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NYPD officers who have rescued, adopted pets

Police officers decide to join the force for many reasons, but a desire to help others is often one of them. And while helping New Yorkers is part of their daily life, many choose to add helping animals to the job description.

In fact, it's fairly common for NYPD officers to rescue animals while on and off duty, and several end up adopting them when there are no rightful owners or microchips.

It is the need to help the helpless, many said, that drives officers to protect the animals who have nowhere else to go.

Scroll down to meet some of the officers who have adopted their four-legged friends.

Captain Danielle Raia

It was about nine years ago when Captain
Photo Credit: Danielle Raia

It was about nine years ago when Captain Danielle Raia, 39, who commands the 45th Precinct, noticed a small poodle walking in about five feet of snow, wearing a bow tie and a jacket. Raia, a sergeant in Brooklyn at the time, jumped into action and scooped up the small dog.

"We brought him back to the precinct. He didn't want to be away from anyone -- he was so small, but his bark was amazing," Raia said. "He was so disheveled. I could still cry thinking about it.

"I love animals that much. They're so helpless and they depend on us," added Raia, who kept the poodle and named him Biggie. "It really hit home for me."

In her time with the department, Raia, who lives in Bethpage, has adopted multiple cats and dogs, as well as saved others. She took home a kitten that wandered into the precinct, who officers named Sneuy, after the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit. Sneuy has become the alpha figure in Raia's home (the cat even knows how to open doors now). And Raia once stopped a convoy on its way to do a gun buy to rescue a kitten who looked like he had been hit with a tire.

"I stopped the convoy, picked her up and put her in the back seat," Raia said, finishing the job and then rushing the kitty to an emergency vet. "She miraculously recovered."

Now the kitten, named Frankie, lives with an NYPD lieutenant and his family on Long Island. He eats chicken and rice every day, she said.

And while Raia had to work New Year's Eve, she planned to spend the holiday with her pit bull, Danica (pictured), who she rescued when she was a sergeant in Queens about nine years ago.

"She was running around the streets eating garbage. She was emaciated and she had marks on her," she said. "It looks like they tried to fight her, but because she had such a sweet demeanor they just let her go. So I took her home."

"She's such a good dog, so loyal and such a sweetheart," Raia said. "I was not going to leave her alone to ring in the new year."

Officer Justin DeSimone

It was seven years ago when officers responded
Photo Credit: Justin DeSimone

It was seven years ago when officers responded to a call of a "vicious" dog on the loose in Queens, corralling the young German shepherd and bringing her back to the precinct. The dog wasn't dangerous at all, of course, and Officer Justin DeSimone immediately fell in love.

DeSimone, who is now 34 and has been an officer for 10 years, had been wanting to adopt a dog, so when his partner in the 110th Precinct called to tell him about their latest rescue -- who was only 8- or 9-months old at the time -- he rushed to meet her.

"I fell in love with her right on the spot. She was a gorgeous dog, very friendly," DeSimone said. "There's been a number of dogs that came through the 110 that were found and brought to the precinct first. There's a lot of officers who love animals and end up taking them home when they don't have any tags or markings. It happens a lot."

DeSimone, who lived in Bayside, Queens, at the time, just happened to have a tennis ball in his locker. He spent the next few hours playing with the puppy before taking her home. He named her Hollywood, at the suggestion of his dad, because of all the attention she attracted at local parks.

About a week later, Hollywood's original owner came into the precinct looking for her and DeSimone arranged to go in with his girlfriend -- and now wife -- to bring her back.

"It was a very sad day," he said. "The days leading up to it were very sad because I had become very attached."

But when he got to the precinct, the woman shocked him. The woman said she worked a lot and had little kids, so she wasn't able to take care of the puppy after all.

"She just wanted to make sure the dog was OK, and if I wanted it I could have it," he said. "I was blown away. I didn't expect that at all. I told her I would take care of the dog like she was my family."

Eight years, DeSimone said, have gone very fast. Now, he and his wife live in Smithtown and have a 10-month-old baby girl who likes to crawl right up to the not-so-little Hollywood and slip her food from her highchair.

"She loves her. It's the cutest thing," DeSimone said. "I couldn't imagine anything without her; she's been a part of the family. She goes with us everywhere -- we take her hiking, we take her on trips. We go everywhere we can with her."

Officer Dominique Natoli

Officer John Passarella, 28, worked as a volunteer
Photo Credit: Dominique Natoli

Officer John Passarella, 28, worked as a volunteer fireman before he became a cop. So when a fellow officer in the 60th Precinct in Coney Island called for him to rescue a cat caught in a car in June, he thought it was a joke at his expense.

"She said, 'You're a volunteer firefighter, you know a lot about getting cats out of trees. Do you know anything about getting cats out of cars?' I thought she was joking with me," he said. "The cat was inside the engine compartment -- they like to crawl in there because it's warm. But it was in the 90s that week."

Passarella set to work, first trying to free the tiny, frightened kitty from the engine and then trying to coax her out. Finally, he took off his shirt and climbed underneath the car.

"I just heard it meowing and meowing and moving around, but it wasn't coming out," he said.

Passarella eventually succeeding in freeing her and her "heart was beating really fast," he said.

Passarella, who has been with the NYPD for five years and now works in counterterrorism, held the kitty and pet her until she calmed down, before placing her in a cardboard box from a neighbor and driving her back to the precinct. As he sauntered in covered in dirt, Officer Dominique Natoli was on her way out.

"I didn't even notice the kitten at first because he was so dirty,"said Natoli. "I fell in love with the kitten, naturally. This little tiny thing. I told him I would take her right away.

"As soon as I picked her up, she was purring," she added.

Natoli surprised her 4-year-old son, Max, when she picked him up from day care with the kitty. And they named her Pazzy, after Passarella.

"They're pretty much inseparable. He wanted to bring her everywhere," Natoli said. "He comes home, she's the first thing he goes to look for. If he's away or out for the day, he cries because he wants to go home and see Pazzy."

Max even feeds the still-tiny kitten and tries to give her a bath.

"She's so good with him," Natoli said. "I'm sure she's miserable when he's trying to put her in the shower. She's very patient with him."

Passarella said he's just happy knowing Pazzy has a good home.

"It gives me peace of mind. It's so much more comforting knowing that someone I knew took the cat," he said. "They can't help themselves as much as we can. It's just one of those things that hits your heart."

Officer Laurie Stila

Laurie Stila has been an officer for 17
Photo Credit: Laurie Stila

Laurie Stila has been an officer for 17 years. And in that time, she has saved more than 50 cats and dogs.

Stila, stationed in the 45th Precinct in the Bronx, has four cats and two dogs herself. So when an animal wanders into the station house or when they get a call to rescue an abandoned cat or dog, Stila can't help herself.

"I feel sorry for them -- they come in, they look so sad. They just need a little help," said Stila, 50, who lives in Garnerville, Rockland County. "If they're small enough, I can throw them in the sink in the precinct. I wash them up. I always have blankets in my car and bowls and collars."

Stila then sets to work on getting them adopted. About half of the animals she's rescued have been taken by fellow officers who hear she has one available. She gives the other half to a rescue upstate. They've all found homes.

Stila can still remember the day she was responding to a call on the Hutchinson Parkway. When she got there, she watched cars skidding on the icy road, swerving around a small dog trying to cross the highway.

"I'm looking around and all of a sudden I see a dog in the medium. It was such a bad day and he was just right out in the middle of the Hutch," she said. "He was just filled with icicles, freezing to death."

Stila put the dog in her car and brought him back to the precinct where she got him next to the heater and under a warm blanket. She then made sure he was adopted into a nice home.

And Stila often asks for updates, both from the rescue as well as the officers who take the animals she saves.

"It's trying to find the right fit for that particular cop," she said. "A couple of the guys would bring photos back in."


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