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Animal Rescue & Control

AR&C vehicle

PHS/SPCA is a private, nonprofit organization contracted by San Mateo County (and its cities) to provide state-mandated animal control services, including animal rescue, pick-up of stray/injured animals, removal of dead animals from public right-of-way (except freeways/highways which are maintained by CALTRANS), and enforcement of laws that protect animals and people. Barking dog complaints, patrols of parks (including dog parks), and situations where residents have too many animals or illegal animals, such as ferrets or alligators, are handled by each individual city - and not by PHS/SPCA. Also, PHS/SPCA is directed to pick-up dead or live wildlife on private property only when wildlife has had direct contact with humans and/or domestic animals, such as a bite/attack. PHS/SPCA prioritize all calls. For example, a call for a dog loose in traffic on the freeway will be prioritized over a call for a confined dog or a deceased dog or cat. Regardless, all of calls will be addressed. San Mateo County contracts PHS/SPCA to handle emergency calls within one hour of the time of the call, but our Animal Rescue & Control vehicles are not considered emergency vehicles by state law and our Officers must follow all traffic laws like all motorists. We are contracted, and appropriately staffed, to handle most other non-emergency calls within 24 hours of the time of the call, however, our actual response time is usually two to four hours.

Contacting Animal Rescue & Control

For animal rescue & control situations requiring an immediate response please call: 650-340-8200. Please note, we answer calls from 8 am until 6 pm on weekdays and until 5 pm on weekends/holidays. Outside those hours, please call San Mateo County at 650-363-4953. They dispatch PHS/SPCA officers for urgent matters.  

Nuisance wildlife?  Please call our Wildlife Department at 650-340-7022 extension 414, leave a message with the situation/problem and they will call you back.

Non-urgent Questions about the field work done by our officers such, as Dangerous/Vicious Animal investigations, or our contract with San Mateo County (incl. exclusions and response times), should be sent to PHS/SPCA Captain Jeff Christner at or 650-685-8505.

Barking Dog Complaints: these are handled by your local police department - not PHS/SPCA.

Other: Animal Bite Reports from Medical Facilities, Police Reports, or photographs of animal bites or animal related violations may also be sent as file attachments to for proper follow up. When attaching files please be sure to indicate the address or case to which they’re related.

Animal Rescue & Control van, livestock trailer, and Large Animal Rescue equipment

Rescue Equipment

Download our Large Animal Rescue Flyer which includes information on this service and who to call to report a Large Animal Rescue

Handling “nuisance” wildlife

PHS/SPCA will respond to calls for sick or injured wildlife, but our contract does not include removal of nuisance wildlife (raccoons, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, deer, coyotes, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, etc.) from public or private properties. PHS/SPCA advises residents to seek and remove that which is attracting the nuisance wildlife -- usually inadvertent food or water supplies or shelter – and provides humane tips (see tips of living with local wildlife). Residents can pay an animal trapper or pest control company to remove nuisance wildlife, but this is largely ineffective; new wild animals simply claim the open habitats.

A note about Humane Investigations and Animal Cruelty…

Our Humane Investigation work is funded entirely by donations and is carried out by our two Humane Investigators – and not by Animal Control Officers. As evidenced by media accounts, we take this work seriously and our team is a model for other humane organizations across the country. When we receive an animal cruelty call or complaint, we review it fully and take necessary action, which could range from an “education-only” visit to removing an animal from harm’s way and forwarding a report to our District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Contrary to popular belief PHS/SPCA does not receive funding for our Humane Investigations work from any national animal welfare organization. If you are aware of an animal being abused, please call 650/340-8200. See Reporting Animal Abuse or Neglect and San Mateo County Animal Laws.


PHS/SPCA responds to Deer Rescue

On January 13th, 2014 at approximately 10:00 a.m. two of our Animal Control Officers responded to an apartment building in Belmont on the report of a deer trapped in a backyard. Deer will often wander into backyards and the simple solution is to open a gate to let them out or wait till they jump the fence out of the backyard. This situation was different in that the surrounding terrain was higher than the fence and the young deer couldn’t jump back out. Also, there was no gate. The backyard was only accessible through the apartment itself.

deer rescue images

After assessing the situation and consulting with our Wildlife Department it was decided to tranquilize the deer and relocate it. Only a few of our officers are certified to carry the blowgun and Co2 tranquilizer equipment and thankfully that equipment was being carried by one of the officers who responded to this call. In short order the deer was successfully tranquilized using a dart fired from a blowgun. The deer was impounded and driven a short distance away. We are required to remain with any tranquilized animal until it is fully awake, which took about an hour in this case. Once the deer came to, it moved around slowly for a bit before trotting away up a steep hillside.

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PHS/SPCA responds to duckling rescue

On June 4th at 8:00 a.m. PHS/SPCA received a report of a mother duck and ducklings on the 101 northbound off ramp to San Francisco International Airport. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and one of our units staffed by an Animal Control Officer and our ACO Supervisor quickly responded to the scene. The mother duck had left the area after her ducklings fell through the gaps in the grate covering the storm drain. Often mother ducks will come back to the area to check on their ducklings after such an event, this one didn’t. Since the mother duck didn’t come back, PHS/SPCA started work on trying to capture the ducklings. This usually involves removing the storm drain grates and blocking off access to other drainpipes to limit the duckling’s movement. This group of ducklings was extremely nervous and wouldn’t come out of the drainpipe to even take a look around, making capturing them difficult.

Duckling rescue by PHS/SPCA animal control officers

Our Officers on scene called for additional support, and another ACO from PHS/SPCA responded along with a unit from the SFO Fire Department. One of the tools PHS/SPCA uses for Large Animal Rescues is a large webbing strap with loops on each end. This was fed into the drainpipe opposite from where the ducklings were which forced some of the ducklings out into the open and after two were initially captured, four more were soon rounded up. The rest of the storm drains were searched with no signs of any other ducklings. These types of calls can usually be handled in less than 30 minutes, this one, including transporting the six ducklings to our Wildlife Care Center in Burlingame, took nearly 4 hours, primarily due to the nervousness of the ducklings. We’ve never seen a call like this take this long as the ducklings usually come out of the drainpipe to look around and can be captured one at a time or in groups when they do so. The six ducklings will be raised by PHS/SPCA staff and volunteers at our Wildlife Care Center until they are old enough to get by on their own, at which point they will be released to the wild. Special thanks to CHP and SFO Fire for responding to assist us with this call.

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PHS/SPCA responds to Large Animal Rescue

On Friday, April 19th, 2013 three Officers from the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA responded to Half Moon Bay on a report of a 33 year old horse that had been down overnight. Officers met with the horse owner and his veterinarian and together a rescue plan was formed. Given there was no high “pick point” that could be used to anchor a rope/pulley lifting system, it was decided to us a small tractor with a front end loader attachment to lift the horse. The horse was rigged with a piece of 60’ long 2” blue webbing in what is called the “vertical lift tie”. The webbing is wrapped and tied in such a way that the horse can be lifted for up to 10 minutes. Unlike other lifting equipment, the 2” webbing is extremely portable and can be used to facilitate most rescues where a horse just needs help to get its footing.

PHS/SPCA responds to Large Animal Rescue a horse in HMB

It took two lifting attempts, but in short order the horse was on its feet. One of the main advantages of using the “vertical lift tie” as opposed to other lifting equipment is that the webbing can remain on the horse, without encumbering it, while it stabilizes. This way, should the horse go down again, another lifting attempt could be made without re-rigging anything. After the veterinarian cleaned up some minor scrapes around the horse’s left eye and gave him some pain meds, the horse began to walk and was able to eat and drink. It did not appear to have any signs of colic, which can happen when horses are down for an extended period of time.

Thankfully Large Animal Rescue calls are few and far between, but when such calls come in, PHS/SPCA is ready, and equipped, to respond. PHS/SPCA has a fleet of 14 vehicles, and not including the 4x4 pickup truck which is the primary Large Animal Rescue response vehicle, 8 of the remaining 13 vehicles are equipped with basic Large Animal Rescue equipment, this is in addition to the Large Animal Rescue equipment cache stored at the shelter that can be loaded into any of the vehicles. Also, half of the officers have attended Large Animal Rescue training classes, and about half of those have attended Advanced Large Animal Rescue training classes. The Captain of the Animal Rescue & Control department is an instructor for the Large Animal Rescue training classes and PHS/SPCA maintains a full sized fiberglass horse for in house Large Animal Rescue training.

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PHS/SPCA Responds to the rescue of a dog stuck in a drain pipe

On Tuesday March 19th, 2013 just before 1 pm, we responded to a somewhat unusual report of a dog stuck in a drain pipe at the Millbrae Montessori School at 797 Santa Margarita in Millbrae. The students and faculty at the school had noticed the dog and not knowing how it got in, or if it could get out, called us and the Millbrae Fire Department. Our Animal Control Officer arrived on scene the same time the Millbrae Fire Department did and they located an older pit bull type dog under a drain pipe grate behind the school. The dog was able to crawl through the drain pipes and was only able to be seen when it was directly under grates that covered the drain pipe junctions. The grates were not easily removed which prevented the immediate rescue of the dog, which soon disappeared into one of the drain pipes again.

The Millbrae Firefighters called for additional help from Central County Fire and they were able to use the camera from their Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) truck to see the dog, which was now just lying in the pipe barely moving. Given nearly everyone on scene thought the dog was now stuck, the Firefighters started digging a hole so they could cut through the concrete pipe. At the same time, on a hunch, our Animal Control Officer called into our Dispatch Center at our Coyote Point Location where they located a lost dog report from two days ago for the pit bull type dog, which turned out to be an 8 year old dog named “Mixer”. The owners were called and they soon arrived on scene.

PHS/SPCA Responds to the rescue of a dog stuck in a drain pipe in 2013

After being notified by the Fire Department, the Millbrae Public Works Department arrived on scene and they used their remote controlled robot camera to measure the distance to the dog, which was about 10’ away from where the hole was being dug. This type of rescue has happened before, and often dogs, and other animals, will crawl backwards when faced with the unknown, such as a remote controlled robot camera. That is exactly what happened in this case. As the camera was moved forward, the dog crawled backwards. By this time the grates covering the pipe junctions had been removed and one of the owners positioned himself so he could reach down and grab the dog once it backed out to the pipe junction.

“Mixer” soon backed out all the way to the pipe junction where he was lifted out by his owner, bringing an end to his two day ordeal. “Mixer” had a few minor scrapes, but was otherwise unharmed and didn’t seem to be suffering from dehydration. His grateful owners thanked everyone who responded and took “Mixer” home. The area was searched by the responders to this call, however, they could not find out how the dog ended up getting access to the drain pipes in the first place.

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PHS/SPCA attends memorial service

On December 8th, 2012 several officers from the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA attended the memorial service for Animal Control Officer Roy Marcum. Officer Marcum was killed in the line of duty on November 28th when he responded to a residence to remove animals that had been left behind after the tenant was evicted the day before. The tenant had somehow gained access to the residence and when Officer Marcum approached the front door, the tenant fired a shotgun through it, striking and killing Officer Marcum. Like most Animal Control Officers in the State of California Officer Marcum was unarmed. The incident happened in Galt (located between Sacramento and Stockton) which contracts for its animal control services from Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation.

Memorial Service

The two photos seen above were taken by PHS/SPCA Humane Investigator Mary Ellen Wood with the top photo showing two of our vehicles (at left) along with many others at the cemetery and the bottom photo showing some of the officers gathered around the gravesite. There were 53 Animal Control vehicles from all around the state of California that did a procession between the church and the cemetery following the hearse and other vehicles containing the family members. Also in attendance were around 100 uniformed Officers from various departments, in addition to all the family, friends, and co-workers of Officer Marcum. It was truly a heart wrenching day for all in attendance.

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PHS/SPCA takes delivery of two Ford/CTEC Trucks

The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA recently took delivery of two 2011 Ford F-250 trucks with custom Animal Control bodies built by CTEC, the California Truck Equipment Company. In order to design a vehicle that went beyond the dog catcher truck of old, four of the officers formed a vehicle committee to discuss the various options in Animal Control vehicles and to see if any manufacturers would be willing to work with us to try out some new ideas, mainly the creation of a never before seen item in Animal Control vehicles, dog stairs, which you can see in use in the photos below. The delivery of these trucks also marks the first time in a long time where the vehicle graphics on our fleet of ten Animal Rescue & Control vehicles have been the same.

Many Animal Control vehicles feature ramps to load and unload animals, however, most dogs don’t seem to like the ramps, possibly because dogs rarely see ramps in their everyday lives. Our vehicle committee thought that since most dogs know what stairs are and know how to use them, that stairs might work better then a ramp. Even though these two trucks have only been in service a short time the dog stairs have been far more successful then the vehicle committee could have imagined. The vehicle committee was mainly concerned with the loading of dogs into the vehicle, however, the dog stairs have been exceptionally useful in unloading dogs too. As a result of the success we’ve had, CTEC is now offering the dog stairs as an option to other agencies looking to purchase Animal Control vehicles.

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Helping animals and their owners in San Bruno

On Thursday, September 9th, 2010, at 6:30 p.m., approximately 15 minutes after the initial explosion, the first Animal Rescue & Control unit arrived on the scene of the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and fire. A short time later, two other units arrived on scene, however, due to the intense fire, there was nothing the Officers could do. In fact, in the first 12 hours of the incident only two dogs were picked up from the scene.

The top photo by Capt. Jeff Christner taken 20 minutes after the explosion shows the intense fire first responders faced. The bottom photo by Humane Officer Bill Brissenden taken the next day shows one of our Animal Rescue & Control vehicles near one of the State’s fire engines in the midst of the devastation following the explosion and fire.

Officers worked day and night at the scene of the disaster until Monday afternoon when residents were finally allowed to return to their homes. During the same time, other Officers and PHS/SPCA volunteers manned the PHS/SPCA table at the local assistance center to collect information from worried pet owners about their lost or missing animals. To coordinate our response, other Officers set up a Department Operations Center at PHS/SPCA. Special thanks to San Francisco Animal Care & Control who responded to our mutual aid request by sending two of their units to assist with the transportation of animals from the scene of the disaster to PHS/SPCA on Friday, which turned out to be the busiest day for our department during this disaster.

Over the course of the disaster nearly 40 animals were sheltered in place at their homes at the request of their owners and were checked on by our Officers twice a day, to provide food and water for them during the time residents were not allowed into the area. An additional 28 animals were removed from their residences and brought to PHS/SPCA at the request of their owners. Of those 28 animals, 18 were immediately returned to their owners, many of whom were waiting at PHS/SPCA for our Animal Rescue & Control vehicles to arrive with their pets on board. Our Officers got to witness and be part of many happy reunions between animals and their owners, both at the shelter, and on scene, where our Officers often removed animals from residences and returned them to their owners waiting on the other side of the fire/police line.

There were no reports of any injured animals during the time our Officers were on scene, and the only report of animals that were known to have perished in the fire were some fish kept in an outside pond. Sadly, there were many animals who were reported as missing, and their fate, even several weeks after the disaster, was still uncertain.

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Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion
Adoptions | Education | Wildlife | Administration
1450 Rollins Road, Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone 650.340.7022 Fax 650.685.8428

Coyote Point Shelter
Lost/Found | Animal Intake | Spay/Neuter | Animal Control
12 Airport Boulevard, San Mateo, CA 94401
Phone 650.340.7022 Fax 650.348.7891