Webinar presenter Jace Huggins answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Community Policing Lessons for Animal Protection. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: We have a career day at college. What would you suggest in terms of using it to help the community?
Jace Huggins: So, I think a career day at a local college. In my mind, that’s looking to bring on maybe interests in our line of work. One of the things I would do while I was there is look into internship programs. Oftentimes, many community colleges have the ability for students to get credits by helping out in jobs that are similar to what they’re looking to get into. Like our community college Admin of Justice program. They can come work with us, and do ride-alongs, and they have to do it for a set schedule throughout a semester, and they actually get college credits for doing that. So, if you’re looking for bringing on kind of the next wave of employees, I would highly recommend looking into the internship programs, while you’re there. Otherwise, I think having a lot of information and availing yourself to finding out what people want to know, the more you ask people what they don’t know about the work you do, the more you know about what info you need to get out there. So, talk to people about what you think we do in the community, and if their answer is, you take people’s dogs away. You know, you’ve got work to do If there are, if their answer is, you provide all the support, then you’re probably getting a lot of stuff out.
Audience Question: What role does emotional intelligence play in ACOs working with folks in our community? Is that something we can really train on?
Jace Huggins: You know, my understanding is, Emotional Intelligence is not one of my highly studied teaching points. But yes, I believe it is something you can work on. And it is something that you can take classes on and learn more about. A lot of stuff, including implicit bias, cynicism, and emotional intelligence. A lot of it to me, is you go, you learn something about it, you go to a training, maybe. And you have this like, a-ha moment, where you’re like, oh, I could do things differently if I better understood why I do X, Y, and Z. It’s kind of the forever journey of us learning about ourselves, and how we check, and how we function. So, emotional intelligence. Absolutely. And I know from my city, we have emotional intelligence classes and trainings pretty regularly, I think they offer about four times a year, and we always encourage our animal control officers to attend those, if nothing else, to get a different perspective. If you do get that aha moment, maybe it’s not an emotional intelligence course, but it’s in an implicit bias course, or some other type of ——– I think all of that is really important. It is very easy in this job to get them to this kind of pattern of like, I show up, I get on my truck, I do my calls, I turn in my paperwork, I write my reports, I go home. And we should always be striving to learn more about us, our community, and how we interact, And if it’s EI, if it’s implicit bias, whatever it is, community programming, we should be doing it. We should be striving. And if you find yourself in that rut where you don’t want to do more or do different or do better, then I think that’s something to curious about and to think about and try and figure out the origins of.
Audience Question: Are you aware of any animal control agencies that are using body-worn cameras to help identify implicit bias?
Jace Huggins: So, specifically, to help identify implicit bias, I can’t speak to that. There are quite a few that are using body-worn cameras, and I would probably recommend referencing local police agencies and how they are allowed to access them. So, there are a lot of rules around when and why you can access a body-worn camera. You know, I talked about doing call auditing. You don’t even need a body-worn camera. If you instituted some type of across-the-board equitable call auditing, where every month you pulled 10 poultry calls, 10 PDD calls, 10 cruelty calls, and 10 welfare calls and you looked at the comparison of how those calls were hand handled, you would probably be able to notice some trends, whether it’s related to what happens in certain neighborhoods versus what happens in other neighborhoods. What happens with certain breeds of dogs? We all like to think that we love all dogs and cats. But the reality is that most animal control officers have had negative interactions with certain types of animals and are more likely to be heavy hitters in a situation especially if it’s recent and how they handle a call with a similar type of animal. So, using body-worn cameras for implicit bias, I don’t know of any off the top of my head, but I do think that there’s a lot of power in how you write a policy. And it would all depend on how your policy mandates, you’re allowed to use that body-worn camera footage. I think with a complaint, absolutely, you’d be able to go in and look and see what was going on. But if you wanted to use it in an audit fashion, that would have to be agreed upon in your SOP.
Audience Question: Can you share what system you’d use for animal control so that you can log in and provide different reports on your calls?
Jace Huggins: Like our database, we use Chameleon. Chameleon is the database we use.
Audience Question: How do you overcome internal staff or volunteer attitudes that if “the pet owner is responsible enough to plan for future potential financial issues, then they just shouldn’t be an owner?” How do you deal with that kind of issue with your own staff?
Jace Huggins: So, I think it involves one, a lot of conversation when I talk to staff about these types of situations, and even volunteers, think about the pathway of the animal. So, Mr. Jones from the beginning of the class. Mr. Jones can’t take appropriate care of his animal. So, that dog is going to be brought to the shelter. Sit here for how long? However long it takes to either do an investigation or get it medically cleared to go back out. It May or may not get adopted. It’s going to be one more animal in our shelter that may or may not get kennel cough, and may or may not get — any possible bug running around the shelter. It’s going to be one more animal that creates stress for staff that staff has to feed and take care of. So, when we talk about the pathway of the animal, sometimes I find that if you can talk about what’s really best for this animal, is it stay with the person who really was trying to find a vet. I mean, you know, in that story, he was very honest, I’m trying to find, I just don’t have money right now. I don’t have everything I need to get it in for a vet. Is it better to support that animal in a home that it knows, with a person that it knows, and work with that person to make sure we get the animal into a situation that’s legally compliant? Because what we’re comfortable with matters not, in these situations, it’s what’s the legal requirements for a pet owner. To me the answer is always, yes, it’s always better for an animal to be able to stay in the house, unless it’s been horribly abused, obviously, right? But if this is a lack of groceries or an inability due to financial stressors, or other things, if we can support that animal. And help that owner be better prepared in the long run. I think that should always be our go-to answer because the amount of stress that animal is going to go through running through the shelter system. And, with the way shelters are right now, potentially, ending up on a euthanasia list. And I struggled with anybody who thinks an animal is completely better off just being euthanized than being with an owner who tried but couldn’t. Like, to me, that’s just that. There’s no argument there. So, keeping the animal where it is. And then, the other part to that discussion is if we help somebody and they still are unwilling to do what needs to be done to take care of that animal? They are unwilling to go out and buy it food. They’re unwilling to do X, Y, or Z legally. The fact that you created that support in the beginning, makes an exceptionally stronger criminal case. If you end up having to go to court over an animal, that’s been neglected. While it’s not the go-to in any way, shape, or form, but in the long run, if you tried and tried and tried to help someone and they were just unwilling to accept the help and unwilling to do what was needed, that court case is going to be far stronger, or more likely to make it through a court system. But again, back to the be decent human beings, like let’s try and take care of each other. I don’t think, I think we’ve been trying to prove that animals need to be where we believe they should be for a long time. And it hasn’t really done us, as much good as we thought it would. So, I think it’s really about supporting these owners, when we can, keeping animals where they are. At least for a period of time to see if the owner’s willing to step up is going to be, in the long run, a better option. Tearing families apart shouldn’t be our goal.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Community Policing Lessons for Animal Protection.