Webinar presenter Harold Holmes answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Law Enforcement and Animal Control Joint Responses. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: How can we have people take us animal control officers more seriously? Sometimes I feel like these residents take us as a joke, what do you suggest?
Harold Holmes: That’s a really good question. And it’s one that I think we all need to ask ourselves. What can we do to help our industry be seen as more professional? The more professional we are, the more likely we are to be taken seriously, and unfortunately, I think it’s just going to take time. About 10 years ago, I was asked in a promotional interview, “What’s the biggest problem facing the animal control industry today?” The answer then is still true. My answer is, “We’re struggling to be seen as a profession. We’re in a catch-22 because we don’t pay professional wages. So, it’s hard to attract and retain professional people. But until we in the industry, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and act in a professional manner, we can’t justify those wages.” So, to be taken more seriously, I think we need to be more serious. We need to be more professional, know the laws we’re enforcing, and make sure that we’re being objective in our enforcement.
Audience Question: How can you balance the need to educate a subject about the cost of care versus the perception of coercion to get them to surrender the animal?
Harold Holmes: Well, that’s a mistake that I’ve seen animal control officers make since I started in this industry, including such statements as “If you just relinquish ownership of the animals, I won’t prosecute you.” That’s clearly illegal conduct, that’s clearly extortion. Just like when we read Miranda when we’re going to interrogate a suspect who’s in custody, we shouldn’t write in our report, “I read the suspect his Miranda and he waved his rights.” That’s very conclusory. It doesn’t help anybody because the courts are going to be the ones that ultimately decide whether or not your action was coercive. So, it’s important that we document exactly what we did in our reports so that the courts can examine it objectively and have all the information on which to reach the right legal conclusion. So, that script that I’ve given, may give some guidance towards that. Be careful about the totality of the circumstances. Are there a lot of police officers present? Is somebody going to feel intimidated? Did you make a promise to somebody in exchange for that relinquishment? Did you explain the person’s options that they didn’t have to relinquish? It’s going to really come down to a totality of the circumstances. And it’s important to document those, so that three years from now when you’re a defendant in court, you can testify to exactly what was said.
Audience Question: How do you even begin to work with the police when your department isn’t within the other? What is a good bridge to begin these conversations?
Harold Holmes: I think that if you don’t work directly with each other, it’s just a matter of walking into the station and having personal contact with people in that agency. In this age of technology, we’re doing everything by Teams or Zoom or over the Internet. My grandfather told me that more corporate work gets done in the bar room than in the boardroom. And in a way, that’s true, because we still need to make connections with people and that’s best done face-to-face. So, walk into the police station, ask to speak to the watch commander when he or she has time, introduce yourself and ask what you can do to assist that agency or help them, and explain the types of calls that you’re receiving and types of support you need from them and what you can offer them as well.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Law Enforcement and Animal Control Joint Responses.