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 SPCA—but her devotion to saving animals became evident much earlier than that. We recently had a chance to talk to her about the path that led to her to protect the animals of New York City.
Have you always had a love for 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 hobby—needless 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 had a thing for Sherlock Holmes, and when I was 10 years old, some friends and I formed the Lost Pet Detective Agency, where we tried to reunite lost pets with their guardians. I have to admit, we weren't very good at it and would mostly search the neighborhood aimlessly for lost animals. But as an adult, as soon as I found out there was such a thing as Humane Law Enforcement, I knew it was the perfect career choice for me. I have always had an innate passion to protect those who cannot stand up for themselves—especially animals—and 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!
Speaking of furry friends, do you currently have any pets?
Yes! I have two cats and three dogs—all of them rescues! I am a firm believer in choosing pet adoption as your first option. There are so many homeless animals sitting in shelters waiting for someone to love them—and they come in every adorable shape, size and color you could imagine!
What's the hardest part of your job?
The most difficult part of my job is the realization that some people simply lack compassion for animals. Whether it's on purpose or through neglect, it never ceases to amaze me how cruel some people can be. I understand that not everyone will feel the same way about animals that I do, but people should have a basic respect for life.
Do you ever become attached to the animals you rescue?
I try really hard not to, but have yet to master that ability. 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.
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 www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/animal-precinct/