During National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week, we would like to take this opportunity to help the local community get to know our Humane Law & Rescue officers.
Meet Officer A. Zuniga 👋
Zuniga has been with the Louisiana SPCA for over a year and as we’ll find out, has collected a ton of interesting stories of animal rescue while on duty.
What made you decide to become an ACO?
Well, a lot of things really! First, I’ve always wanted to become a veterinarian and even went to school and entered a Pre-Vet program. However, things happen, and I had to leave school. Growing up in New Orleans, I saw a lot (of troubling things and animals in need) and I wanted to help, so when I got the chance to work for the LA/SPCA as an ACO, it blew my mind (from the interactions with the public, to the many animals we save) just how much ACOs are needed in the community. I’d be lying if I said every call doesn’t touch my heart in a special way. To have people we meet end up saying, “thank you” even if the encounter started out rough just makes me believe I made a difference in that person’s life.
What do you wish the public knew about the work you do?
The main thing I wish the public would understand is just how difficult our profession is because it’s not just “a job”. We wake up every day, put on a brave face, and go out to deal with the many harsh realities that result from animal abuse and neglect. I have had to come to terms that some people are just cruel to animals. It takes a special person to not only stand up to the cruelty but also keep a cool and calm demeanor and leave your emotions at the door while on duty and in the throes of it. There are so many different scenarios we respond to that would unnerve someone who is untrained but ACOs must remember that it’s not about us, it’s about the animal and what we can do to better their situation. Now, we all get mad, tired, sad, frustrated—and that can be just after one call, but when I stop to think about that animal’s life I just changed, it makes me want to do it over and over and over again.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve had on assignment?
I have had so many memorable moments while on duty but one I can say I will never forget was when we received a call about a dog stuck inside a canal near the pumping station near Broad St. Myself and another officer responded and located a medium-sized Pitbull inside the canal. Now the water wasn’t high towards the middle of the canal but we knew that if the dog ran towards the pumping area there might be a problem! We attempted to capture the dog but it became fearful of us and headed straight towards the pumping station. We tried our best to herd it in another direction since we didn’t know just how deep the water was, but the dog ended up diving right into the water! It swam around and around trying to evade us and our attempts to rescue it and it was very apparent that it was quickly losing its energy. Ultimately, the dog became so tired that it started to go under water. Seeing this, the other officer and I (not thinking about what chemicals were in the water) took off our duty rigs and jumped in the water after the dog. The water in that area was very deep but we swam over to where the dog was, as he found a ladder and was now holding onto for dear life. We finally reached the dog and it seemed he finally understood we were there to help him because he let us get a firm hold of him and trusted us to let go of the ladder and let us swim to safety with him in our arms. The three of us made it back safely and we immediately brought the dog to our units where we wrapped a towel around the dog and comforted him. The dog was scared, tired, and shivering so we quickly transported him to the clinic at the LA/SPCA where the team did an amazing job getting him back into shape. Soon after, he was adopted and left with a loving family. That day will always hold a special place in my heart.
I have so many memorable moments while I’ve been a Humane Law & Rescue officer and I’m looking forward to the many memories to come. The amazing officers I work with make every single day so meaningful to me.