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Animal Planet Heroes is a set of so called "Wheel Series" airing on Animal Planet. In other words several different (but in this case, very similar) shows rotate in the same time slot. This works because it is a non-fiction series focusing on animal rescue and, to some extent, True Crime when cruelty prosecutions are involved.They all focus on American animal cruelty field agents or police, and the vets and evaluators of a rescue center. In the event of animal cruelty or neglect sometimes courtroom proceedings are also included. The only real difference from show to show is the part of the US where it is set. Given the biodiversity of the USA, and the differences in State and County laws regarding animal husbandry and ownership, different types of cases are depicted. For example, Animal Cops Houston likes to show horse cases, Miami Animal Police likes cases with alligators and other exotic animals, and Animal Cops Detroit likes dogfighting busts.As of recently, a few of these have gone off air and the name has been changed to Pound Patrol.The series are:
Animal Precinct (2001-2008) - the original show. Set in New York City.
Animal Cops: Detroit (2002-2006)
Animal Cops: Houston (2003-)
Miami Animal Police (2004-2010). Replaced by Animal Cops: Miami (2010-).
Animal Cops: San Francisco (2005-)
Animal Cops: Philadelphia (2008-)
Animal Planet Heroes: Phoenix (also known as Animal Cops: Phoenix, 2008)
Two additional shows not based in the US include Animal Cops: South Africa (2007-2008) and Scottish SPCA: On the Wildside (2009-).
Provides examples of:
And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The shows kindly points out that The (name of organization seen in episode) is a non-profit organization funded by donations from the public (or something similar), usually during a major seizure or a heartbreaking rescue.
Notes on animal care, particularly for dogs and cats, are common in most episodes.
Automaton Horses: Lots of neglectful owners in Houston seem to believe this trope's depiction of horses' needs is accurate.
Beastly Bloodsports: Animal cruelty investigators deal a lot with dogfighting rings and the poor animals involved in them. The worst cases involve "bait dogs," dogs used as bait and "practice" for fighting dogs.
They go into a lot of detail of what dog-fighting paraphernalia looks like and how it's used as evidence, as well as what the items are used for. Cockfighting also comes up from time to time.
Blatant Lies: From abusive owners, frequently. They took their pets to the vet, honest.
And then there was one woman who had the gall to accuse the investigators of photoshopping photos of her horses to make them look thinner, made even worse by the fact that she got them back, though when she continued to neglect them they were rightfully taken away for good.
Not to mention the countless instances where the abusive and neglectful owners INSIST that they've been feeding their pet. Even though the animal is just skin and bones and their food container has literally no sign of food. If there even is a food container.
A woman's dog had an imbedded collar, which she claimed the neighbor put on the dog yesterday in the Houston series. The cop and the vet pointed out that imbedded collars like that take months to get under the skin.
Body Horror: Embedded collars, untreated tumors, emaciation, mangy and/or filth-matted coats, and festering wounds. Squick doesn't begin to describe it...
The horse brought in with a hole in its neck. The hole actually healed like that, too, so you can still see through the top of the neck.
The Houston series had a neglected pup come in with part of its skull exposed from a huge head wound.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Fighting dogs often have to be put down because they're just too dangerous to be rehabilitated and put up for adoption.
Fighting roosters from cockfights have even less chances of rehabilitation.
Busman's Holiday: Occasionally an officer adopts one of the animals they rescued.
The Chew Toy: Literally, and some of the worst cruelty cases involve "bait dogs," dogs used as bait and "practice" for fighting dogs.
Small dogs left in the company of larger ones with little or no food tend to catch the worst of it from their competitors.
The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Sometimes the investigators are stumped when they discover that the person abusing or neglecting an animal are themselves employed in a field that works with animals. See the farrier who somehow allowed one of his own horse's feet to grow until they were making the horse lame in the Philadelphia series.
The Phoenix series had a woman who was apparently a vet tech, but let a tiny puppy be neglected to the point that the interior of both ears were completely covered in ticks and the dog nearly died of blood loss. The officer handling the case promptly chews the vet tech out.
Cool Horse: Charmer (renamed Texas Charmer or "T.C.") had his feet damaged by being forced to wear too-small horseshoes for too long, and required months of rehab. He lived to walk again and was adopted by a member of the Texas Mounted Police. The awesome comes in when the policeman took him for his first run of the distraction/panic-check course. Charmer did perfectly and the policeman said if he tested fifty horses at once, he'd be hard pressed to find on who did so well on their first go.
Crazy Cat Lady: The investigators deal with lots of cases of animal hoarding, which is not limited to cats, or women.
Cuteness Proximity: The investigators often coo and fuss over the animals they are rescuing. And even the hardened officers pet and talk to baby animals.
Subverted by one Michigan officer who said it's the "small, furry" animals that tend to freak him out a bit, but then that's why he's the main reptile seizure officer... Cue being very caring with the various reptiles he was getting in that episode.
Does Not Like Men: Abused dogs can become aggressive towards or frightened of men who remind them of their old owners. They can generally be trained out of this.
Downer Ending: When an animal needs to be put down, and/or the abuser gets away scot-free.
Fair Cop: Anne-Marie Lucas (Animal Precinct) and Kathy Labrada (Miami Animal Police) are two of the most prominent examples.
How We Got Here: For the animals that were adopted, their segments often start once they're fully settled in their new home, usually three months or so later, with the owners explaining how the animal has gotten more social/less skittish/etc. during their stay. Also sometimes with animals in foster homes hat still have some work to do before becoming adoptable.
I Just Want to Be Loved: Abused dogs are often pleased to get the attention. So do cats, but they tend to take longer to warm up.
I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: The best possible outcome for a lot of the animals is to be adopted. In some cases the officers become attached to the animals and adopt them themselves.
The Judge: Judges are frequently featured issuing search warrants or presiding over hearings for the abusers, and at least in many if not most of the cases shown they seem to come down on the ASPCA's side.
Jurisdiction Friction: Mostly averted, since local law enforcement works closely with the SPCA's officers in many cases.
Several segments note that the SPCA officers don't have power of arrest or the ability to issue search warrants, so the cooperation is very much necessary to save animals. Averted with the NY ASPCA as they have full police powers and partially averted with the Miami Animal Cops, as two of the officers have full police powers whereas the other officers don't have such powers.
One of the accused was actually this. He had a LOT of cats because he'd bought two, but couldn't afford to get them spayed/neutered. He had literally dozens when the rescue workers showed up—but the apartment was reasonably clean, the cats were healthy and well-adjusted, and no charges had to be laid. The owner even got to keep two cats—who were spayed beforehand.
One episode had a couple of officers and a large portion of the local fire department trying to save a kitten from a storm drain, after having failed the previous day. One female firefighter actually climbed up the sewer pipe, slowly so she wouldn't startle the cat, and then held still in there for an hour to get it to come to her. They saved the cat.
Kindly Vet: Anyone working at the ASPCA hospitals is incredibly dedicated to their job, as they do their jobs for even less money than their private practice counterparts, who already don't get paid very much.
Mercy Kill: Sometimes if an animal is too far gone, has no chance of being rehabilitated or is suffering too much, this is the only humane choice. In examples of animal hoarding this is usually what ends up happening to many if not most of the recovered animals.
Milkman Conspiracy: Dogfighting rings are notoriously hard to pin down. Even if one of the experienced officers identifies an area as a fighting pit which was used earlier that evening, there is rarely any solid evidence or even a list of suspects to investigate.
Never Live It Down: Brings this into the spotlight for breeds like the pit bull, generally seen on the show solely as fighting dogs. As anyone familiar with dogs can attest to, pits are generally kind, sweet, and devoted unless specifically bred and raised to fight. The officers and shelter workers also work very hard to rehabilitate them for adoption for that exact reason.
For the Miami officers it's even more pronounced, as Pits are not allowed in Miami-Dade county due to widespread dogfighting.
New Meat: Rookies in general. Particularly the poor guy on the case of a man who beat in the faces of cats to kill them.
Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Investigators frequently wind up being surprised by what they find, and not in good ways. One particularly memorable case was where they found a neglected horse that had somehow managed to survive having a hole through its neck, which you could see through. Even the seasoned investigators were dumbstruck by the sight.
Obliviously Evil: Many of the hoarders—though it's more "Obliviously Guilty of Neglect" than actual evil, and a lot of more recent episodes of all the shows acknowledge that hoarding is often a sign of psychological or mental issues. A lot of hoarders actually think they're rescuing the animals, and some are even convinced that they're the only ones that can care for those animals.
This also applies to unqualified "rescuers" of unwanted or stray animals.
Averted for some unqualified "rescuers" - the occasional undercover videos has the main suspect(s) seen treating the "rescued" animals with very little care or just plain cruelly. The Episode "500 Cats" actually involved multiple undercover workers at one such a "shelter" helping bring it down.
Opening Narration: "Eight million people. Five million pets. Twenty animal cruelty agents with full police powers. This is the Animal Precinct." (The Animal Precinct opening narration)
Pixellation: For suspects, since, as noted at the end of each episode, most of them had not been yet tried at the time of the episode's original airing.
Serial Killer: One who killed two cats and nearly managed another surfaced in Miami.
Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: In this case, the equestrians are the animal cops (and many viewers). The Houston series in particular tends to feature a lot of horses in deplorable conditions, and since it's Texas, where horses are Serious Business, the investigators there are very unamused whenever they see horses that are too skinny or whose feet are not being properly taken care of. One particular case of a horse with overgrown hooves managed to piss off even the otherwise unflappable Philadelphia officers because the owner was a farrier!note i.e. Someone whose job is to trim horse hooves.
The Tag: Some of the animals featured in the episode being shown with their adoptive families, foster carers, or having been reunited with their owners if they were lost.
Stray dogs are always checked for microchips, though it rarely works.
Trash of the Titans: Animals are often found in abhorrent conditions like dumps or hoarding situations.
The Unfavorite: Occasionally, owners will be found to be neglecting one or more animals terribly, while taking excellent care of another of the same species. Often this gets them slammed by the judge, because they clearly know how to properly take care of a pet, they just haven't been bothering.
Unstoppable Rage: Not only can some stories be tearjerkers for people who love animals a lot, the people who do such horrid things to their pets can often inspire this, as well. Many people cannot watch any of these shows for more than ten or fifteen minutes without wanting to find these animal abusers and demonstrate the proper use of a crowbar, a la Gordon Freeman.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One abuser said, "Wait, I'm being arrested for a dog?" The dog had been abandoned and was starving to death before being rescued.
One major instance was a poor woman who'd taken in a lot of cats. When the cops arrived, the cats were thin as rails, but her dog was a bit pudgy. It turned out she'd tried to stretch the cat food by adding rice, which cats can't digestnote Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they physically cannot digest plant matter, so the dog would eat it all instead. note Dogs are omnivores, and can adapt to having a non-meat diet.