Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty
Brute Force looks at people having the most contact with everyday animal abuse- humane law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing anti-cruelty statutes. The author spent one year studying 30 "animal cops" and dispatchers in two large cities. Rookie animal cops think of themselves as a brute force because they believe that they have legitimate authority to represent the interests of abused animals. They see themselves as a power for the helpless, a voice for the mute. On the job experience changes this view. As animal cops conduct their investigations and prosecutions, they see how the public trivializes cruelty. Rather than "fighting the good fight" against egregious cases of cruelty, they are overwhelmed with complaints that are ambiguous and must be "stretched" to qualify as legally defined abuse or with complaints, such as barking dogs or "thin" pets, that are used in interpersonal disputes to get neighbors or spouses into trouble. Even more discouraging to officers are clear-cut and extreme cases of cruelty that do not lead to guilty verdicts or stiff penalties in court. Resulting cynicism is aggravated when rookies realize that they are seen as second-rate "wannabe" cops or closet animal "extremists." With little legitimate authority to enforce the law, animal cops become humane educators who try to make people into responsible pet owners. With few victories in court, they look for other ways to feel effective in their fight against cruelty. And with different preferences for doing police or animal work, their department culture tolerates both styles. Cynicism is replaced by humane realism.
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