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Cracking Down on Cruelty in Colorado

Longtime animal welfare official stays cool as cases heat up

  • Animal control officials from Jefferson County, Colorado

    Carla Zinanti, right, leads a seizure that resulted in the impoundment of 24 dogs and two cats, and the owner's conviction for misdemeanor animal cruelty. Assisting with the operation is Jefferson County animal control supervisor Chana Guy. JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Carla Zinanti notes with a laugh that she’s been around for all 23 years of her county’s annual Be Kind to Animals poster contest for children: “I feel like those teachers you hear who say they’re teaching their original students’ grandkids.”

She’s worked for Jefferson County in Colorado for 26 years, starting as an animal control officer in 1986, getting promoted to supervisor in 1988, and rising to her current position—animal control manager—in 2000.

Until college, though, Zinanti says a career in animal control never crossed her mind. She worked on a horse ranch during college, and one of her co-workers also held a part-time job as an ACO. Zinanti got to ride along with her several times on her ACO rounds. She remembers thinking, "Wow, this is really cool. This is something I think I would like to do."

Zinanti has aggressively prosecuted animal cruelty cases in Jefferson County, even when she’s taken heat for it, notes Holly Tarry, Colorado state director for The HSUS. County officers last year seized 193 rabbits from cramped and unsanitary conditions in a resident’s barn—an action that sparked criticism from breeders and what Zinanti calls an "anti-government faction." But Tarry notes that Zinanti and her team stayed focused, refusing to flip-flop based on public pressure. "There was a lot of pushback on the department," Tarry says, "and they just kept working and did their jobs, and got 35 counts of cruelty."

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