Hours before a rare snowstorm hit the Hague in the Netherlands last month, Sergeant Erik Smit got a call from dispatch: A Jack Russell was locked out on a third-story balcony.
Neighbors heard it barking and knew that the owner, who had left for work at 7:30 A.M., would not be back until the end of the day, when the terrace would be covered by several inches of snow.
Sergeant Smit of the national police force rang a few doorbells and yelled some questions to residents, but no one could help. He then radioed for a 22-ton fire truck with a crane and platform.
A half-hour later, at a taxpayer cost of roughly €500, the rescued dog was warming up in an animal ambulance. Sergeant Smit got back into his squad car and continued his day. “He’ll have to call me and explain the situation,” he said of the dog’s owner, who would eventually be fined €150 for animal neglect.
Sergeant Smit is one of about 250 full-time members of the animal police force in the Netherlands. Of the approximately three million calls made to The Hague area police each year, roughly 3,000 involve animals.
“Obviously, the first thing I do is to look after the animals, but often when you look further, you see the things aren’t going so well for the owner of the animals,” said Sergeant Smit, who estimates he sees malicious intent in only about 20 percent of cases.