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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 centre. 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)
Provides examples of:
- Beastly Bloodsports
- 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.
- Beyond the Impossible - 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.
- 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.
- Body Horror - Embedded collars, untreated tumors, mangy and/or filth-matted coats, and festering wounds. Squick doesn't begin to describe it...
- 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.
- The Chew Toy - Literally, and some of the worst cruelty cases involve "bait dogs," dogs used as bait and "practice" for fighting dogs.
- 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 his own horse's feet to grow until they were making the horse lame.
- Crazy Cat Lady - Many real life examples, not limited to cats, or women.
- Cuteness Proximity - The investigators often coo and fuss over the animals they are rescuing.
- 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.
- I Just Want to Be Loved - Abused dogs are often pleased to get the attention, and 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.
- It Never Gets Any Easier - Many people feel this way about having to put down animals.
- 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 ASPCA's officers in many cases.
- Several segments note that the ASPCA officers don't have power of arrest or the ability to issue search warrants, so the cooperation is very much necessary to save animals.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes - These shows have never been released to DVD.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover - Many of the officers.
- 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 an 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 - The veterinarians and veterinary technicians do their jobs for even less money than their private practice counterparts, who already don't make much. Anyone working at the ASPCA hospitals is therefore, by definition, incredibly dedicated to their job.
- 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.
- Never Live It Down - Brings this into the spotlight for breeds like the pit bull, generally seen on the show solely as fighting dogs (naturally). In fact, as anyone familiar with dogs can tell you, pits are generally kind, sweet, and devoted unless specifically raised to be a fighting dog.
- Obliviously Evil - Many of the hoarders--though it's more "Obviously 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.
- 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.
- Precious Puppies
- Serial Killer - One who killed cats surfaced in Miami
- Somewhere an Equestrian Is Crying - 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 propertly taken care of. One particular case of a horse with overgrown feet managed to piss off even the otherwise unflappable officers because the owner was a farrier!
- 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.
- 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 rescued.
- 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 goombas and demonstrate the proper use of a crowbar, a la Gordon Freeman.
- You Fail Animal Care Forever - All too often, either through ignorance or indifference.
- 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 don't eat, so the dog would eat it all instead.
- ↑ i.e. someone whose job it is to trim horse hooves