We’re celebrating ACO Appreciation Week by letting our Officers tell their own stories, in their own words. See the animal welfare world through the eyes of those committed to protecting the public and preventing animal neglect and abuse.
I am Lieutenant Joseph Navarrete from the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) in Downey. I started with DACC in March of 2009 at the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center as an Animal Care Attendant. I was later promoted to Animal Control Officer I in October 2012.
Like many Officers, we all have “war” stories that have left a mark. Whether they end well or badly, they re-reinforce the reasons we do what we do. This is one of mine.
When I first hit the field, it was a simpler time. The only real investigations we handled were humane investigations. These are calls for animal welfare checks. The first one I ever did really pushed me to be a better officer and started the foundation for my goals as an Animal Control Officer.
It was in November of 2012; dispatch had gotten a call from a state insurance investigator. While serving a warrant on a property, they reported that they may have found a puppy mill.
I was given the call and responded to Frazier St. in the City of Baldwin Park. When I arrived, I spoke to the lead investigator on the scene who told me that while they were searching the property, they found a lot of dogs in a closed garage in the back of the property. I spoke with the owner of the property who took me to the garage. Before he opened the door you could smell a strong odor of urine. Instead of just walking in I asked the owner to open the large garage door to vent out the garage. I stood there waiting for the door, trying to prepare myself for what could be in there. When the door finally opened, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
There were, in total, 12 adult English bulldogs and 3 puppy bulldogs in wire dog crates. The smell in the single car garage was horrible and so strong it made my eyes tear up. Clearly these animals were living in poor, unacceptable conditions. Their crates had thick cobwebs between the wire bars and there was no food or water in any of the crates. While walking around the garage, what I first thought was carpet turned out to be dog hair that had built up with urine. There was only one window with an a/c unit in it. Most of the adult dogs had mucus build-up on their noses. The small puppies were in an open wire cage with a wire floor.
As I walked the rest of the property, I found other dogs of different breeds, a rooster, a rabbit, and a parrot. Those animals appeared to be in a better condition than the ones in the garage.
I called for assistance and advised care center management of the severity of the condition of the animals. I was quickly assisted by MCU Officer Sal Chacon. After giving the owner his options, he relinquished all the English bulldogs on the property.
All the animals were transported to the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center. We took all the dogs to the veterinarian on duty, who started examining them. Two of the adult bulldogs started to pass away due to the extensive damage to their lungs. One of the puppies had to be taken to an outside veterinary office for x-rays and treatment and was found to have a broken leg. All the other animals were placed on medication to help heal their respiratory systems.
Being the first to respond to animals in this condition reminded me of the reason why I applied to be an Animal Control Officer. I want to be the voice of the animals that don’t have one.
To this day I still look back at all the calls I have been on and wonder, what if I had never gotten that call and did what I did? It does make a difference and the choices we make do matter. Regardless, if I am having a good or bad day, I suit up and do what needs to be done for them.