information on their pets and to have microchip IDs implanted on the animal.

“I have a scanner that will read the microchip so that I can contact Taylor County (Animal Shelter, where he now takes the dogs) and also contact the owner,” he said. 

A lot of times, though, when he receives calls, he knows who the owner is.  Those times, especially those in which people are complaining about their neighbors’ dogs, are the hardest for Evans.

“I’m caught in the middle in those situations,” he said. “Either one or the other likely will be mad at me before it’s over.”

He recalled incidents where neighbors’ dogs had run farmers calves, chickens, guineas and other animals, sometimes killing them.

“I have had owners, even with traces of blood on their dog, tell me, ‘How do you know my dog did it?’” he said. 

He has also seen where owners mistreated their animals.

“A neighbor of one of the dog owners called me, complaining of a bad smell coming from where over 40 pit bulls were kept,” Evans recalled. “When the deputy sheriff and I arrived, we found one of the dogs had died on a chain with his watering bowl just out of reach.”

Some of the situations went to court before being resolved with Evans being called to testify several times.

“Throughout it all, though, Tommy (Turner, judge-executive) and all them at the courthouse have been wonderful in supporting me,” he said.

Turner returned the compliment, “Jimmy has been a faithful and hard worker in an occupation that is not as easy as just putting dogs into a cage.”

Though some instances were stressful, other situations, however, have turned out to be less serious.

“I had a call from one man who told me he had a snake in his house and he wanted me to come get it out,” Evans said. “Now, I don’t fool with snakes, and I didn’t that one, either, especially when he told me it was a rattlesnake.”

He referred the caller to a man Evans knew in Green County who caught snakes.

Perhaps the most physically challenging for the 74-year-old Evans occurred when he received a call about a stray dog in a Hodgenville subdivision.

When Evans arrived, he asked some in the neighborhood if they knew who owned the animal, and none did. After spotting the dog, he spent the next 45 minutes chasing it.

“It would let me get up close to where I thought I had it, maybe three or four feet, then it would run a little bit away,” he recalled.

After pursuing it around one particular house three times, he finally cornered and caught it. 

As he was carrying it to his truck, however, a man came out of that house, walked over to him, and said, “I believe you’ve got my dog.”

“When he got up close, he said, ‘Yep! That’s Ol’ Bo, all right,’” Evans recalled the owner saying, and adding, “I’ve been looking for him for two days.”

“Evidently, the owner didn’t look outside his house until after I had chased that dog around it three times,” said Evans.

Animal shelter

For the past few years, LaRue County has contracted with Taylor County Animal Shelter which takes the animals.  

“Taylor County does an excellent job with trying to find the owners of the animals and in adopting them out,” Evans said. “They’ll hold them for at least five days, try to find their owners, and then, unless they’ve shown aggression, will put them up for adoption.”

He said the shelter will also take cats.

“If anybody is thinking about taking a dog or cat there, they should first call the dog warden here who’ll let Taylor County know to be expecting them,” he said.