When Pueblo Animal Law Enforcement Officer Stephanie Dominguez received a call June 19 about a dead cat stuck in the swamp cooler of a local woman's home, she was prepared for the worst.
The caller, who's in her 90s, said it was 100 degrees and she couldn’t use her swamp cooler because the dead animal, which she believed to be a kitten, was stuck in the blower assembly turbine of the cooler.
When Dominguez arrived, she was surprised to see the trapped feline was not a kitten, but a full-grown cat.
The cat was also very much alive.
What started as a body retrieval quickly turned into a rescue. Dominguez called for backup and received help from her fellow officers Skylar Sardello, Austin Estavillo and Steve Medina.
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“I could see the cat had actually broken into the little part (of the swamp cooler) and managed to get himself stuck down at the bottom. He could not move his leg very well, it was outside the (turbine) wheel,” Dominguez explained.
“We had to remove the plastic (brace) piece and I was trying to reach into the swamp cooler to get him, but I was too short,” she recalled with a laugh.
“I ended up pushing his butt up with my little (baton) so (Sardello) could reach him and grab him."
Dominguez quickly identified injuries on the cat and wondered if he was significantly injured.
"But the moment he had some free space to move he full-on let us know he was a feisty little guy," she said.
As the officers worked the rescue, the resident told them she had heard “meowing like a day and a half before.” Dominguez said she believes the cat got its wounds from spending around 36 hours trying to escape.
The cat was transported back to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region Pueblo shelter for medical treatment and vaccination. There, shelter staff noticed he had a tipped ear, indicating he was a feral community cat that had been previously captured and neutered.
The cat was returned to his cat colony not far from the home where he was found and rescued.
The seemingly contortionist cat is just one of thousands of animals Pueblo Animal Law Enforcement officers come into contact with each year.
In 2021, the agency had contact with 3,006 animals in Pueblo, Pueblo West and Pueblo County with a staff of about eight officers, which has since shrunk to five.
The swamp cooler cat was a memorable experience for Dominguez and ranks alongside other notable rescues in which she's participated, like freeing a Boston terrier stuck in a storm drain and capturing a wild black-footed ferret trapped in a Pueblo West garage.
“I love it,” she said. “I would not change this job for anything.”
Animal law enforcement officers are "committed to promoting and protecting the safety, health and quality of life of pets and people through the enforcement of laws and education,” said Cody Costra, public relations manager for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.
The officers are not like the stereotypical dog catchers of old, who only dealt with tracking and trapping stray animals. Although that is part of the job, animal law enforcement also handles more serious issues like animal cruelty, dangerous animal cases and bite reports.
The team is also tasked with addressing noisy animal complaints, licensing and vaccination requirements and educating the public on city and county laws regarding animal ownership.
To learn more about the shelter’s Trap-Neuter-Return or Shelter-Neuter-Return services for feral cats, go to hsppr.org/services/tnr/.
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo animal officers save feral cat trapped in swamp cooler