"Hey ho! Ho hey! I have a special tweet for you this week! That's right, ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams is in the house―the bird house, that is―and she's here to answer a few of your questions about what it's like to be an ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement agent.
Thanks, Agent Adams, for all you to do rescue animals from abuse―and for taking the time to answer all our questions!
I'll be back on the job next week!" ―Azula
Have you always loved animals?
Ever since I can remember, Carrie, I have loved animals. Growing up, I lived on a small farm where my family took care of all types of critters, including dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks! They were all rescued or abandoned animals. For example, two of our goats were rescued from a horrible roadside zoo, while our chickens were usually unwanted Easter gifts. We also took care of a lot of sick or injured wildlife, and when I turned 16 I officially received my wildlife rehabilitator license. We would bottle feed litters of baby squirrels who had lost their moms, help rabbits who got injured in the wild, and we even a helped raise a baby fawn. As soon as they were old enough or healed, we would return them to the wild. I also became a vegetarian when I was 10 and started an animal advocacy club at school.
Do you have any rescued pets at home now?
I do, Michele! I have two dogs, Bruno and Brittney. Bruno is a pit bull who I rescued from a fighting ring when he was just a puppy, and Brittney, a Rottweiler, was found in a garbage dumpster! I also have three cats, Manch, Piper and Frank―they are all rescues, too! I love them all very much. And there is nothing better than when we all pile into bed and watch a good scary movie!
What made you want to become an HLE Officer?
Well, Barbara, like many of you, I was a huge fan of Animal Precinct on Animal Planet―it was my dream job! I thought the agents were the luckiest people to get to go out and investigate animal cruelty and arrest people who abuse animals. So I started taking all sorts of classes on animal rescue, and later attended the University of Missouri-Columbia Law Enforcement Training Institute. I have also volunteered and worked in a few veterinary hospitals and in various animal shelters. I have been working hard to get where I am today, and I can't imagine myself doing anything else.
What's the hardest part of your job?
That's a great question, Marie! I think the hardest part of my job is seeing how cruel people are to animals. We now know that all animals―even small creatures like rodents and fish―feel pain, so it really bothers me when people deliberately hurt them. There have been times when I really want to yell at people for how they are treating their animals, but I can't. So, I just do my best to get the animals out of the bad situation and to make sure the people are punished. It's also really hard not being able to take all the animals home with me!
What kinds of cases do you investigate?
Good question, Richard. I would have to say that the most common cases I investigate involve skinny, starving dogs. People, for whatever reason, simply don't feed their dogs. It makes no sense. Hoarders, people who literally collect animals dozens and dozens of animals, are also very common. Then there are a range of things, from neglect and abandonment to intentional physical abuse. It's all a crime.
Do you have the same powers as a regular cop?
Great question, Todd, and the answer is both yes and no. The police department is a city agency, while the ASPCA is a private nonprofit organization funded through donations and such. But we do have the same ability to arrest people that the police department does, and really all the same powers they do, too. If we need a search warrant, we go through the same process they do. We collect evidence, investigate crime scenes and take photographs. Photographic evidence is actually one of the most important aspects of a case. The animals can't speak, so the photos help get the message out there―pictures are not worth a thousand, but a million words for the animals.
What's it like being on the TV show Animal Precinct?
Well, at first it was embarrassing, seeing myself on television―my family and friends still love to tease me sometimes. But then I got used to it. The truth is, Ronnie, I feel that Animal Precinct is a great program that truly helps the animals, helps the ASPCA, and provides people with a lot of information. It also gives people the courage to speak up and call someone for help. I am proud to be part of it.
What happens to the people who are arrested for animal cruelty?
That's a great question, Jimmy. It honestly depends on a few different things, like what their crime was and what their prior history is. We basically arrest them, take them to court and the judge hands down the punishment. Some people get fined and have to pay money, some people go to jail and some people have to do both!
What happens to the animals you rescue?
Most are treated by our great team of veterinarians at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Hospital. After they have recuperated, and are healthy and strong, they are sent over to the ASPCA Adoption Center, where they await new homes.
Do you ever become attached to the animals you rescue?
I definitely do, Jacobie. It's really hard not to bond with the animals I rescue―they are each so very special. But the good thing is, I get to go and visit them while they are recuperating in the hospital and I also know they will be adopted out to wonderful homes!
How I can help out the ASPCA HLE Agents?
Deana, what an excellent question! If you live in New York City, you can support me and the ASPCA's agents by letting an adult know any time you see somebody hurt an animal. The adult can call us to make an official report. You can also support us by adopting animals from a shelter instead of buying them from a pet shop or breeder. It's important that these rescued animals find happy homes with people who will love them.
Also, spread the word to all of your friends and family that animal abuse is wrong!
To be an ASPCA officer, do you first have to go to school to be a police officer or a vet?
Hi, Jen! You don't actually have to have a degree as a veterinarian or go to the police academy, but I highly recommend going to college! It is good to take a few criminal justice classes or animal behavior classes. It's also a good idea to volunteer or work at a veterinary office, animal shelter or some type of law enforcement establishment. But I think most importantly, you must have compassion and respect for animals.