Diane DiGiacomo, Special InvestigatorFebruary 22, 2008
Big thanks to everyone who participated in the moderated discussion with HLE Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo. DiGiacomo answered some great questions during her visit to the ASPCA Online Community, including how she became an HLE officer and how she deals with the tougher aspects of the job.
I'm just wondering how you get through your day after seeing some of these awful cases? I am such an animal lover, and just watching the show makes me sick to my stomach. How do you do it?
I love animals, as you probably know! Helping them is not a problem. It’s the ones who are not reported on that I worry about. Once we receive a complaint, we can respond and ultimately HELP. It’s the ones who need help and don't get it that get to me. When I rescue an animal, they always look right at me, and I let them know that things get better from herethis day is the last day of suffering they will ever have to endure. Remember, people need to call in the complaint for the animal’s situation to be changed!
What was the scariest case you've ever been ona case when you were scared of the person or animal involved, or for yourself, your partner and/or the community? Have you ever felt that your life was in danger?
I once was threatened by a much larger individual who was so enraged that he threatened to "pump me full of hot lead." Thankfully, he did not follow through and the situation was defused.
Training is extremely important in these situations. At the time, I did not have a partner. If I told you I was not nervous, I'd be lyingbut if I wasn't nervous, I wouldn’t be human. All of the ASPCA officers experience difficult people and situations, as all law enforcement officers do.
I know you're probably asked this all the time, but how did you come to be a Special Investigator? Did you major in a related field in college? Or did you train to become a peace officer first? I'd love to hear your story!
I come from a family of police officers, and I spent a short time with the NYC Housing Police. I applied for the position of ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Special Agent and then was promoted to Special Investigator.
I was thrilled when I found out about this job. I did not know that this type of job existed. I feel that this is one of the most satisfying positions within law enforcement.
Do you think that pit bulls are naturally aggressive? Because I have owned them all my life, and none of mine have seemed aggressive.
Amanda, I LOVE pit bulls. They are among the nicest dogs. I own a male red nose, and I happen to agree with you. He is my baby and I love him to pieces.
Why do people always want to hurt animals? I have seen such horrible things online and in real life. I have saved four animalsa Chihuahua, two horses and a cat named Clea. I just hate what I see and what people do. I would love to keep helping fight against animal abuse and cruelty.
Do whatever you can, Kenna, and we will continue to do the best that we can.
Hi, first of all I'd like to say that I think the world of you and all the officers who do such amazing work. I'm Italian and Brazilian; I live in Brazil but I know your work because of Animal Precinct.
There's something on your uniform that looks like an Italian flagis it?
I know there's a lot of unfairness in the world, but for me, the worst thing ever is the suffering of an animal. Would you agree that people who hurt animals are worse than "regular" criminals? Last but not least, I'd like to ask you to tell Animal Planet to PLEASE continue to air Animal Precinct here in Brazil.
Daniela, sometimes people somewhat deserve what they get, but animals are helpless and do nothing to justify their abuse. I am fortunate to be in a position to truly help the unfortunate animals. And yes, it is an Italian flag on my uniform. I am proud of my heritage. Thank you!
Hi Diane, we just wanted to know if you have ever adopted any of the animals you have helped rescue? Bless you for all you do in this field.
Patricia and Steph
No, I have not adopted any animals who I have rescued. I have one dog whom I adopted from the shelter. I know that all of the animals we rescue go to good homes.
I have only one dog, and I can't express how much I care about and love him. I adopted him from the shelter seven years ago. I often think of taking in another, but not just yet. It is difficult to rent an apartment when you have a pit bull, and to rent with more than one animal is nearly impossible.
One of your first episodes in NYC showed horses being kept in trailers in Brooklyn. The show focused on one who died of colic and the owner ran off. I was just wondering if you could possibly tell me what part of Brooklyn that was.
That was the neighborhood of East New York, Carolyn. That immediate area no longer has horses. The Black Cowboys are the only legal stable in that part of Brooklyn at this time.
Hi there! I am so excited to "meet" you! Thank you so much for your time today and thank you for the great work you do for all the animals. I am a huge animal lover so I watch all the animal rescue show. Sometimes, on the rescue shows, it seems like action is taken immediately, and then other times they can’t even get in the house to look at what is going on.
I have personally experienced this with a former acquaintance who I originally thought was a "rescue," only to find out that she was more of a hoarder. There were well over 200 animals in and about her property. I am in Suffolk County, and it took years for them to do anything and they actually never really did. When the SPCA did come, she would refuse to let them see even a quarter of the animals she really had.
After seeing such extreme and quick reaction time to helping animals on the animal cop shows based in Texas, Detroit and NYC, I could never understand how this woman was not investigated further. How come it never really happens in real life like we see on TV?
I can't speak for your local SPCA. But what you see on Animal Precinct is what you get. Sometimes it takes longer to resolve hoarder situationshoarders are usually given a chance and some help, depending on the situation and conditions in which the animals are living. Whatever you have seen on the TV show is the real deal, and action is taken whether or not the camera is rolling.
Hi Diane, I'm 20 years old and have just begun volunteering at my local animal shelter. Do you have any advice on how to stay strong when exposed to cases of neglect and abuse? Preventing animal cruelty is my number-one priority, but it's very hard for me to continue when faced with such sad situations. Thanks in advance.
Be there for the animals who are neglected or abused. Give them the support and love they need to start a new life and help them forget their pasts. They need to see positivity in you, so don't let them down. Keep up the good work, Nikki. I know it’s not easy.
Diane, the ASPCA has been a huge influence on our decision to start a small animal sanctuary here in New Jersey. We take in abused/neglected and special needs animals. We've seen what these animals have lived through when they come to us. The love we have for these animals has inspired us to make our sanctuary a lifelong endeavor. Thanks for inspiring us.
Donna, an Animal Precinct fan & ASPCA member
God bless you for joining in the fight against cruelty and giving these animals a safe place to recover and LIVE. Thank you!!!
I was at a supermarket in Dedham, Massachusetts, yesterday when I saw an ad on the public bulletin board. It said, “Baby rabbits for sale Happy Easter.” I thought, with all the rabbits who can be adopted and rescued, here's a snook looking for an extra buck.
Is there any way I can report him? Is he breaking any kind of law?
P.S.I commend your work. You’re a walking angel for animals. And I know what kind of neglect and abuse situations you see. May God bless you! I also see their eyes light up with hope when they see you and your partner come in! Love you!
I’m sorry, Peg, but I am unfamiliar with the Massachusetts laws. Try contacting your local SPCA. People think it is cute to buy a rabbit around Easter, then many wind up in the shelters just after the holidays. These people are not very responsible. Pets do not make good presents.
Watching Animal Precinct, I've noticed that you guys don’t always work in pairs like the policewhy is that? I know that one of the rules for officers’ safety is to always work in pairs, but the ASPCA doesn't seem to follow that rule.
We are a fairly small department that is funded by donations. Most recently, officers are being paired up for safety. However, there is no “rule”it’s just smart to pair up.
Do you carry a gun? Have you ever been forced to protect yourself?
Yes, I do carry a gun, as most law enforcement agents do. Thankfully, I have not needed to use it. I have needed to protect myself, but did not need the gun. We carry a very potent pepper spray and a baton as well.
Dear Diane, I've watched your show several times and always wind up in tearsI sometimes can't even watch through to the end. It breaks my heart to see the horrible things people will do to animals. Bless you for all you do for our four-legged friends, but how do you do it? Keep up the great work!
I enjoy saving animals from terrible situations. I enjoy it because I know that the animal is not going to be left behind to spend another day as a victim of cruelty. Don't get me wrongI hate what goes on out there, but I'm happy to get in there and change the situation.
I love pit bulls and I'm so worried about what is happening to the breed. I have one male pit whom I love dearly and I'm very proud of. They are such great dogs! I see all the sad stories on the show about pit bulls and it makes my heart ache. In your position, do you see things getting any better for the breed?
Yes, Shanna, I do think that things will get better for pits. Many people love them and can't understand why they have such a bad reputation. When dogs “make the papers” they always call the dog a pit bull, when most times it is some other breed! It seems the pit bulls always take the hit. I am happy to say that many pit bulls get adopted into nice family environments and are very loved by their owners. They are not all owned by dog fighters.
Hi, I was wondering how can I become an animal cop? I have always been interested in your show and I always had an interest in animals.
Information is posted on ASPCA.org about how to become an HLE agent. Good luck, Rebekka!
A round of applause for you! I am a big fan and watch Animal Precinct religiously. I admire your ability to keep your cool with many of the cases you face. Do you find yourself struggling at times to maintain yourself when dealing with some of the owners on cruelty cases?
Most definitely! Remain focused, I say. Between you and me, sometimes I would like to slap them, but of course I can't do that. Thanks for the question.
I was curious as to why ferrets seem to be left out when it comes to big rescues? There are many ferret owners/lovers out therewhen will ferrets get their day? They are very intelligent animals: they can be trained to use the kitty pan, can walk on a harness and leash and even come when called.
Although it is illegal to sell or possess ferrets here in New York City, I feel that they make great companions and should be off of the illegal list. Thanks for your question, Eleanor.
There are a number of stray cats in my Bronx neighborhood. In the past, I managed to capture one or two of the most compliant, had them vet-checked and neutered or spayed and found homes for them. But the population has increased and the current crop of cats is more feral and fearful of humans. Is there any way that the ASPCA can capture them and get them neutered or spayed so they don't continue to produce more kittens?
Betty, as you know, it is very difficult and time-consuming to capture strays. The ASPCA can spay/neuter them. You should contact ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic for more information. And keep up the good work! It does help.
Hi Diane! We hosted a huge fundraiser last summer at our bike shop benefiting the ASPCA, and we are still selling “Bikers Against Cruelty to Animals” (BACA) T-shirts through our website, outbackchoppers.com, and at our shop in Tuxedo, NY.
We came down to the ASPCA Headquarters last summer for the grand tour and we want to say that what you do is amazing!! We watch Animal Precinct every nightwith tears at the cruelty and smiles at some of the happy endings! We commend you for all you do and we are with you in the fight against animal cruelty. WE ARE THEIR VOICE, indeed!
Fantastic! Bikers Against Cruelty, I thank you. I'm going to check out your website.
Diane Digiacamo with Paul & Cookie the dog
Diane meets Paul & Cookie from Outback Choppers at ASPCA Day 2008!
In my opinion, you guys are the greatest gift an animal could ever have. It kills my heart to see animals abused. I am 43 years old, and all my life I have wanted to be able to help animals but circumstances got in the way. Please keep up the good work and know you are so appreciated. My heart goes out to all those little pets you all save. God bless you all.
Thank you, Charlotte, your good wishes and feelings toward animals are shared.