Allen Pickles has loved animals since he was a boy. His father was a fish and wildlife officer. “He was always bringing baby wild animals home for us to take care of,” Pickles told me as we chatted in his office.
“We had baby raccoons. We had possums. We even had a baby bear for about three weeks until they found some place for him to go,” he added.
Allen moved to Immokalee when he was just two years old where he grew up and worked giving airboat tours until he moved to LaBelle in 2004 to be closer to his mother, which is when he assumed his position with the Animal Control in LaBelle.
“We cover half of the county here. Stray dogs and cats. Loose animals complaints about anything from wildlife to snakes. We are both (referencing his co-worker Douglas Morgan) licensed alligator trappers. We do it all!” Allen says, “It’s just a really fun job.”
I ask if he can recount a tale of one of his most interesting calls. “Probably a python… six feet long,” he answers. “She was in a yard on Kirby Thompson Road. It took a while to catch her but we finally got her.”
Allen continues to tell me that after catching the large snake he carried her around with him for a couple of days in a pillow case. “When I took her out she didn’t try to bite at all. I kept her for a couple of years until she got to big. Then I took her to a conservancy in Fort Myers where she still lives.”
Aside from his work with Animal Control, Allen fosters baby animals like raccoons, squirrels, possums, mocking birds, and woodpeckers which is evidenced by a plethora of baby bottles, syringes, baby formula, blankets, and other accoutrement for taking care of his little foster animals. “At one time I had eight little possums, four mockingbirds, one squirrel and one raccoon,” Allen says.
When Animal Control is called to pick up stray dogs or cats they keep them for five days to provide opportunity for possible owners to find their lost pets. If the animals are not claimed after the five days the animals belong to the City of LaBelle Animal Control and they must either be transferred to a shelter or euthanized (which is avoided if at all possible).
The Animal Control is grateful to work with other great organizations like the Caloosa Humane Society in LaBelle, Forever Pets in Venice, and the Naples Humane Society. “We get a lot of animals out of here to no-kill shelters.”
“Just knowing that you got an animal off the street and they aren’t out there starving at the end of the day is what it’s all about,” Pickles says.
If you would like to contact the Animal Control office to rescue a stray dog or cat or if you have lost your pet you can find the office at 220 Rodeo St, LaBelle, FL 33935 or call (863) 675-3381.