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  • They may have badges, but animal protection officers aren’t cops

    By Kristen Hassen-Auerbach, Director of Animal Services

    If you’ve ever watched the show ‘Animal Cops,’ you might think animal protection officers can bust down people’s doors, confiscate pets any time they suspect they’re receiving less-than-great care, and arrest people who are suspected of abusing pets. 
    Kristen Hassen-Auerbach
    In reality, the role of animal protection officers at Pima Animal Care Center is much different than what the public imagines. Our 15 officers do have badges and they can enforce certain laws, but they are not sworn police officers and so they can’t do the things police do. That’s OK, because whenever our animal protection officers need support from law enforcement, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office and Tucson Police Department are just a phone call away if assistance is needed. Here’s a quick guide to what our officers can and cannot do. 

    They CAN:
    • Investigate cruelty, neglect, hoarding and abandonment cases and issue citations. 
    • Take bite reports and investigate bite cases and dangerous dog complaints.
    • Investigate possible rabies exposures to humans and domestic animals.
    • Obtain warrants to confiscate pets in danger. 
    • Assist law enforcement to take custody or handle pets.
    • Issue citations for leash law and licensing violations. In many cases, officers will first try to educate owners before issuing a citation.
    • Go to court to testify against people who have committed cruelty, neglect or other violations.
    • Remove animals from tie-outs and tethers.
    • Rescue sick and injured stray animals. 
    • Provide dog houses, fencing supplies, food and other items to pet owners in need.
    They CANNOT:
    • Animal protection officerEnter private property without a warrant to confiscate an animal unless there are exigent circumstances or the pet is on a tie-out or tether.
    • Carry weapons. 
    • Issue a citation without a face-to-face meeting with the owner or handler of an animal.
    • Handle complaints regarding livestock, healthy wildlife or exotic animals. 
    • Arrest people.
    • Refuse to return a pet without a court order from a judge. 
    Our 15 animal protection officers in Pima County respond to around 26,000 calls annually. Much of their time is spent responding to true emergencies. These include things like helping to rescue injured animals in roadways; assisting the police in cases where an animal is involved; responding to complaints of dangerous or aggressive dogs who are roaming stray; and addressing cases of neglect and hoarding where pets may be in immediate medical danger. 

    Pima County animal protection officers have two main responsibilities: to keep pets safe and to keep people safe. When it comes to people, we have all kinds of services, but for pets, there is just PACC. This means that our officers aren’t just enforcing laws when they’re out in the community, they also are providing emergency medical transport to save the lives of injured animals. They’re teaching the public how to be better pet owners. They’re providing resources and support to people who want to be great pet owners, but face barriers. 

    So, the next time you see a PACC officer, stop and say hello. Our officers are proud to help pets and people in our community and they always love to hear from the people and the animals they love. 
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    Tucson, AZ 85701

    (520) 724-9999

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