Supervisory Special Investigator, Humane Law Enforcement, ASPCA

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Officer Annemarie Lucas consoling a beagle and investigating a possible cruelty case. Photo: ASPCA

What animal lover hasn't daydreamed about ditching their desk job and applying for a job at the zoo? Or at doggy daycare? Or tracking gorillas in Africa? We sure have, but since most of us may never actually get to work with the animals we love, we thought we'd introduce you to a few people who do.

Name: Annemarie Lucas
Job: Supervisory Special Investigator, Humane Law Enforcement Department of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

What is the Humane Law Enforcement Department?
We are a law enforcement department within the ASPCA. We have nothing to do with the New York City or state police. We are a mini-functioning police department within a humane organization, which is kind of cool.

That is cool.
A lot of people don't realize that the ASPCA is the oldest humane organization in the country. We were the first and have been around since 1866 when the state of New York granted us the power to do law enforcement to protect animals. Our founder, Henry Bergh, realized that animals needed protection against abuse.

How do you describe what you do?
We are the animal police. We investigate crimes against animals, meaning cruelty -- whether it's neglect of an animal or physical abuse of an animal.

What types of animals do you protect?
Dogs, cats, and horses are the main animals that we see in the city, but we protect all animals against cruelty.

Do you do anything else besides investigations?
That's all we do. We don't do animal control. We're not picking up stray dogs on the street. When someone sees a dog starving in their backyard, or they know an animal is being beaten by a person, we would investigate those claims and certainly make arrests when appropriate.

What geographic area do you cover?
We handle the five boroughs of New York City [Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island], so we are very busy. We are New York state peace officers, meaning we can go statewide, but we spend 99.9% of our time in the city.

How busy is your job?
We have 20 officers and handle over 5,000 cases a year.

How long have you been an animal cop?
Thirteen years. They hadn't had a female officer in many years when I came on board, so I kind of paved the way for other female officers.

What made you want to be an animal cop?
I've always loved animals. I actually wanted to be an actress on Broadway when I was a kid. I went to college and got a Fine Arts degree and came to New York like thousands of other young girls to pursue an acting career, and it just fizzled out. I didn't really have the heart and soul for that type of work. So I gave that pursuit up and I started working at an animal shelter in Long Island, and that's where I saw my first cases of abuse.

How did you make the transition to your current job?
It just sort of hit me -- this is the job I'm supposed to be doing, I'm supposed to be helping animals. Then I learned of the ASPCA position of law enforcement officer. I sent a resume and it happened very quickly for me, so it was like it was meant to be.

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