Atlanta’s Animal Cruelty Liaison: An Interview with Senior Officer Amy Soeldner

Credit: Senior Officer Amy Soeldner

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It was November 1, 2017 when the Chief of Police, Erika Shields, officially appointed Senior Officer Amy Soeldner as Atlanta’s newly created Animal Cruelty Liaison.  This was a huge forward thinking move for the City as it recognized, not only was there a large amount of crime against animals (particularly pets) in the City but these crimes were a great lead to other crimes happening to humans at the same time.  In other words, animal cruelty is not an isolated incident.  Animal abusers abuse children and adults too.

Senior Officer Amy Soeldner, a 22-year Atlanta Police Department veteran, is known for her expertise and compassion with animals. She’s trained fellow officers on how to handle animal cruelty, which, over a three-year period, reduced the number of officer-related dog shootings from 28 shootings and four killings to 15 shootings and zero killings. Soeldner even created a State Peace Officer Standards and Training Council-certified course that teaches officers how to properly handle animal encounters.

Senior Officer Amy Soeldner is very busy with her job keeping up with all the calls in different parts of Atlanta.  When we spoke, she indicated that calls come in from all over the city.  But out of the 6 zones that make up Atlanta, the most calls come from Zones 1, 3 and 4 with a close second in Zone 2.  Zone 1 covers the city's northwest side, west of Downtown Atlanta and north of I-20. Zone 2 covers all the city's northern area. The Zone 3 area is located on the south/southeast and parts of southwest side of the city. The Zone 4 area is located on the southwest side of Atlanta.  

Further in our conversation, Senior Officer Amy Soeldner explains her position was created because  over the years the department started to recognize that they’d give her a call whenever something animal-related was happening. About a year ago, she got together with District 1 Councilwoman Carla Smith to talk about getting an animal cruelty task force together. She was contacted by W-Under Dogs, which is a nonprofit that works with kids to keep them out of gangs by having them work with animals. Councilwoman Smith was starting to see that there was a correlation between keeping some of these kids off the streets and out of gangs and having them develop empathy toward animals. These kids grew up seeing animals chained or beat or neglected until that became commonplace. They didn’t know any other way.

When describing her role and what she does on a regular basis, she discusses investigating any kind of cases of animal cruelty. She works with Fulton County Animal Control and other officers on the street. She goes to Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) meetings and talks with different organizations, especially in some of the underserved areas where there is a tremendous problem with loose animals and animal cruelty. She wants to continue to educate officers on using nonlethal methods on animals. And she also wants to educate them and the public about the link between animal cruelty as a precursor to more violent crimes such as domestic violence or school shootings. If someone abuses an animal and they’re not punished or caught or redirected, it emboldens them to go onto other crimes.

SUP Creative Group looks forward to supporting Senior Officer Amy Soeldner and her position in any way possible as she continues to investigate animal cruelty and bringing those criminals to justice.

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