Friday, November 8, 2013

Humane Officer Days at Animal Protection Institute

The first requester, Lisa Twining Taylor, has asked me to talk about my time as a Humane Officer in California. There isn't much to tell, but here goes. (In fact, the above photo captures the first of only two times that I ever wore the uniform--thank God! I felt like a hippo in a tutu in it.)

I started at API as a Field Representative for the Pacific Northwest. When I moved from Eatonville to Sacramento in 1981 I became a Field Services Director nationwide, flying all over the country for various animal welfare-related causes. Neither of these positions required a uniform.

Then, along about 1982 or so, I was given an additional position: Executive Director of Humane Educator's Council, the law-enforcement branch of API. That's when things got interesting (as in the old Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times'). 

The powers that be at API decided that I needed to take an Arrest, Search and Seizure course, which was the last thing I wanted to do. ("Damn it, Jim, I'm an educator, not an enforcer!") But I obliged them, anyway. 

There were plenty of people at API with law enforcement backgrounds and some of our Humane Officers wanted to go undercover and visit dog and cock-fighting operations in various counties well-known for these illegal practices. So I had to know about the proper protocol for arrest, search and seizure, although I knew darn sure that I was never going to be one of these underground activists. (Most illegal animal-fighting enterprises are also heavily into drug and prostitution activities, too, which carry far-heavier fines and jail sentences, and any undercover officer who was outed was likely to be murdered before they ever got back to report what they discovered.)

Needless to say, as Executive Director I was the one responsible for sending officers into the field, and I was a miserable wreck about the responsibility. I didn't want to send undercover officers to possible early graves, so I back-pedaled all the time. I said no and no and no; I don't ever recall saying yes to any undercover activities at all.  I had no intention of being answerable should someone come back in a body bag. That isn't what I'd signed up for when I agreed to work for API, a humane education organization. 

Needless to say, the law enforcement folks willing to take the risks probably considered me chickenshit but I just couldn't see how to square the possibility that an officer I sent out undercover might not come back; not with my belief in humaneness and humanity: I consider a live humane educator a helluva lot more effective than a dead martyr...

So I never sent anyone out undercover. The guys who wanted to do that ended up serving another animal welfare organization whose Executive Director didn't mind taking the risk and that worked out just fine.

So...yes.. this photo captures one moment in time: the day I had my photo taken as a State of California Humane Officer. And I wore the uniform to the Arrest, Search and Seizure class. Those are the only two times I ever wore it.  

I love animals. I love people. 'Nuf said? 

No comments: