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.
Holly Springs, Mississippi—The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team found more than 95 severely underweight dogs living in feces-encrusted pens. The amount of neglect was shocking. Skin disease, rotted teeth, malnutrition and infection were widespread. Several dead dogs and puppies were discovered on the property.
In puppy mills, breeder dogs—many too sick to move—suffer with little to no medical care, inadequate food and no break from misery. They are treated as puppy‐making machines. And when they can no longer breed, they are simply discarded.
"Simply put, these dogs are considered a cash crop—the more puppies they can crank out, the more money the mills can make,” says Cori Menkin, ASPCA Senior Director of Legislative Initiatives. “When the dogs can no longer produce, they are deemed worthless, just like broken equipment."
It is a shameful and cruel industry—and purchasing a puppy from a pet store is the number one way to support it. But with your support, we continue to make life-saving changes.
Whether we are rescuing them from squalid mills or working hard to pass humane legislation—every single day, the ASPCA fights for these dogs. Please join our fight against puppy mills. Pledge not to buy your next pet or any pet supplies from retail stores that sell puppies. With your help, we can put an end this vicious cycle of cruelty.
To learn more about our efforts to combat this cruel industry, visit our Puppy Mill Section.
Folks, we are facing our worst-case scenario: By a vote of 85-71, the Missouri House of Representatives has just joined the Missouri Senate in passing Senate Bill 113. This Bill would result in the total repeal of Prop B—also known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act—and wipe out the provisions to protect puppy mill dogs Missouri citizens fought for.
“On November 2, Missourians went to the polls, and Prop B won with the support of nearly a million Missouri voters,” says Cori Menkin, ASPCA Senior Director of Legislative Initiatives. “Whether you care about ending puppy mill cruelty or the democratic process, this attack on the will of the people is appalling.”
It is now in the hands of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to stop this assault on voters’ rights—and our team is on full alert ready to take necessary action. Please stay tuned for breaking news regarding the repeal of Prop B.
We’ll make no bones about it: People like to give back. And for 145 years, our members have been getting active to help animals. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we want to take a moment to celebrate the profound impact you have made for animals across the country. From assisting in the care and placement of shelter animals to educating the public on animal welfare issues—the work you do saves lives!
To help keep you motivated, we’ve come up with a few easy volunteer tips that pack a big punch!
Volunteer at your local shelter or animal rescue organization. Volunteering at your local shelter is a great way to make a difference in the lives of many animals. Shelters across the country are in desperate need of volunteers to help out with tasks as diverse as walking dogs, organizing fundraising events, and fostering abused or frightened animals. Check out our top ways to help your local shelter.
Guest Blog by Ann Church, ASPCA Senior Director of Government Relations.Ann Church is a longtime animal advocate. She has worked for the U.S. Senate and has more than 20 years’ experience fighting for humane legislation.
I feel a cold shiver go through me when I think about what could happen to millions of cows, chickens, pigs and other farm animals. The Iowa Legislature is close to enactment of legislation that will protect animal abusers while incarcerating those who expose cruelty. Because big agribusiness is tired of having the inhumane treatment of animals exposed, it is choosing to trample on the rights of the public and media instead of taking steps to treat animals decently.
Two state-level bills that aim to prevent legitimate investigations into animal cruelty in farming operations will soon be voted on in the Iowa Senate. If passed, House File 589 and Senate File 431 will protect large factory farms as well as puppy mills by making all undercover investigations into animal care illegal.
If this measure becomes law in Iowa, it will set a precedent throughout the country. Our jails could become full of humane activists and journalists while animal abusers continue their actions in secret. Our country is founded on transparency and the belief that more information is better—that public knowledge is good. If passed, decent farmers will be tarnished by this effort. Most do not have anything to hide, but this law would condemn them all.
Take Action! Please join our efforts to block passage of this chilling legislation. If you live in Iowa, please email your state senator and politely urge a no vote on SF431 and HF 589.
If you do not live in Iowa, please contact Governor Terry Branstad at (515) 281-5211 or https://governor.iowa.gov/contact/. Please do so in a reasonable and dignified manner.