In almost 22 years of police work, there isn't much you don't see or experience.

But even a guy like Dave Bower was shaken by the revelations he read about the SPCA of Niagara in the Gazette on Jan.1, 2012.

"It was just all the killing of the animals there," Bower said, shaking his head. "I was like, 'Wow, what's going on over there?' The volume (of euthanizations) was so over the top. Why so many was all I could think of. That's when I decided to get involved."

When the SPCA board of directors resigned in the wake of the scandal, the longtime animal lover decided he'd throw his police cap into the election for a new group to lead the agency. To his surprise, he won a seat on the new board.

"Throughout my career I did animal cruelty arrests," Bower said. "Human-on-human crime stuff, you get used to dealing with that. But when you see an animal and they're abused by a human, that's too much."

Bower said he grew up in a home that had both dogs and cats for as long as he could remember. He and his first dog, a beagle-mix named Buttons, were inseparable.

His grandfather had a farm so Bower said he spent lots of time there as well. He joined the Falls Police Department after an Air Force career and has spent the majority of his time in the patrol division.

After joining the SPCA board of directors, Bower learned that the agency was, at least temporarily, doing away with its animal control services in the Falls. 

"The chief (then Bryan DalPorto) reached out to me and asked me to take over animal cruelty cases," Bower said. "And now, six years later, I'm doing a whole different thing."

Bower now serves as the department's animal control officer, part of a two-person Animal Control Unit, with K-9 Officer Donny Booth. He says the job fits him like a glove.

The department had sent him to specialized training so he is now certified to use a dart gun that shoots tranquilizers.

"I can tranquilize anything from a squirrel to a giraffe," Bower said. 

He's also received training in dog fighting investigations and the role of violence toward animals in domestic violence cases.

"There is a direct correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence," he said. "There's been a lot I've learned. There was a lot I didn't know."

Current Falls Police Superintendent Tom Licata said Bower has helped the department meet a critical need in the city.

"He filled a huge gap between us and the SPCA," Licata said. "He is perfect for this position and has been better than anyone could have though. If we didn't have him, we'd be in trouble."

Licata noted that Bower has been especially helpful to both the Emergency Response Team and Narcotics Intelligence Division detectives during search warrant executions. He said Bower is adept at removing animals at what can be chaotic scenes.

"He responds whenever we need him," Licata said. 

Before the city experienced a cash flow crunch that made it nearly impossible to purchase new vehicles, the department was able to equip Bower with a state-of the-art animal transport vehicle and the gear need to do his highly specialized job. 

"They gave me a chance to channel my love for animals," Bower said.

Not that the job can't be mentally and emotionally taxing. Bower said he's seen animal cruelty cases that he wishes he could forget.

"You shake your head and wonder who can do something like this," he said. 

But there are also cases that leave him smiling to this day.

"I went an SPCA fundraiser, and a dog I rescued was there," Bower said. "As soon as the dog saw me, he came running up to. He remembered me."

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