Officer Joann Sandano
ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement
If you’ve watched Animal Planet’s award-winning reality series Animal Precinct, you’ve met ASPCA Special Agent Joann Sandano. A Humane Law Enforcement Agent with the ASPCA for more than 10 years, Agent Sandano has seen it all when it comes to animal cruelty.
Growing up on Long Island, Sandano began her professional career as a volunteer animal cruelty investigator for her local SPCAbut her love of saving animals became evident much earlier than that. To find out the complete scoop on her job, ASPCA Kids caught up with Officer Sandano after a busy day on the beat.
Have you always loved animals?
Yes, I have loved animals for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was always bringing home injured birds, rabbits and other wildlife, as well as stray dogs and cats. While my parents weren’t always overjoyed at the sight of me walking through the front door with a new critter, they indulged my hobbyneedless to say, we always had a menagerie of pets.
When did you first realize you wanted to become an ASPCA HLE Agent?
Well, I always loved Sherlock Holmes, and when I was 10 years old, some friends and I formed the Lost Pet Detective Agency. We would walk around our neighborhood looking for lost pets and try to find their home. When I became an adult and found out there was such a thing as Humane Law Enforcement, I knew it was the perfect job for me. I have always had a passion to protect those who cannot stand up for themselvesespecially animalsand being a Special Agent with the ASPCA has allowed me to do just that. Plus, I get to meet furry friends on a daily basis!
What skills do you need to do this kind of job?
I had six months of on-the-job training, where I learned all the laws and had weapons training.
Speaking of furry friends, do you currently have any pets?
Yes! I have two cats and three dogsall of them rescues! I am a firm believer that you should adopt an animal and not buy one. There are so many homeless animals sitting in shelters waiting for someone to love themand they come in every adorable shape, size and color you could imagine!
Every day you have to visit homes where parents have been reported for mistreating their pets. Do you talk to the kids who live there, too?
Always! If a parent isn't treating the family's pets right, I tell kids that their dog or cat would really appreciate a bowl of fresh water every day, or if they spent some time playing with them. If the animal was left outside without shelter, I'll say, 'You have a nice house, and if you get cold, you can put a coat on. But your dog can't do that. Don't you think he'd like a nice warm place to go, too?'
Do you ever become attached to the animals you rescue?
It would be very easy for me to adopt all of the animals I save, but if I did, I'd have a zoo at home! As an ASPCA Special Agent, you really have to make sure you put your emotions aside so that you can do your job to the best of your ability, which ultimately helps more animals. We all care about what happens to the animal victims we rescue. There is really no greater feeling than to see an abused or neglected animal adopted into a forever home where they will be safe and loved.
Do you have any advice for kids who'd like to do what you do when they get older?
Start as early as possible helping animals. Read a lot about them, learn to understand them, and see what's going on with animals in your town. And remember, it takes a certain kind of person to do this job. You have to be able to keep a cool head and not show anger when dealing with people who hurt animals. It certainly isn't glamorousyou have to get down and dirty every day!
People view you as a bit of a heroine. How does that make you feel?
I feel it is my duty to stand up to bullies, and anyone who hurts or neglects an animal is a bully in my book. That said, it’s really those people who report animal cruelty who deserve the most praise. Without them, we wouldn’t know that there is an animal in need.
For more information on our Humane Law Enforcement Department, visit ASPCA.org.