Officer Todd Stosuy is the field services manager of Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. Get to know more about him in this week's Founding Member Spotlight Interview.
Todd Stosuy aka @Phoebus
Field Services Manager
Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter
Santa Cruz, California
Tell us about you and your history in animal welfare.
TS: I grew up in the Pine Barens of NJ surrounded by hunters and outdoor dogs. I ended up going vegetarian in sixth grade after one of my pet chickens ended up on the dinner table. I attended college at Rutgers University (Criminology and Sociology) and my eyes were opened to veganism and animal rights. I was never an “activist” and always found it easier to change people’s minds and make progress through leading by example (not preaching) and legislative changes. I did a 2-year stint at PETA in the Domestic Animal Issues and Abuse Department, where I discovered the career of animal care and control officer. I left PETA in 2003 and moved to California and began a career as an Animal Care and Control Officer. Since that time, I was promoted to Field Services Manager and am responsible for a progressive animal care and control program for the County of Santa Cruz and 4 contract cities as well as supervising officers. We have a number of community outreach programs and take a less law enforcement approach than a lot of agencies. I served on the NACA Board from 2008-2017 and was the President of NACA from 2011-2016.
Can you tell us about some of the progressive programs the County of Santa Cruz has been practicing when it comes to animal care and control?
TS: We have begun doing “pop up” vet clinics in areas where the community lacks the availability and resources of basic pet care needs. In this program, basic wellness exams (by a licensed veterinarian), vaccinations, parasite control, spay and neuter vouchers and information, free supplies and food, and referrals and discounts for more advanced vet services are provided. This service is free for all income-eligible individuals who have pets.
These pop-up clinics occur at places such as the homeless services center, salvation army and community resource centers. In addition to these pop-up clinics, we also have staff and volunteers that go door to door in underprivileged areas and provide resources and non-judgment to pet owners in need.
What are you most proud of (an accomplishment) in your career?
TS: I am just proud of my career in general. Every day is different and every year is some new challenge to accomplish.
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn.
TS: I’m allergic to cats.
Name something related to shelters and animal welfare that you are super passionate about and want others to learn about?
TS: Community Engagement and working with the community. I have noticed that shelters often only focus on the animals that come into the shelter, without thinking about how to prevent the animals from coming into the shelter in the first place. When agencies provide “street level” engagement they can keep animals in homes, and also provide much needed resources and information.
What are some examples of street level engagement that shelters can practice?
TS: For far too long shelters have waited for animals and people to come through our doors. We have learned over time that we need to begin going to them in order to help the most vulnerable populations. There are a lot of people and pet owners in our communities who don’t know what an animal shelter is and what resources we can provide. By going into the street and engaging people where they live through programs such as pop-up clinics and going Door to Door we can reach people and pets whom we would otherwise never know about.
What would you say is the most difficult part of being an animal care and control officer?
TS: In Santa Cruz County we have a very large homeless population. Unfortunately, within this population there is a lot of mental health and drug addiction issues. When you combine these two issues, even the most well-intentioned person will neglect their animal. I have seen over time the nicest people who are wonderful animal owners get sucked into the vacuum of drug addiction and slowly go down a spiral where the animal ends up suffering and gets brought into the shelter for one reason or another. It's hard to watch the human's life spiral downward and at the same time see the animal taken away from the person they love.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
TS: The most rewarding part of being an animal care and control officer is when someone says, “thank you.” I know this sounds corny and somewhat cliché, but when a member of the public thanks a law enforcement officer for helping them resolve a problem or issue, it truly is the system working the way it is intended to. Serving and protecting the humans and animals in our communities.
Want more? Check out these articles written by Todd Stosuy about animal control!
Thank you for the interview, Todd and all of the work you do to keep pets with their owners!
Be sure to ask him any questions below and follow him on Maddie's Pet Forum.