A long time member of the shelter who only recently began working as a humane officer, Brian actually worked at the shelter kennel conducting behavior evaluations for four years until a law enforcement position opened. Interested, he sent in an application. After being accepted, he began training in the mandatory 80-hour seminar that taught self-defense as well as how to handle the law officer animal cruelty investigations. Other parts of the training that stands out in his mind include demonstrations and presentations veterinarians gave when it came to handling the people and animals. His training all came together when he went to work and began to enforce laws against cruelty to animals. He’s worked in the field for about a year now.
Work for Brian includes a lot of traveling to reach the animals in distress. Most of the time he rides with another officer, Bob; if a large case load comes up, though, the two will split and cover more ground and get more done with two vehicles.
90 percent of what he sees is easy to avoid by using a little common sense when it comes to animal care. For example, if a dog is stranded in a mud pit, he needs to be removed, Brian said. But a lot of Brian’s inspiration to remain working in the field comes from the other 10 percent of cases, the new experiences that break the monotony of the work and remind him how many animals truly need help. And of course, his motivation to help animals also keeps him coming to work.
During his year on the job Brian has been fortunate – he rarely sees egregious cases. He feels that the law stands for a little improvement, but overall, he’s pleased with the way things have turned out for him and is satisfied with the work and the structure.
A lot has changed over the years for law officers, Brian said. The law is a lot more clear-cut when defining animal cruelty than it used to be; training is more specific and detailed, and officers can do more for the animals as well. In addition, the public is more reliable and has been made more and more aware of shelter’s struggles to help animals by media outlets. Social networking helps, broadcasting has picked up on the issues as well. Shows like “Animal Cops” reach families in their homes more and more, inspiring the public to care for animals and to adopt shelter animals.
Being a law officer means attending court on a regular basis for Brian (at least once a week, more during busy months); he travels downtown to meet with magistrates and explain his cases. The first time he went downtown the day was nerve-wracking; now he describes the process and setting as “informal.” If he’s done his job well, he’s found that there’s little to worry about on his part and has also found that judges rule fairly in the cases. The facts are on his side, he explained. All he has to do is present what he found and knows based on evidence to the judges.
And the facts do tend to stay on his side. 80 percent of what he and others find on cruelty sites are “bogus” or “easily fixable” problems that owners simply ignored. In these cases, before anyone even goes to court, Brian and other officers may try to avoid pressing charges and may work with the owners to help them learn how to take care of their animals instead.
When helping owners improve their homes and habits officers need to be firm, as the homeowners may be slow to respond to orders to improve their animals’ living situations. In these cases, the officers need to follow through, checking with the owners and determining what else has to be done.
When considering his experiences Brian believes that there are definitely bad people everywhere in life but he also does not believe in meddling with others’ lives too much, except when they are responsible for another life. To Officer Bucek, his job simply means he can step in to help animals that are being negatively affected by a person’s treatment or lack thereof.
Dealing with people isn’t always a difficult task, either, although during his year on the job only two people have made Brian feel outright uncomfortable. Some people become combative when visited by the officers and are initially difficult to deal with; but these people also tend to fix their problems the quickest so that the officers leave them alone, Brian said. Only a small percentage are “completely bullheaded” and impossible to reason with.
In some cases the law is actually on the owners’ side; even if Brian feels the animal’s life could be improved somewhat, if the law isn’t with him, he must step back in these cases. And sometimes, there are extreme and complicated situations where Brian doesn’t know what to do and how to handle the problems, despite his training.
“You have to realize your roles,” he said when describing how to decide what to do and how involved he can get. Brian has no problems with his role and his job with the shelter. The case outcomes help him enjoy his job; things usually end up working out for the best in most cases and he considers that a professional success. Of course, some cases stick with him; but in the end intervening in the situations and helping improve them is a good feeling, he said.
“It is what it is,” he said about his work. “I enjoy it. We’ll see where it goes.”