Periodically, we’ll introduce you to some of the wonderful staff members at the Seattle Animal Shelter. Today we’re spotlighting Manager of Field Services Ann Graves.

Tell us a bit about the personal and career paths that have led you to your current role at the Seattle Animal Shelter.

While working to build a career at United Parcel Service in my 20’s I began volunteering at the Humane Society of Seattle/King County and realized that working for the rest of my life in a job that I didn’t find fulfilling on a personal level wasn’t going to be enough for me. I wanted to work with animals full time. I obtained my B.S. in Zoology from the University of Washington in 1998 and began my professional career in animal welfare as the supervisor of the newly formed Offsite Adoption Program at the Humane Society for Seattle/King County. In 2000 I came to the Seattle Animal Shelter as an Animal Care Officer, became a Humane Animal Law Enforcement Officer in 2003, Enforcement Supervisor in 2004 and Manager of Field Services in 2013. When I left UPS and started this journey I had no idea I would be working for a municipal shelter (aka “the pound”) in a law enforcement capacity. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What’s a typical day like at your job?

One of the many things I love about this job is there is no such thing as a typical day. Our officers respond to calls every day from picking up lost animals to investigating crimes involving animal cruelty, from protecting public safety to rescuing baby ducklings from a storm drain. As the Manager of Field Services my daily work largely revolves around the current case load, the daily needs of our officers and our Enforcement Supervisor and working with the public to help resolve issues that are often very emotional and challenging. I also prepare cases to forward to the City Attorney’s Office for review and I testify in court when needed. This is a profession that is changing rapidly from the “dog catcher” perception of previous generations to the “Humane Investigator” of today. Part of my role is to keep up with the changing laws, tools and techniques of the profession and make sure our officers have the tools and training they need.

Any specific stories that demonstrate the impact of what you do?

One story that comes to mind is an animal cruelty investigation that was complicated at every level. During the investigation the suspect moved and we didn’t know her real name yet. Thanks to training I had gone through and some persistence I was able to help the investigating officer locate her and develop a case strong enough to send for review of criminal charges. I was aware that the animal cruelty laws at the state level had changed that year, which meant this case was no longer a misdemeanor but a felony. When I sent the case to King County for review the prosecutor was unsure whether we could charge the suspect due to a question of ownership. After speaking with him and reviewing the applicable laws and definitions he agreed we had probable cause to charge her. The suspect was eventually found guilty of two counts of 1st-degree animal cruelty after a jury trial.

What’s the main thing you’d like the public to know about your department?

That our officers are a dedicated team of professionals who deal with situations every day that can be physically and emotionally challenging and complex. They are committed to providing excellent service to the people and animals of this beautiful city.

Any other tips for pet owners and potential adopters in Seattle?

Be responsible with and for your animals. Understand that adopting an animal is a commitment that can last decades. Report animal cruelty.

Ann with puppies that she rescued at part of a Humane Society International team on the island of Rota, Northern Mariana Islands

Ann with puppies that she rescued at part of a Humane Society International team on the island of Rota, Northern Mariana Islands

What’s the most rewarding thing about working at SAS?

I can’t give just one rewarding thing because there have been so many. When talking with friends and family about my work I often hear I should write a book because I have so many stories and experiences, some sad but many wonderful and inspiring. Over the past year I have had the opportunity to use my training and experience to volunteer with the ASPCA assisting with a horse rescue in Spokane and a cockfighting investigation in Virginia. I have been to the South Pacific (Guam, Saipan, and Rota) to volunteer with the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International to help train their animal care and control officers in humane capture and restraint techniques; to provide animal cruelty investigation training to the animal care and control officers and prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office in Guam; to bring improvements to their shelters; and to bring much needed spay/neuter clinics to the islands. These have truly been rewarding experiences and drive home how fortunate we are in Seattle to have a municipal agency such as the Seattle Animal Shelter that is full of dedicated people – both employees and volunteers.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Seeing and handling animal cruelty cases is a challenge for everyone in this profession and will always be the most difficult part of my work. Balancing the needs of the community (two- and four-legged) with the resources available is a daily challenge.

Why should Seattleites support the Seattle Animal Shelter?

Animals are part of the fabric of our being in this city and they have an impact on virtually everyone in many, many ways. The animals and people of the City of Seattle need the services that we provide, and we could not provide those services without the support of our community and volunteers. We have come a very long way from the “pound” that is still referenced in our municipal code. It is the support of our community that will keep us heading in a direction that reflects the values and compassion of the people we are here to serve.