Friday, May 11, 2007

Interview with a Special Investigator

The following is a transcript of an interview with Paul Romano, a Special Investigator for the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement. This interview was published on the ASPCA's website, and so credit is given to the ASPCA:

Thank you to everyone who participated in last Friday’s moderated discussion with one of our HLE officers at the ASPCA Online Community. Special Investigator Paul Romano was on hand to answer some great questions, from queries about what it’s like to be filmed for Animal Precinct to how he deals with the tougher aspects of the job.

What is it like to help animals in need?—Ranen G.

Thanks for the question, Ranen. It feels great to help animals who cannot speak up for themselves and, when abused and neglected, cannot tend to themselves. I always tell people, there are no laws that state you must own an animal, but there are laws that make you responsible if you decide to. It’s a great and rewarding job.

Aside from money, what tools and resources do you need in order to be more effective in your job? There is such a major focus on homeland security and day-to-day traditional crimes, that the humane section is almost always forgotten. Your arena has a big place in my heart. I commend you for doing so much with so little.—Laurel M.


Our needs do focus on money and funding. In our case it’s the contributions we receive from the public that allow us to put more officers on the street. The cost factor comes into play because of the training, the cars required and so on, but we have greatly expanded and continue to do so because of the great support we receive. Thank you!

First, I would like to say thank you so much for all that you do. It takes a lot of courage for you to do your job everyday. I volunteer with a couple of rescues—one of them based in New York called Boxer Angels Rescue—and we see so much suffering. We do our best to help, but what can we as individuals do to help make your job easier and educate the public? And what can we do to help if we can’t give financially? Thank you and warmest wishes.—Susan L.

The financial help is so very important because it allows us to expand our department and our many programs. This includes our spay/neuter program which is the largest in the nation and run by the ASPCA, but you also provide a great service with your rescues and the countless animals you save. Keep up the good work!


I just want to say KUDOS to all the animal cops out there. I watch the show and honestly wonder how you guys deal with the nonsense. I'd last about one day on the job. Keep up the great work! —Holly C.


Thank you, Holly. We keep our cool even in the winter time. A favorite line of mine to tell to someone who is going to be arrested for abusing an animal is, “When did you get your last piece of jewelry? Because I have a beautiful pair of cuffs for you.” Have a super day.


When doing this type of job and seeing so many horrible things, how do you not get overwhelmed? There are just so many cases. I’m not personally involved in them and it even gets me frustrated! I can’t imagine doing it every day.—Wanda W.


Doing this kind of work can certainly be overwhelming sometimes. I have known many other law enforcement officers—seasoned veterans—who have asked me, “How can you do this job, because I could not.” We maintain our cool because we are professionals and have to get it done. That abused or dying animal’s life depends on how we conduct ourselves. Yes, there are days when we can barely stop to go to the bathroom, we are so busy—but at the end of the day when we see what we did for the animals, we know we did a good job.


How did you become an ASPCA humane law enforcement agent? What specific classes did you have to take? —Sarah W.

In my case, I had prior law enforcement background. Take up criminal justice in your course of study, along with other law enforcement classes, and you will be on your way.

What's it like filming Animal Precinct? Does it take very long to film your shows, especially with some of the situations you encounter in your daily work?—Charlotte V.


It can take a long time to have just that one hour show you see on TV. That’s why the film crew, and sometimes even two, are always in the field with us. I have personally done this since the beginning—over six years ago. Several of us did the pilot of Animal Cops, which was shown on the HBO/Cinema network. Animal Planet saw that show and the rest has been history. Sometimes you get tired, but it has been such a great way for the public to see animal cruelty upfront and in living color and to realize, yes, this is really happening out there. Thanks for watching.


I don't have a question. But I do want to tell Officer Romano one thing. "THANK YOU!" You and all the other ASPCA officers and volunteers are truly my heroes! God bless you and everyone who works so hard at protecting the rights and well- being of our pets. My heroes!—Misty Y.


Thank you, Misty, for your kind words. Please keep on supporting us in what we do.


Will there be new shows in 2007? —Denise C.


We are now into filming our sixth season, which we have been told is unprecedented for a show of this kind. It still continues to draw some of the biggest ratings on Animal Planet. The show is now being shown around the world, which is evident in the mail we receive. Shows are constantly being filmed, but we, at HLE, have no control over when they will be shown. Just stand by, they’re coming. Thanks for your support.

I love watching Animal Precinct. How many are on the film crew when you guys are working? The reason I ask is, sometimes the situations are kind of dicey. Obviously you guys get it done, but I often wonder how. Also, how funny is it working with Joe Pentangelo? He really cracks me up. No doubt he's 100% New York!! Love the show. Thank you for all the great work you continue to do.—Sharon S.


Thanks for watching the show. We have a crew of three who film, including a camera man and a boom person who controls the overhead mike if needed. Another person follows us in a van or car. We have been doing this for over six years already and it seems to just get bigger. It’s now being shown around the world. Situations, yes indeed, can become very dangerous and sometimes things can change in a second, but the film crew knows when to step back. Remember, they have been doing this for a long time. In plain English, they know when to get out of the way. Joe and I were partners for over four years. He has moved up in the department and remains a very important part of HLE. Have a great day!

Hello, Paul Romano! I am soooooo excited to be talking to an animal cruelty investigator!!! —Piper B.


Thank you for the compliment. Please continue to watch the show. It seems like you love animals. You have a great day.


How do I get the local police to pay more attention to animal abuse? —Jodi F.

See, it’s different in New York. We are the only law enforcement agency dedicated to fighting animal cruelty. Many local police departments are understaffed and do not take it as seriously as they should. But I can honestly say that this trend is changing because the ASPCA is conducting numerous training programs with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. The tide is turning. Believe me, there are a lot of cops who are big animal lovers.
Just wanted to say THANKS for all your GOOD WORK! —Pamela F. We here at ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement thank you, the public, for your support—not just in your kind words, but in your financial support, which we need if we want to continue this mission of combating animal cruelty. I know that we are making a difference out there. It shows in the lives of the many animals we save. Once again, from all of us to you and everyone out there―our thanks.


My daughter wants to work for the ASPCA when she finishes high school. She is 14 right now. What can she do now to get the ball rolling? —Donna D.


The most important thing is for her to stay in school and study hard. I would have her go to the local shelters or humane society and try to interact with the animals. She should get the feel of this first to see if this is what she really wants to do. She will know if it is. Helping animals can be done in other ways, too. We always need good doctors and vet techs because without them, we could never do our jobs, nor could the lives of these animals be saved. We are very, very lucky to have the medical staff we have at our New York hospital, Bergh Memorial.


I SO appreciate all the efforts and compassion you have shown on the show, along with all of the other officers. For every 'thank you' you've received on the streets and on the job, know there are thousands of us who feel the same way and are so pleased to see all you have done to improve the quality of life for animals!—Linda N.


We would like to thank you, the public, for the great help you give us by picking up the phone and letting us know about the conditions these animals are in. Animal Precinct is successful because people like you tune in. You have made the show the success it is. This is what we do every day of the week. We also would like to thank the countless thousands who have supported us and the ASPCA with your generous donations. They allow us to continue and expand what we do. From us here to all of you, a heartfelt thanks.


Have you ever had to use your revolver on an animal? —Sue L.


I have never fired my weapon at an animal. I have used my dart gun several times to bring down animals so they could be transported. When you use this tool with our poles and ropes, there is a very good chance that you may never have to discharge a weapon. We worry more about the people we arrest than about the animals themselves.

I was just curious as to what you need to do in order to become an animal cop.—Jane W.


Staying in school is the most important thing, and expanding your course of studies into the law enforcement field. Also, volunteer at your local shelter or humane society where you will, in some cases, be able to observe firsthand what animal cruelty is really about. After all this, you and only you can decide if this is the field you want to pursue.

I am a huge fan of Animal Precinct. My dog and I watch it together, and I can't seem to get Kane off my mind. How is he? I was so amazed at how he was able to be trained and join a family, especially an ASPCA family. — Nancy T.


Kane is doing fine and living the life of a lazy dog on a big couch. This was a case I was on with Joe Pentangelo when we were partners. Joe did arrest this person for animal cruelty. The Pentangelo family did adopt Kane, which became a great story on Animal Planet. Kane has many good years ahead of him.


What rewarding case will always stay with you—the one you think about when you've had a bad day? — Pat D.


Every case is rewarding when you save an animal from what could be the most horrific conditions. But in our field and with us at HLE, it really makes our day when we go out and lock up that individual. And the grand finale is when we adopt that animal out to a loving family or person.

Does every community have ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement agents? If not, why not, and how can this be achieved? — Kari K.

Depending on where you live, there may be animal control officers or a local SPCA that would address cruelty issues. Not all SPCAs have law enforcement authority. What they will do is investigate a cruelty complaint and, if warranted, work with the local police or sheriff to have that person prosecuted.