Richard F. Amity thought he had heard it all until he got a call one day from Arlington County police asking him to have someone remove a bull calf from an apartment.
"Someone bought the bull calf from a livestock auction . . . and took it to a bar," Amity said. "At the bar, he sold it to someone else. The new owner took the bull home in his car and put it in the bathtub. Eventually, neighbors detected a strong odor and called police."
For Amity, director of the Fairfax County Department of Animal Control, the largest animal shelter in the Washington area, subduing bears, tracking an elephant or rounding up deer can be all in a day's work.
"We get a lot of deer. A whole lot of deer," said Amity, who says 43 percent of Fairfax County is wooded area. "Got a call recently about deer at Tysons Corner."
Amity said booming construction in Fairfax has rousted a raft of wild animals from their natural habitat. In addition to kennels for the usual stray dogs and cats, the Fairfax facility has a small stable in its back yard at 4500 W. Ox Rd.
"Black bears wander from the mountainous region," Amity said. He said wardens also have had to subdue bears, armadillos, peacocks and even an elephant that wandered away from a pet farm.
For such a wide variety of animals, the Fairfax shelter has a staff of 49, the largest in the area. And unlike other jurisdictions, Fairfax wardens receive police training at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy and often carry .22 caliber rifles and tranquilizer guns.
Despite all the training and weapons, Amity said sometimes the best way to handle the wild animals is to ignore them. In the recent case of the deer at Tysons Corner, Amity said he suggested to the County Board of Supervisors that "benign neglect" was the best strategy, explaining that the deer would eventually "move through natural corridors," returning to the woods.
Generally, wild animals are set free in undeveloped wooded areas such as Huntley Meadows Park in southern Fairfax or Washington National Park, near Front Royal. Sometimes they are given to Kings Dominion amusement park, near Richmond, or a nearby pet farm, he said.
Before a recent visit to the barn, Amity stopped his red pickup truck in the parking lot to fetch a handful of sugar cubes for the few resident animals, favorites of the staff, that live permanently at the department's barn.
Prissy, a black pony with a thick winter coat, and Jasmine and Megan, the two resident goats, trotted up for petting and sugar, then followed Amity as he checked on the bull calf.
While Amity welcomes the new additions to the barn, he recalled other animals he could hardly wait to have taken away. Particularly the "irritable Leroy Brown."
"Springfield Mall had a manger scene up for Christmas and they had animals, including this young monkey in a cage," said Amity. "The monkey, whose name was Leroy Brown . . . bit a little girl and had to be quarantined for 10 days at the animal shelter.
"If he didn't get his way, he threw tantrums. He loved to drink Coca-Cola and smoke cigarettes.
"When the trainer came to get him, I don't know what happened, but Leroy bit . . . the trainer," Amity said. "I told Leroy to get . . . out of here. We were tired of Leroy Brown."