On the prowl for the city, hairy incidents and all

MARYLAND LIFE

November 08, 1990|By Noam Neusner

He's nabbed a hog in the Harbor Tunnel and a billy goat on Belair Road.

He's chased down loose monkeys and helped a man get his pet sea turtle out of the bathtub.

He's Sam Treasure, animal-control warden, and he's seen more animals on Baltimore'sstreets than most people see in the Baltimore Zoo.

"You never know what you're getting into," said Mr. Treasure, one of a dozen wardens in the city's Bureau of Animal Control.

He goes about his work with a smile, which reassures onlookers that he's doing the right thing. His job, after all, tends to conjure up images of a net-wielding dogcatcher chasing down Pluto for having too much fun on the animated streets of Disney.

Mr. Treasure, a ruddy man of 53 years, debunks that notion.

"If you don't have animal control, you'd have animals running all over the place," he said. "It's for the people's own safety."

Mr. Treasure spends most days picking up unwanted pets, chasing stray cats and dogs, and removing animals that have died on the city's streets. But in his 20 years on the animal beat, Mr. Treasure has had his share of hairy incidents.

The Harbor Tunnel hog, for instance, had fallen off a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. Mr. Treasure had to bring it back to the animal shelter for safekeeping until the truck retrieved it.

About 20 years ago, monkeys were popular pets, and he rounded up a few of those.

One of Mr. Treasure's colleagues, John Cooke, recently disposed of an 8-foot python that had made its way into the city.

On his shift, which runs from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., Mr. Treasure typically responds to more than 20 calls. One recent day, his duties ranged from removing a dead cat from South Greene Street to seizing a Rottweiler for rabies tests after it bit a child.

The Rottweiler, a 1-year-old female named Nasty, had to be cajoled into the slip-knot leash Mr. Treasure uses to lasso his prey. With a combination of soothing words -- "C'mon boy, c'mon, Nasty" -- and the hypnotic swinging of his leash, the burly warden lured the burly dog within range outside its home in the 200 block of North Payson Street.

As the dog growled, Mr. Treasure roped the leash around its snout, then heaved the dog into one of the kennels in his truck. The dog, he said, would be impounded for at least 10 days before being returned to the owner.

Handling a dangerous dog has its risks, of course, so Mr. Treasure tries to take precautions. But he said that cats, with their sharp claws and scrappy manner, tear more skin than dogs.

When dealing with a stray cat caught in a city trap -- cages that catch strays humanely -- Mr. Treasure strapped on thick gloves and used a noose-like rope to snag the angry feline.

Taking a kitten off the streets may smack of cruelty, so Mr. Treasure understands why many onlookers see him as an enemy of animals as opposed to a guardian of public safety. Still, he tries to have some perspective about the job.

"Better that I have this job than somebody who doesn't like animals," he said. "There's no sense in roughing them up."

At another stop, Mr. Treasure donned the thick gloves again to pick up a dead cat from a lawn in the 700 block of George Street, just above Franklin Street. A neighbor peered out from her front door, a disgusted look on her face.

"You gonna take it like that?" she asked.

"Well . . . you got a bag or something?" he responded.

The woman went inside to find a plastic bag.

Dead animals, Mr. Treasure said, are among the more nauseating parts of the job.

"It's not bad if you get the animals fresh," Mr. Treasure said. "That's why we prefer if people call right away."

Faith, he said, helps him get up in the morning, and it can't hurt when dealing with a resentful Rottweiler.

"You just need a little Jesus to help you out," he said breathlessly after struggling with Nasty.

Mr. Treasure brings religious fervor to the streets, in addition to preaching the gospel of spaying and neutering.

Once, he said, he came upon a woman who was preparing to commit suicide. He convinced her to re-examine her life through Christian faith and urged her "not to be ashamed to admit her sins."

"I love people," Mr. Treasure said. "The Lord has just called me to the street ministry. That's why I come to work with a smile on my face."

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