Inside Humane Law Enforcement
An injured fox hiding in a Kensington closet. A coyote with its head stuck in a PVC pipe. A condemned El Cajon home filled with more than 50 rabbits. An abandoned Ocean Beach apartment complex overrun with feral cats. Horses emaciated from neglect. They’re scenes that animal lovers may find hard to imagine, but to San Diego County’s humane law enforcement officers, they’re part of the critical day-to-day work of serving and protecting the welfare of the animal
Three organizations—San Diego Humane Society (SDHS), County of San Diego Department of Animal Services (DAS), and El Cajon Animal Control—work together to rescue animals from abuse and neglect, hoarding situations, emergencies, and natural disasters in jurisdictions throughout the county. Humane officers have the same powers as the police: the ability to make arrests, issue warrants, perform investigations, and bring cases to the prosecutor’s office.
“Our goals—and the laws—are that people provide their animals with food, water, shelter, and veterinary care,” says Daniel DeSousa, DAS deputy director. “We are tasked with protecting animals from abuse and harm and becoming the voice for animals, ensuring that those who inflict abuse are held accountable.”
Humane officers rely on the community to report anything they see that doesn’t seem right.
“We get calls about dogs barking or crying, and that’s typically a signal that something else is going on,” says SDHS Chief Stephen Mac-Kinnon. “We want people to get involved and we are always looking to get that initial call, because then we are able to go in and evaluate. Very often we provide education and follow-up visits and the situation improves. But we have no sympathy for owners when it comes to cruelty, and that’s when officers take action. Animals are innocent and it’s our job to protect them.”
For information about whom to call if you suspect cruelty or see an animal in need of assistance, visit sdhumane.org, sddac.com, or, in El Cajon, ci.el-cajon.ca.us/resident-services/public-safety/animal-control.