A Behind the Scenes Look at the Animal Law Enforcement Academy


Congratulations to Kendra Winwood on recently graduating from the Animal Law Enforcement Academy at the San Diego Humane Society! She checked in throughout her course with an exciting report and inside look at what becoming a Humane Officer involves. This is a great insight and wonderful read on what Humane Officers do for their community. We are so fortunate here in Ventura County to have another compassionate and brave citizen on the job out there protecting animals from neglect and abuse.

DAY ONE: First day of the Academy went very well. We started off the day with Humane Officer DuChien for the orientation. We learned about the San Diego Humane Society and what role they play in their community. The San Diego Humane Society has 3 locations that house dogs and a seperate Kitten Nursery. They can have anywhere from 800-1000 animals in their care at any given time. That's quite amazing!

Our first speaker of the week was Humane Officer Chief McKinnon. Officer McKinnon walked the class through an overview of Animal Cruelty Laws and the Corporations code 14502. We also went into State Humane Laws. 

DAY TWO: Second day of the Academy we were taught evidence collection by Senior Forensic Evidence Technician Brande Silverthorn with the San Diego Sheriff's Department. The class went over the collection of crime scene evidence and the importance of proper collection. Forensic Technicians can be at a crime scene for 8 hours or more going over every minute detail. We even were able to investigate our own mock crime scenes to practice the process of photographing, tagging, and marking every piece correctly. The second half of the day, we met with Deputy District Attourney Katherine Flaherty who taught us Animal Cruelty Prosecution. We went over the evolution of animal abuse laws, recent decisions in these laws, and important cases that have become case law. 

DAY THREE: On the third day we were taught about the laws of power and arrest Deputy District Attorney and Police Liaison Tia Quick. What constitutes a consensual encounter, detention, and an arrest. We learned the importance of knowing the differences between these. She also went into detail about search and arrest warrants. 

Ms. Quick also taught the last half of the 4th day, consisting of courtroom testimony. The first half of the day, we learned about Project Wildlife which is a wildlife rehabilitation center that falls under the umbrella of the San Diego Humane Society. The Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation walked us through each species of wildlife we may encounter and some of the appropriate ways to handle or humanely capture them. 

DAY 5: We went over Officer Safety in the field with Kim Cherney from the Irvine Police Department. We learned how to recognize certain human behaviors as threats to our own safety. There are certain clues in human body language that are indicators of aggressive behavior just like dogs or cats. Learning how to recognize these in the field is imperative to officer safety.

Humane Officers are required to report any suspected child or elder abuse that they come across in the field. They are mandated reporters like any doctor or any type of public official. Anabel Kuykendall from Humane & Health Services Agency and Javier Perez of San Diego Child Welfare Services taught the class how to recognize signs of abuse or neglect in children and aging or dependent adults. The responsibilities of Humane Officers isn’t to just the pets, it’s to the people as well.

The last half of the day was spent with Chief Humane Officer MacKinnon. We broke into small groups and went to 5 stations set up outside with possible animal abuse or neglect scenarios. staff from the San Diego Humane Society acted as possible members of the public that we could encounter. A Humane Officer was at each location to help us with each scenario. We encountered horse neglect, cat hoarding, dog left in a hot car, homeless man with a dog, and a volatile couple reported for neglect of their dog. Each scene was very well played out and informative.

DAY 6: Officer Shalimar Oliver of the Department of Animal Services San Diego went over Pet Shop inspections and traveling animal exhibits. We learned how to inspect pet shops and what to look for as well as what to look for in a traveling circus.

After Lunch we met with Animal Services Deputy Director Dan DeSousa and retired Officer Darrell Hansen of Department of Animal Services. Director DeSousa and Officer Hansen went over cock fighting and dog fighting. We learned what signs to look for in the animals and some of the tools of the trade to look for as well.

DAY 7: Dr. C. Elaine Jordan and Dr. Corey Cole went over cat and dog common illnesses and zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is a disease that an animal has that could be transferred to a human. We learned the clinical signs of these diseases and common treatments.

Captain Melyssa Jones of the San Diego Humane Society taught the class about domestic violence and the signs associated with it. As mandated reporters, humane officers are required to report any signs of domestic abuse as well.

Sargent Laurel Monreal of the San Diego Humane Society taught us farm animal husbandry. We went over common illnesses and treatments for cows, sheep, pigs and goats. Who knew there were so many different breeds of cows!

DAY 8: Dr. Lauren Park of the San Diego Humane Society taught the class about vaccines and parasites of dogs and cats. Vaccinating a pet is very important and can decrease the spread of most diseases. Also keeping a pet protected from parasites is critical to the health of a pet.

Kimmie Viehl of the San Diego Humane Society taught the class about Emergency First Aid. We learned how to give CPR to a dog or cat as well as assessing and bandaging injuries. We even were able to practice CPR on fake dogs and cats.

Officer Terisa Harju of the San Diego Humane Society taught the class about Animal Hoarding. We learned how to approach a hoarder and the signs of hoarding. Hoarding has actually been recognized as a mental disorder linked to obsessive compulsive disorder. A lot of the time, someone who is hoarding animals does not understand that the animals are suffering. The person loves their animals and thinks of them as part of the family. Approaching and interacting with someone who hoards animals is a sensitive process. Humane Officers have to show empathy and kindness as well as a willingness to help.

For the last segment of the day we were taught Horse Care by Dr. Terry Peik DVM. We learned horse anatomy as well as common signs and symptoms of illness and injury. Horses are sensitive creatures but are pretty hardy as well. Hoof care is as equally important as feed and general care. A hoof that is not properly taken care of can lead to debilitating injuries for horses.

DAY 9: In the morning we watched a webinar about Compassion Fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is where someone cares and does so much that they get burnt out. The webinar taught us the importance of self care and of knowing when to take a break. It taught us that it is ok to have help, and it’s ok to need a break. Humane Officers are passionate about the job they do, but they need to remember to take care of themselves as well.

Michell Stolte of the San Diego Humane Society went over Feline and Canine 101. We learned about the care of these animals, body language and the difference between a happy or angry animal.

After lunch, we met with Lieutenant Kathy Cleveland of the Department of Animal Services San Diego and went over proper animal handling. These techniques are important to be able to humanely handle animals in the field.

Heidi Coon of the San Diego Humane Society taught us proper and safe handling of dogs and cats. She also taught us how to use field equipment safely.

We spent the first part of the day learning about Avian, Exotic, and Reptile Care with Dr. Todd R. Cecil. Dr. Cecil went over the different illnesses and signs of distress in these animals. Most of these animals will hide symptoms of illnesses very well, so recognizing the early signs is crucial.

Well its come to that time. The Animal Law Enforcement Academy has come to a close and it’s time to say goodbye San Diego! 


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