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Animal Cops Tulsa

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Photos by Bob Foshay

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN episodes of Animal Planet’s Animal Cop? There are versions shot in Houston, Miami, New York and Detroit. Each program shows what appear to be small armies of uni­formed authorities fighting the good fight for animal welfare.

So, what about Animal Cops: Tulsa? Meet Tim Geen, the one-man army working the field for the Tulsa Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA). Retired from 28 years of mili­tary service, along with the Beaumont Police Department in Texas, Geen ap­propriately found his way into his new job when he rescued two puppies from the side of the highway near the TSPCA shelter. He was an acquaintance of for­mer TSPCA Cruelty Investigator Wade Farnan, who passed away in the spring of 2011. So when he took the pups to the shelter for assistance, he asked if they happened to be hiring. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes!” Eight months later, Geen hasn’t looked back once, and quite frankly, hasn’t had the time.

Having always enjoyed an active life, retirement just wasn’t suiting him. “You can only paint a room in your house and turn around to repaint the same room again the next week so many times,” Geen said with a laugh. “You mow the lawn and then wait for it to grow, so you can mow it again. That just wasn’t for me.” Now it’s a safe bet that Geen’s lawn may no longer be so well manicured. Tulsa’s animal cop, a self-proclaimed dog lover, is on the job before the sun comes up every morning and arrives home after sunset each workday. Geen not only covers Tulsa County but also every bordering county. That means long hours and a lot of miles on the road, as he fields calls for cats and dogs, horses, cattle, goats, rabbits and any animal in need.

The demand for his services is high. Geen fields an average of 100 calls a month for the TSPCA. Of those calls, he says he can generally resolve about 25 of them through phone counsel­ing. That leaves a balance of 75 cases a month that he physically visits. The math alone shows you how busy this man is. During the course of our hour-long interview, his phone rang no fewer than four times.

In addition to fielding calls and travel­ing to check on animals throughout an eight-county region, Geen also care­fully documents each case. While he is not permitted to go directly to the city district attorney (D.A.) to pursue pros­ecution on neglect and abuse cases, his careful documentation has lead to sev­eral cases being prosecuted.

“If I have a case that I feel needs to go to the D.A., I have to take my informa­tion to Tulsa Animal Welfare to pursue through legal channels,” Geen said. “I will work with them and will do any­thing I can to support prosecution if it comes to that.”

In one such case, a man was found guilty of animal abuse for first hanging his dog and then shooting it. Geen was accompanied on the call by the Tulsa police officers who helped him docu­ment the case.

“The owner admitted to shooting the dog, but denied hanging it. Of course, it was a little hard to deny since there was still a hangman’s noose around the de­ceased dog’s neck,” he said. “The case went to court, and the guy received a $150 fine and six months probation. It can be frustrating because you pursue these terrible animal abuse and cruelty cases, yet very little happens. You often see higher fines for traffic violations.”

The most common calls Geen receives are for dogs living on chains and dogs without proper food, water and shelter. He claims that most of those cases can be resolved through counseling owners and conducting careful follow-up calls, though the outcome is not always what he would like to see for the dogs in question. “There is no law in Oklahoma prohibiting people from chaining a dog, and I sure hate to see any animal living like that,” Geen said. “Sometimes, the best I can do is to make sure the dog has shelter and water within reach.”

When asked about the hardest part of his job, Geen thinks for only a moment. Injured and sick animals are obviously high on his list, but from an emotional standpoint, abandoned animals are among the hardest cases he handles. “We see a lot of confused animals—primarily dogs—left behind at rental homes with no one to care for them,” he said. “I will provide the basics for the animal while we wait to see if the owner will return to claim it.” If that doesn’t happen, Geen will remove the dog.

“The hard part is that the TSPCA shelter doesn’t always have room for every abandoned dog. If I can’t bring the dog here, I have to take it to the Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter, and I know it may have to be euthanized there,” explained Geen. The harsh reality he faces in rescuing animals is that space for them is always at a premium, and options are limited.

That means that a good deal of Geen’s time is spent finding solu­tions. “I will make calls and explore all options I can to find assistance or safe placement for an animal.” Geen has even found foster homes willing to care for livestock and has been known to foster dogs in his own home until a permanent home can be found.

For all of the hard cases Geen sees, his joy in helping animals is evident. When I asked him to show me some of the animals he had recently res­cued, his smile was quick; he imme­diately led me to the shelter clinic to visit a litter of chubby, fluffy Rottwei­ler-mix puppies. Holding the largest puppy from the litter as it enthusias­tically licked his face, Geen pointed to an adjacent yard where two other dogs stood watching.

“The big Rottweiler male is their daddy, and that Border Collie standing behind him is their mom. We were able to rescue the whole family,” Geen said with obvious delight. The dogs were removed from a home that had been raided by Tulsa police officers as a sus­pected meth lab.

“I see a lot of sad things—animals that have been injured, abused and neglect­ed. But then I go out and get to save these pups, along with their mom and dad, and it just makes me smile.” Geen is quick to add that all of the pups—now weaned and temporarily housed in quarantine while receiving vaccina­tions—are healthy and should be avail­able for adoption very soon. “Nothing makes me happier,” he said.

Our interview ended abruptly when one of the TSPCA employees tracked us down to give Geen information on a call that had just come in, reporting a horse caught in a fence along the Will Rogers Turnpike. Geen was up, on his phone and headed to his car in an in­stant.

As he took off on yet another case, it was obvious that Geen has found his perfect “retirement” career. “I wouldn’t trade this job for any other job at any price,” he said. “I will keep doing what I’m doing until they run me off—I love my critters.”