Photos by // michael gleason photography
Twenty-three years of law enforcement couldn’t prepare David Schmieder for what he discovered one year ago at a Flint home.
“We found five dead puppies in the basement, one deceased dog in the backyard as well as three living dogs in the backyard. We ended up filing nine felony charges on this owner,” Schmieder says. It shocked this animal lover and owner of three dogs, a cat and a ferret. Yet, it’s the harsh reality of the animal cruelty investigator job he signed on to do two years ago at the Humane Society of Genesee County.
“Dave is the only nationally certified animal cruelty investigator working for a nonprofit in the county,” says Humane Society Executive Director Ruth Cantor.
“What we want to do is educate, because sometimes people
just don’t know how to properly care for their animal.”
Schmieder spends five days a week reviewing and responding to complaints of possible cases of animal cruelty in Genesee County. In 2017, he responded to 389 complaints from citizens and law enforcement. Each complaint is thoroughly investigated by Schmieder. He taps into the skills he acquired while working at the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.
He first learns about the owners of the animal in question by talking to neighbors and surveying the home for drug activity. He says the biggest telltale sign of animal abuse starts with problems inside the home.
“It’s common, animal abuse and domestic abuse very frequently run hand in hand with each other,” Schmieder says. If he determines an owner is not complying with the law, he first attempts to contact him or her. He believes the most important part of his job is educating people about the basics of taking care of an animal.
“People buy animals or have animals given to them, not knowing what it takes to actually take care of the animal,” Schmieder says. Every animal deserves to live a good life. The law requires every dog have adequate food and shelter. If Schmieder’s unable to convince an owner he’s investigating of that simple principle, he calls in law enforcement to act.
“Our mission isn’t to go out and seize every animal. What we want to do is educate, because sometimes people just don’t know how to properly care for their animal,” Cantor says. Cantor knows the community expects the Humane Society to provide a haven for its animals. She’s proud the organization doesn’t have to refer a caller suspicious of animal abuse to another agency.
“We do have the ability to have someone on staff, and if the situation arises Dave is able to respond to it quickly,” Cantor says.
Schmieder never thought he’d go back to work full-time after retiring in 2011 but says he loves every minute of this job. He desires to help animals incapable of helping themselves. Most times, he’s delivering a doghouse and bag of food to an owner he was able to reach while on the case. A recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity has allowed his organization to provide doghouses to anyone in the county in need of shelter for their animal.
“We just want these animals to have a good life, and when you help people, you help the animals,” Schmieder says.
Learn more about donating to or volunteering at the Humane Society of Genesee County at geneseehumane.org.