A Carroll police officer captured a possum in town on March 24 and transported it more than a mile while the animal hung by its neck from a pole out the driver’s window of the patrol vehicle.
A Carroll police officer captured a possum in town on March 24 and transported it more than a mile while the animal hung by its neck from a pole out the driver’s window of the patrol vehicle.

April 6, 2018

A Carroll police officer who was dispatched to capture an opossum last month transported the animal about a mile through town with it hanging by its neck in a noose out his patrol vehicle’s window.

The officer had access to animal crates at the police department but did not have one in his vehicle, Chief Brad Burke said. It’s unclear why the officer, who has been with the department for six years, did not use a crate to transport the live animal.

“It’s animal cruelty perpetrated by the police department — hanging the poor thing by its throat out of a moving car window,” said Jenn Custer, who was driving two young children to an Easter egg hunt March 24 when she saw the police vehicle and opossum on 18th Street heading east out of town.

Burke declined to say whether the transportation method was appropriate, but the department has since equipped all of its patrol vehicles with buckets that can hold wild animals.

The department’s animal-control policy does not advise officers on how to transport captured animals. It does, however, instruct officers to use gloves and a so-called “fetch pole” to capture them.

The officer responded about 9:30 a.m. on March 24 to a call for help from John Merrick in the 200 block of Bass Street in the northeast part of Carroll.

Merrick told the Daily Times Herald that his dog had caught the opossum the night before.

“It was a big one,” Merrick said. “I thought, ‘This is not good. I’m not picking this up with my bare hands.’ ”

He covered the animal with a shirt and tossed it in his trash bin: “In a possum world, he just checked into a five-star hotel,” Merrick said. “Warm, dry and plenty of food.”

The officer arrived the next morning with the fetch pole — a long rod with a noose at the end — that he used to transport the animal out of town.

“I really don’t blame him,” Merrick said of the officer. “If you saw the teeth on this thing, I wouldn’t want it anywhere near me.”

Officers commonly drive wild animals to the edge of city limits in an effort to get them “back to nature,” Chief Burke said.

“The catch pole is designed to not injure or kill the animal but to catch the animal,” he said. “The noose is designed to only catch and control the animal. It will not tighten enough to cut off the airway or break any bones in the neck.”

It’s unclear whether it was common for officers to hang live animals out of their vehicle windows as they drove through town before they recently added the buckets. Burke has declined to comment further for this article.

I’m appalled that someone would do that to an animal,” said Sammi Elliott, shelter director of Animal Rescue of Carroll. “Opossums are not a favorite animal, but they’re not harmful.”