Reality Television Review
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Note: No animal was harmed in the creation of this article. The above picture is of my own cat after a trip to the vet. Since Animal Planet turned down our request to use a picture from their website and this guy looks as sad as any of the poor victims you might see on Animal Planet, I decided to use this picture for the article.
Who hasn’t seen the ASPCA police car drive by and wondered – animal cops? I remember seeing the car in Brooklyn almost 8 years ago. They were grey cars back then. I had never known that the ASPCA had a mobile police unit until then. I thought that animal complaints were handled by the local police departments.
Now, Animal Planet is raising awareness to the plight of the law enforcement agents that work for the Humane Society all over the United States. The shows have become so popular that Animal Planet now airs 5 shows of this type. There is Animal Precinct, covering the ASPCA in New York City; Animal Cops: Detroit, covering the officers of the Michigan Humane Society; Animal Cops: Houston, covering the officers of the Houston SPCA; Animal Cops: Miami, covering the officers of the Miami-Dade Police Department Animal Services Unit; and Animal Cops San Francisco, covering the officers of the San Francisco ACC (Animal Care and Control).
Officers depicted on the show respond to all sorts of calls. You have your normal calls for animal abandonment, sick animals, and animal cruelty. Then, you have your out of the ordinary calls such as a kitten stuck in the rafters of a house, a goose running around with an arrow through its neck, a snake in a toilet, and more. Animal hording has become a major problem in the United States and it is not unusual to see the officers responding to homes with over 20 cats and dogs. One such home contained over 60 cats!
Animal Cops doesn’t just end at the officers’ initial involvement. Viewers get to see what happens afterward, when the animal is brought back to the Humane Society for treatment. Viewers also learn the outcomes of the stories – whether or not there is a happy ending for the rescued animal, such as fostering and / or adoption.
The shows make us aware of the frustration involved in being an Animal Cop. Most often, cases of animal cruelty garner only misdemeanor charges which amount to fines with little or no jail time. Viewers are shown the humanity of both the officers and the veterinary staff that treat the animals. We see the anger and frustration of the Animal Cops who arrive on the scene of a case of animal cruelty and their dogged persistence in tracking down the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. The officers and staff are people we can relate to and the victims are helpless animals that capture the sympathy of animal lovers everywhere. We can see how much the officers and staff care about the animals in the way that they handle them, in their voices when dealing with the animal or the perpetrator of animal cruelty, and in the happiness they display when an animal is nursed back to health and reaches a happy ending.
This is a show firmly entrenched in reality. Not every ending is a happy one. Some rescued cats have diseases and have to be humanely euthanized. There are some animals who don’t survive the heartless cruelties they’ve been subjected to. And there is nothing more heart-wrenching than to watch a dog who has made a miraculous recovery, only to discover that he has failed his food test, is therefore considered unadoptable, and must be humanely euthanized.
Every location the Animal Cops series is filmed in has its own special problems that seem to occur in each show. Detroit has a tremendous amount of problems with dog fighting rings. Miami seems to have alligators everywhere you turn. Houston deals with a great deal of injured horses. Every viewer has his or her favorite Animal Cops location. A particular favorite in my house is Animal Cops: Detroit. The officers on the show are so personable, they feel like friends that you’ve known forever. The stories are interesting and attention grabbing. Investigators Mark Ramos, Debby MacDonald, Shawn Hairston, and Mike Dowe, Jr. are extremely dedicated members of the Michigan Humane Society. One must only watch one episode of Animal Cops: Detroit to see what these investigators are willing to go through to rescue animals and how hard they work to see to it that incidents of animal cruelty are not repeated.
Animal Cops is more than just another police show. It’s more than just an animal show. This is not an action / adventure series. There are no incredible car chases…well, Animal Cops: San Francisco and Animal Cops: Miami did both chase stray dogs through the streets of their respective areas. Animal Cops is a show that appeals to the heart. It’s a show that raises awareness to the cruelties suffered by helpless animals everywhere whether it be chaining a dog in a backyard without food or water, tossing an animal out of a window, abandoning animals to die, or worse. There is always one thought running through a viewers mind when they watch the Animal Cops series – How could anyone do that to an animal?!
Fortunately, there are many lessons to be learned from the Animal Cops series – lessons that may help to prevent such heinous acts of cruelty. And hopefully, in viewing the acts and realizing how small the penalties are compared to the cruelty suffered, animal cruelty laws will see a nationwide change for the better.