By Kent Margulis

My wife and I attended the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation’s auction last October, and we were very fortunate during the live auction to win a ride-along with a Humane Animal Law Enforcement Officer. I had wanted to participate on a ride-along ever since becoming a Shelter volunteer four years ago.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the Shelter the morning of the ride-along. I was introduced to Officer Caryn Cantu; she gave a detailed demonstration on how each officer inspects the truck and its equipment before departing from the Shelter. Officer Cantu shared her list of cases scheduled for the day. She explained how much time each officer is required to spend on paperwork during a 10-hour shift, and how critical its accuracy is, especially in the event of a court case.

Two things really impressed me. First, how well the climate-controlled trucks can handle a wide variety of animals in the vehicle at any given time. Second, how closely tied the officers are to the Shelter dispatch team—there was a constant flow of information between Officer Cantu and dispatch, including updates on her location and activities related to that day’s cases.

Our first call of the day was to a parking structure in downtown Seattle. A dog had been locked in a parked SUV for over two days without visible signs of food or water. Once we found the vehicle we saw that one of the windows had been smashed. Contents inside the car were in disarray, but the head of a small dog was visible in a carrier in the back of the car. In order to access the vehicle, Officer Cantu contacted the Seattle Police Department (SPD) via her radio. Within ten minutes SPD arrived and determined that the vehicle had been stolen.

Officer Cantu was given permission to lift the vehicle’s tailgate and check the condition of the dog. She opened the front of the dog carrier and out popped the head of a very happy older female poodle. An engraved tag on the dog’s collar with a veterinarian’s name and phone number gave Officer Cantu a way to track down the owner. (Ed. Note: A very happy owner was reunited with the poodle the next day at the Shelter.)

We then handled several bird cases. I did not realize that the Shelter responds to calls for all types of wildlife. This included picking up a black raven with a broken leg. The bird’s condition was conveyed to dispatch, which then arranged a pickup by PAWS, which operates a wildlife rehabilitation facility.


The senior Lab rescued by Officer Cantu found her forever home shortly after Kent’s ride-along.

We later responded to a case at an apartment in South Seattle, where the resident requested that the Shelter euthanize his dog. Officer Cantu had a lengthy discussion with the owner inside his home. I saw an elderly gray Lab mix in the doorway. The dog had bandages wrapped around one of her paws and part of her tail. She had a very hard time walking. The owner explained that he was being forced to move to a care facility, and he was unable to take his dog with him. The owner was sure the dog was too old and sick to survive much longer, and he wanted to put her down.

Officer Cantu explained that the Shelter would make every effort to care for his dog if he surrendered her to the Shelter. The owner signed the paperwork, and after a tearful goodbye the dog was placed in one of the truck’s kennels. (Ed. Note: After a vet visit and a short stay at the Shelter, the dog was taken in, and then adopted, by a Shelter foster parent.)

Our final call was to investigate a dog breeder who had been previously cited for abuse. It was evident that someone was home when we arrived, but once Officer Cantu announced herself the occupant refused to answer the front door. After walking the area perimeter, Officer Cantu wrote a new warning and stapled it to the handle on the front door.

We headed back to SAS around 5:00 p.m. Once back at the Shelter, Officer Cantu set up clean kennels with bedding for each dog in her vehicle, and handed the raven over to a PAWS volunteer. In all we responded to eight cases that day.

I truly enjoyed the ride-along experience, and have a much better appreciation for the dedication and professionalism of all our Animal Control Officers. They are truly committed to protecting and saving the lives of Seattle’s animal population.


The Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation Raining Cats & Dogs Auction will be held on October 18, 2014. Ride-alongs with a Humane Animal Law Enforcement Officer will be among the fabulous prizes during the live auction. Tickets are now on sale.