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Monmouth County officers awarded for saving dogs' lives

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Earlier this week, the Monmouth County SPCA recognized three law enforcement officers for saving the lives of dogs in their communities. New Jersey State Police Trooper Tara Karagias, former Highlands police Officer Michael Carlino and Keansburg police Officer Justin Cocuzza all received a plaque and an orange citation bar, which represents their work preventing animal cruelty. These are the first officers in Monmouth County to receive the awards.

Monmouth County SPCA Chief Law Enforcement Officer Victor “Buddy” Amato spoke with Examiner.com on Friday, August 29. “It’s important to recognize law enforcement officers who help animals because local police departments, before my law enforcement division gets there, are the first on the scene. That police officer is the first person to interact with the animal, the suspects, and the owners. The success of the prosecution to help these animals depends a lot on how they handle the initial part of the investigation. First encounters are everything,” shares Chief Amato. In any given month, Amato handles 100 investigations into animal cruelty cases.

Trooper Karagias rushed a Lema, a terrier mix, to an animal hospital after being thrown from a moving car on the Garden State Parkway and being hit by at least two automobiles. In March, Officer Carlino pulled over a driver who was dragging a small dog behind his car. Officer Cocuzza retrieved a dog out from a van with an internal temperature of 107℉ parked at Keansburg Amusement Park and poured water over the animal to hydrate him.

In speaking with Officer Amato, it’s clear how crucial it is for different law enforcement departments to work together for the greater good. “Most cops could very easily say, ‘I need to worry about people on people crime, I’m not going to worry about people on animal crime. Let Chief Amato deal with it. It’s not my problem.’ In actuality, I can’t do my job without them doing the initial contact job first,” Amato comments, “They deserve all the credit, and I need their help.”

It seems as though uplifting stories about police officers doing excellent work are few and far between these days. However, Chief Amato truly values the work of Monmouth County law enforcement, “They’re doing a good job, they deserve the recognition, and I want them to realize how I appreciate what they do for me. The fact of the matter is they are saving lives,” he tells Examiner.com, “These three dogs in questions, they saved their lives. There was no doubt in my mind that if they didn’t do the proper things in the beginning, we would be talking about a different case altogether.”

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