To Serve & Collect

reg Hafkin

When it comes to humans behaving badly, Evanston has more than 100 sworn police officers to maintain order. But when animals are out of control, there’s just one city employee who’s assigned to rein them in.

Linda Teckler is Evanston’s chief animal warden and the only one the city has. Her duties range from looking for snakes to chasing stray dogs – which is more difficult than it sounds, she said.

“Everybody seems to think it’s, ‘Here poochie poochie,'” Teckler said. “But there are a lot of dogs who have street smarts.”

The trick is getting the dog into a space that is hard to escape from, such as between houses. Exotic animals often prove to be even more troublesome, Teckler said.

“We’ve had big boas six feet long that take four policemen to hold,” she said. “We’ve had snakes that are poisonous that come in with the flour shipment from Peru.”

Teckler started working at the Evanston Police Department in 1974. She started out in the records bureau and in internal affairs, but found the jobs boring.

She decided to work with animals because she has had a fascination with them since childhood.

“I always dragged everything home that I found,” Teckler said. “I always had turtles, cats, dogs.”

She joined the Animal Control Bureau in 1982, and was promoted to Chief Animal Warden on Oct. 3 of this year. She usually goes out to catch animals by herself, but in the most difficult situations, she gets help from others.

Evanston Police Commander Susan Trigourea, the manager of Evanston Animal Shelter, has worked with Teckler for the past 25 years.

“We’ve done everything from trying to catch a dog downtown and soliciting help from a merchant who provided baloney and cheese, to trying to catch a dog in the cemetery,” Trigourea said.

Teckler also must enforce Evanston’s animal laws, such as a city ordinance that makes it illegal for a home to have more than three grown dogs.

Like any law enforcement officer, Teckler gets her share of false alarms. Someone once called her about a dead bird, but when she went to investigate it turned out to be a feather duster. In another incident, a reported snake under a refrigerator was actually a rope.

When she does seize a stray animal, Teckler holds it in the animal shelter for seven days, during which the owner can claim it.

Animals who remain in the shelter for more than a week undergo tests to see if they are safe for adoption. If they pass, they undergo medical work before they can be adopted.

Sometimes animals can retake the test, but if they fail it again, they are put to sleep. The shelter can only hold 22 dogs, Teckler said.

The city is looking for an additional animal warden, and the position likely will be filled within the next six months, Teckler said. For now, she is on duty 24 hours a day.

“They could call me at two in the morning for a bat flying around the house,” she said.

Once in the late 1990s, Teckler had to deal with a woman who had five bloodhounds in her house. The dogs had not been out of the house for two years.

“I’m trying to control this dog but there’s so much shit in this house, I’m sliding around,” Teckler recalled.

It might not be the most pleasant job in the world, but at the very least, it has earned the respect of her colleagues, she said.

“You would not believe some of the conditions the dogs have come in here,” Teckler said. “I’ve had a lot of (police officers) tell me you have more balls than I do to mess with these dogs.”

Reach Greg Hafkin at [email protected]