As an animal control officer, Jocelyn has been asked to assist the police department thousands of times. She has responded to help with drug busts, car accidents, domestic violence investigations, reported suicides and more.
Animal control officers are integral to the everyday safety of our streets. They respond to calls when there’s an animal at a police scene. Sometimes it’s to keep an aggressive animal away from the police officers entering a house. Other times, it’s a call to take a pet to the animal shelter when the owner is removed.
It was a normal Friday when the dispatcher radioed asking Officer Jocelyn to meet the local police. As she headed to the scene, she recalled a drug bust where a large Rottweiler was preventing officers from going into a house. She went in with the SWAT team to humanely handle the animal as the officers did their work. It was exciting, yet scary, as animal control officers do not carry weapons for safety.
Officer Jocelyn puts herself at risk every day to serve people and animals. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What will this call entail?” she thought as she arrived to the new call. Police officers and child protective services workers were walking out of a house with adults and children from inside. The children cried hysterically as they were carried in the opposite direction of their handcuffed parents. They were scared and in the arms of strangers. As Officer Jocelyn removed a white-and-black pit bull puppy from the porch, the 11-year-old boy broke away and ran to his dog.
“Please don’t take my dog. I can’t live without her,” he said.
Almost immediately, a tear ran down Officer Jocelyn’s face as she remembered the many children who have lost their best friends in the same manner. These types of cases really get to her.
Officer Jocelyn made a promise to the boy that the dog would be fine and protected from any more harm. As she carried the little puppy to the truck, and ultimately to the animal shelter, she whispered the same promise even though she wasn’t sure she could keep it.
Before leaving, she handed the investigator her card and the dog’s ID number. Officer Jocelyn asked if the dog could accompany the children to foster care, if that’s where the children were headed. The worker said she would see what she could do.
Jocelyn knew the system wasn’t set up yet for this type of program, but decided to put the dog on hold for a few days just in case. At the shelter, the dog had a checkup, bath, good food, lots of belly rubs and walks. After five days with no call, the puppy was placed for adoption and found a great new family. Jocelyn could only hope for the same happy ending for the children.
Many children who witness or are victims of domestic violence and other dangerous situations create a fiercely intense relationship with their family pet. The pet is often the only one that offers support and stability when the family dynamics are broken and dysfunctional. The pet provides comfort and friendship when their surroundings are scary and dark. When an animal is taken away from a child, especially in a situation like this one, it teaches children that loving or connecting with someone or something results in hurt. It hardens them and often removes their ability to feel or create lasting relationships due to lack of trust and fear.
I’m not aware of any programs that allow a child and pet to be removed and placed together. This is something to consider as we begin to recognize the power of the human-animal relationship, particularly between a child and pet.
As Officer Jocelyn rides to her next call, she’s reminded of the shelter mission to provide compassion and care for all animals, two-legged and four. She is proud of her role in the community and will continue to work hard to meet its goals.
* All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.