Dr. Dena Mangiamele is an animal shelter and forensic veterinarian in addition to being a Best Selling Author on Amazon. She received her degree in veterinary medicine from the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, earned her Master’s in Preventive Veterinary Medicine from the University of California, Davis and she was selected as a Preventive Medicine Resident with the California Department of Health Services and a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science which she received from National University.
She became the Chief Veterinarian for the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation and was awarded Shelter Veterinarian of the Year by the American Humane Association. Dr. Dena currently operates a veterinary consulting business and created a training division that provides classes for animal shelter employees on animal handling, medical care, and humane euthanasia, classes for animal control officers, and veterinary medical staff on conducting circus inspections and dogfighting investigations.
Dr. Dena is a vegan athlete with great interest in nutrition and fitness. She lives in San Diego with her husband (also a veterinarian) and their dogs. Dr. Dena is the best selling author of the book “Stray” and is getting ready to release a book called Dena’s Fuel For Fitness, on how to transform easily to a plant-based lifestyle which protects the animals, the environment, and enhances personal longevity.
In this episode, Dr. Dena tells us how she got started in animal rescue, how the view of animal shelters differs from the world of animal rescue, how she motivates and supports shelter staff when there is negativity, what her book “Stray” includes and so much more! To learn more you can find Dr. Dena here, https://www.doctordena.com/
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is proudly sponsored by Joubert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re speaking with Dr Dina Man Gemelli. Dr. Dina is an animal shelter and forensic veterinarian. In addition of being a best selling author and Amazon, she received her degree in veterinary medicine from the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, earned her master’s degree in preventive veterinary medicine from the University of California Davis, and she was selected as a preventative medicine resident with the California Department of Health Services. Dr. Dean also holds a master’s degree and forensic science, which she received from National University. In 1995 she became the chief veterinarian for the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation and the 1998 she was watered Shelter Veterinarian of the Year by the American Comedian Association. Dr. Deanna currently operates a veterinary consulting business, providing animal sheltering agencies with operational assessments, professional writing of policy and procedure manuals. And she provides expert witness testimony across the country for animal cruelty investigations. With a specialization and dog fighting cases, Dr. Dina created a training division that provides classes for animal shelter in place on animal handling, medical care and the humane euthanasia. This division also provides classes for animal control officers and veterinary medical staff on conducting circus inspections and dog fighting investigations. Dr. Dina is a vegan athlete with a great interest in nutrition and fitness, and she lives in San Diego with her husband, who is also a veterinarian, and their dogs. Dr. Dean is a best selling author of the book Stray and is getting ready to release a book called Deena’s Fuel for Fitness on how to transform easily to a plant based lifestyle, which will protect the animals, the environment and enhance personal longevity. Hi, Dr Gina, welcome to the program. Well, thank you so much. I enjoy speaking to folks and I love speaking with you today. Well, I’m so glad you could join us, So why don’t you just give us a little bit of background on you? Well, I am a forensic shelter veterinarian, and I believe I started out as a child animal lover. My mother would tell you that I wanted every animal, of course that I could think of to be in our household. And my mom was a registered nurse and she was very compliant because she loved that. I enjoyed the sciences on. And as I grew up, I became very interested in veterinary medicine and starting in about eighth or ninth grade, I started working at a veterinary hospital. Probably couldn’t happen as much today. But, um, hospitals were different than usually a solo practice. And that practitioner did everything. And I kind of became the kennel worker, the assistant surgery, the front, uh, client greater. I did everything and, um went all the way from junior high through high school and stayed with it and was determined to get into veterinary school. And I did. I went Teoh, the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, and after that, I worked in private practice for a short period time, but went back to school and got a degree at University of California, Davis in a master’s program in preventive veterinary medicine. Really enjoyed that public health aspect of it, and that kind of led me into some other aspects. A zey residency with CDC in the state of California, doing public health sorts of projects and then saw a job advertisement for the chief veterinarian for the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Control. Of course, I had no experience in that whatsoever, but I thought, Hey, let’s try that. I was always out for trying something new to continue to educate myself and learn about new aspects with animal work. So I got the job and walks into a world of six shelters where we impounded about 80,000 animals per year. I was the Onley veterinarian on staff for the 1st 3 years. I worked there and, um came to learn what it really meant to be a team player, a member of a family that needed support. And they educated me and taught me what I needed to know, and we just flew from there, and that’s how I came about writing my book Stray a Shelter Veterinary is experienced on triumph and tragedy because really had both aspects of that in that job, as you can imagine, the book takes place in the late 19 nineties, which was still at a very time of high pet overpopulation. And the book is very honest about what happens in animal shelters and, um, the stresses that are inflicted on animals and staff. And I think I really wanted to get the point across of my thankfulness and devotion to animal control and also tell people about the differences between animal control and humane societies. And that’s what the book is about. And and since that time, I I opened up my own veterinary consulting business and help shelters across the country doing operational assessments, training programs for animal care staff, even at large animal care expose. I’ve done many workshops, and I am an expert in animal abuse cruelty cases, specializing in dog fighting. So I kind of have a wide array background and all sorts of things associated with animals. Yeah, no, absolutely. I want I want to talk first. I mean, I think the book stray I mean, you wrote it or came out, I guess about a year ago give people a sense. I mean, I think you shared a lot of stories in there, but a lot of perspective. I mean, what was it like coming in to the animal sheltering industry, if you will in California? And how does that differ from what people might view Animal rescue as it’s very difficult coming from inside, looking out versus being a rescue person or organization where I say you’re on the outside looking in. And so you know, I think I may approach it from a different vantage point. And I think the take home message for me is that we’re all animal rescuers, and the sheltering agency is the first rescue agency, because were the ones that are bringing animals in off the streets or people are coming to the front door of a humane society and dropping off in animal or something of that nature. So in a sense, we are all one family. We are all rescuers. We all play a different role, have ah, different legal mandates. For example, animal control by law is mandated to take in every single animal that comes to their door. It doesn’t matter if they are adoptable and appearance, elderly, injured, ill aggressive. It doesn’t matter now if you work at Humane Society and humane societies. Capacity is full. They do not have any empty cages or kennels. They can say to someone, We don’t have space. You have to bring the animal back another day. And where does that animal go? It goes down the street to animal control. Animal control may be full, but they must, by law, take that animal in. So you can imagine what sort of situation that creates in the animal control sheltering environment. Massive numbers of animals and kennels that perhaps were built for one or two animals are now housing 6 to 7. Now think about that for disease control. Think about that for the type of animals that are coming in that may not all be getting along and being able to kind of go in as a kennel worker and monitor that and maintain the safety of those animals. Make sure that they’re all eating so that someone’s not dominating the food and those multiple housed animals per kennel. All of those situations arise that are difficulty in animal control. It also changes the appearance of the sheltering facility. When someone comes in to adopt an animal, it’s more crowded, it’s noisier. It is not as calm oven environment. Uh, the funding for animal control may not be at the level of donations and funding for, ah, humane society, so you’re going to see a difference in the condition of the physical structures of the facilities. So all of these things are factors that people then start to create in their mind a persona of animal control versus a humane society, or not even realize that they’re two different things. But they just like the prettier show. They’re better because it’s a more pleasant environment to be it. But really, the animals that need our you know, our care and our attention and adoption are in the facility that maybe not as new or as low in population, which are always the animal control agencies. But those are legal mandates. It’s not the fault of the people who work there, and sometimes they’re the ones who take the blame. So I really wrote the book to praise animal control staff and not to diminish at all humane society staff. Everyone has a role but to not condemn animal control for the things that they are mandated by law to do. Yeah, that’s a that’s a really good point, and I’m sure it must have been a difficult job in certain aspects. How do you You did that work for the animal control facility in Los Angeles for how many years I was the chief veterinarian at L. A City for four years and then went on to be the director of San Diego County Animal control for a couple of years after that. And like I said, I think at the beginning of this interview, we spoke of the large numbers of animals that were coming into shelters at that time, and out of all six shelters, we were impounding 80,000 animals per year at L. A city. Wow, that’s a huge number. So what do you want people to take away from the book? What do you want them to? What is the lesson that you hope they’ll learn? Well, one of the first lessons that I think I just tried to address was that appreciate the work that goes into caring for that number of animals and the wide array of condition of animals from ill and injured Teoh those it may have behavioral problems and issues that come into animal control as well as thinking about really the stress that the shelter staff must go through as they’re, you know, working. And one of the things that I really didn’t think about until after I was writing the book was that in shelters, those who have to come to work every day who are in a paid position must listen to this crying and whining. It’s like working with Children that are always crying that really wears on you, even though it’s kind of subliminal after you work there for a while. That is very difficult because you know you can’t attend to every wine and every cry, but you try and you tried to make them as comfortable as possible. And that’s extremely stressful. And there never was any sort of, uh, Pts sort of care for animal care staff, um, that are under pressure. So, um, you know, that sort of thing is something that people just forget about that is very stressful. If you are someone who comes into volunteer, you can come and go as you please. You can not show up for a week, but if you’re a paid employee, you must be there whether you’re you know, mentally able to come in one day because you saw something stressful the day before. Perhaps it was a horrible animal cruelty situation of an animal that came in and made you feel terrible, whatever the situation. But you still have to come in to work. So just being more compassionate to the staff would be something that I think would be something we should all be working on. And the staff also needs to be compassionate to rescue workers who are doing and seeing things that may be disturbing to them but are still trying Teoh make a difference in the animal world. So again, it za blending. And, um, I just wanted to share my experiences, making them as honest as possible. Granted, some of my chapters are difficult to read, and they were very difficult for me to write. It is a matter of fact. Even when I read through some of those chapters. Now that I have written and experienced, I still tear up or I’ll still cry over certain situations and, um, they, you know, they cut deep. But there are so many rewarding situations that I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything Yeah, I know. I can absolutely imagine. How do you when you’re managing a staff like that? I mean, how do you motivate and support each other? I mean, as you’ve pointed out, it’s it’s a job. It’s a job that needs to be done. How do you keep each other going when there’s all this negativity? Well, you know, it wasn’t always all negativity there. I must say that when I was at L. A city, we had some wonderful relationships with rescue groups. We had quite a few pure breed rescue groups that came into our shelters as well as rescue groups that would take, you know, any breed of animal. But they understood the stress that the shelter staff were going through, and there was a bonding there. But our bonding between myself and, for example, the registered veterinary technicians. Because I have no other veterinary staff, they is. Most of them have been there, some of them a decade or Mawr before I got there and they were just the support of the entire shelter in terms of calmness, the educational background and the things they had seen. And they taught me everything. But what we did is we made a decision at the beginning. When I got there, I told them I said, I have your back if you have my back, which means I’m going to do my job and expect you to do yours. If you are ever in a situation where you need my help, I will be there in an instant. And that was the rule. And that didn’t mean if you did something wrong. It meant sometimes someone comes in and was name calling or was accusing you of something that didn’t happen. I was always there for them. I was always check out the situation. And, you know, sometimes the staff was wrong. Sometimes this stuff wasn’t and we were honest about what happened. We’re very transparent, and we created a bonding. And if some situation was brewing, for example, they wouldn’t wait or try and hide it. They would immediately call me and say, Listen, this happens and I think it’s gonna be a problem. So we would kind of nip things in the bud before they exploded. And so we were very preventive and very honest about situations. And we didn’t let things escalate to a point where then they became out of control or a rumor mill started. So I think that was positive for us. And maybe more agencies could take that route instead of trying to hide a mistake. Sure, we made mistakes, that there were issues that came up and we could have handled it better. And we say, you know, we didn’t do this right, and we’re not gonna do that again. But this is what happened. And, you know, we’re gonna tell you this is this is the truth of it. And I think that made a big difference. We also had a really nice public persona. We had a pet of the week program that I went on every week and trying to educate the public about some new topic, whether it was early age, spay, neuter or some other aspect of animal care every week, and it became very popular, and it helped boost the reputation of the agency. But we had to continue to maintain that standard. So once you get a an opportunity like that, your staff and you have to continue to stand up to that level. You can’t, you know, make a lot of mistakes after that and then expected everything to be okay. So we were always on our top performance behavior, so to speak. And everyone always did their job to the best of their ability. And I was very cognizant of that as we hired and brought more people into our family or onto the staff. So we were very, very focused on quality work and caring for those animals. Right? I’m curious. You know, from your experience, how have you seen things change over the years in animal sheltering and policies and procedure and Justin, how people approach things? Uh, I think that one of the biggest things, of course, is the labeling, which I’m not a fan of, Um, you know, a big portion of that is labelling shelter as no kill and, ah, recent labeling of high kill. To me, that’s just destructive. It’s is not really meaningful because if you are no kill, what does that mean? The other guy is That means the other guys three killer and that’s not helping the animals at that other facility. That’s not helping the staff want Teoh continue to work hard and, you know, earn Ah, horrible label like that so to me, it’s not valuable. And what does it matter? It matters that everyone’s trying their best to get animals out of facilities. And granted, there are some facilities that are not high standard that are not ah, the level that we want them to be. So we don’t condemn them. We get in there and help them get to that higher standard. Exactly. So and I hear you agreeing with me. But, you know, a lot of people just think it’s better just to name call them or you don’t try and destroy them. You know, if they are a government manage facility, they’re not going anywhere. They’re staying there because they have a job to do in that community. So wouldn’t it, you know, be better for all of us if instead of labelling them something as high kill or things that make them embarrassed to work there or ashamed of working there instead trying to, you know, help them And you know, that’s one of the things I do in my consulting business. I come in and work individually with the different portions of shelters, from animal care to the medical divisions, and I literally work side by side with them. I clean kennels with them for a day. I watched them interact with the public and the animals, you know, for a day or two and, you know, really get into the nitty gritty of why things are not going well and help them with their flow so that they are not so stressed about not getting their work done and how they clean the animals, feed the animals everything. So you know there are ways to help these agencies so that they can be the best they could be. They’re not all gonna be the best shelter in the country, but they can be the best that they can be. Yeah, no. And I think that’s a really important point, and one that I definitely agree with wholeheartedly is instead of name calling. Instead of pointing out the faults, what can you do to help, right? How do you get involved? How do you support what they’re doing? How do you recognize that thes air? People that do have a compassion for animals and there’s also a job that needs to be done, and there’s a fine line and a balance there that has to take place. So I’m curious. Did the experience with the animal shelter is that what led you on to the animal cruelty case? I know you now start as an expert witness for particularly dog fighting across the country. But how did that? How did that transformation happen? It wasn’t really a transformation. It was basically part of my job as the chief veterinarian in L. A. We did have quite a few dog and cockfighting cases, and I just started gaining experience working those cases, testifying in court. And a lot of it has to do with also Bernie a lot about law enforcement learning more about the chain of command in those situations. Report writing how to present that information to prosecutors, um, how to work with prosecutors and many facets of law enforcement. It’s usually not animal control. That is the lead on those cases, which sounds strange, but it may be sheriff. It may be the police department and Animal Control is asked to come in to handle the animals. But now, as we move forward and there’s so much more training for animal control agencies in this aspect of animal abuse cruelty cases that Some of those are taking the lead on these cases and bring in auxiliary help with sheriff and police. But they may be the lead with the prosecutor in handling the cases. So, uh, working with them and learning about that then started doing that nationwide after I started my consulting company and would be brought in by a prosecutor would actually go and the medical exams on the dogs that had been impounded or even participate in a arrayed. Perhaps that was preplanned and a dog by the holding facility, for example, and go in and later in my life, after I did my Masters program, I got a second Masters degree in forensic science. So I wanted to improve my skills on crime scene investigation so I could be a better at coming in and assisting law enforcement agencies with the specialty cases. Sure, Now I got to believe that that’s difficult work to do it times. I mean, how do you How do you stay motivated in doing these types of cases? You know, that probably is the easiest motivation because you’re getting these animals out of that horrible environment you are, then not just say, oh this is horrible, but you’re actually doing something active to put these people behind bars that are participating or creating this environment of dog fighting. So to me, that motivation, that’s easy, because you can go in there and actually make a difference and stop something that is going on that is horrible and so abusive to animals. Now you’ve had quite a career, obviously, in veterinary medicine and shelter work. Now consulting What’s next? What’s next for Dr Dina? Well, in between all of the hut and in my consulting business, another thing that seems distant but noted his very tied to animals is that I became vegan. And, um, I am also very interested in the Christian and Fitness and had been a try apple eat and, uh, Collegiate Runner and all sorts of things. But I decided to really kind of pursue that aspect of veganism and developed and operated a vegan raw snack company and created products that were carried in Whole foods in about five states and large online gourmet markets like Thrive Market that serve people across the country and did that for about five years. And I am just getting ready to release a book on becoming plant based on very simple way for folks. And it’s called Deena’s fuel for fitness, and it will be out in the next month or two, and I’ll keep you posted on that. But it is just another way to, in my opinion, to prevent animal abuse and cruelty. Ah, lot of that goes on in factory farming and things of that nature and, well, it’s just a single transition for me to become again as an animal lover. So another extension of that and veganism involves you, Trish end in science. And so there you go. It’s all tied it. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Animals and science and fitness. Like you said, I mean, it’s a it’s a try effective for you. And remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of the animals. It’s kind of like, you know, when you get on the plane, put your oxygen mask on first, then your child. If you’re not in good shape, you can’t. You get to the shelter. You can’t walk your dogs. If you’re rescuing, you can’t move around. You can’t help them. They think it into a situation where you need to save them. So if you don’t take care of yourself, first of all, you won’t be around to help them. And second of all, you won’t be up a level that you need to be Teoh Help. Might need. Right now, that’s an excellent point. Both physically and mentally. You need to care for yourself and recognize that, you know, animal welfare can be tough at times. And like a lot of other things, you’ve gotta have your outlets and you got to take care of your body with the right fuel, as you pointed out, so definitely an important point to remember. So, Doctor Jean, um, we’ve covered a lot here. Is there anything else you wanted to bring up before we wrap things up? Well, I think I just like to thank everyone for caring for animals and making them such a focal point of their life. I personally have always had, you know, pets, and I know how important they are to me and what they bring to my life and to my husband and I with our animal family. But just remember that there are so many different aspects of this and all of them have importance. They all should work together. And the only thing stopping all of us from creating the best environment for animals with the weather since shelters or homes is the inability to listen and work together. So just remember that before you want to talk about someone or an agency, think about how that will help the animals and take a step back and figure out how we can all be more of a team and a better solution. And if you get a chance and I’m not doing this to promote my book, please read Stray. Listen to some of the experiences that shelter staff have and some of the wonderful relationships that I talk about between animal rescue and volunteers and shelter workers and just open up to it and hope everyone continues with their work. And let’s just do it in a team like fashion and the progress will be fantastic. Well, Dr D and I, I don’t think anybody could have stated it better, So thank you for that. Thank you for everything that you’ve done and continue to do for animals. And we look forward to having you on the program in the future. Well, thank you so much And take care, everyone. And, um, thank you for all your work with animals. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the Air p A. To take advantage of all the resource is we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.