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Off Leash: The Man Behind the Badge(s)

Florida man amasses huge collection of historic humane officer shields

Some of them look like sheriff’s badges from an old John Wayne flick.

Others resemble the serious, glinting symbols of authority that big-city detectives flash in crime dramas on TV.

Still others bear a state seal, an engraved image of the U.S. Capitol, or words like “Special Police Agent” or “Special Officer.” Whether they’re bright and gleaming or dulled and worn by age, the roughly 500 rare badges in Art Sinai’s collection of animal control and humane officer badges are really quite beautiful—and they illustrate the rise of the animal welfare movement in the United States.

Sinai, 71, started collecting badges once worn by officers from private humane societies (such as Henry Bergh’s ASPCA, founded in New York City in 1866) and state or city animal protection agencies 25 to 30 years ago, after encountering a few of them at a badge collector show.

“Somewhere way back, I got a badge … that just says ‘SPCA No. 1,’ and it says, ‘Employee D,’ and that was my first humane badge. I’ve never figured out where it [originally] was from,” says Sinai, who had a long career in law enforcement, government, and politics in several states and Washington, D.C., before retiring to Boynton, Fla., in 2002.

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