Angel Nieves may be a retired New York Police Department detective who used to investigate homicides, but now he uses his investigative skills for his second career as a pet detective.
Just last week, he reunited a stolen Shih Tzu with his owner, Maria Vasquez, nearly two months after he was stolen of the street. According to DNAinfo, Nieves managed to get security footage of the thief snatching Skylar. He then used stills from the footage to create a poster that he posted on nearly every block in her New York City neighborhood.
“I don’t know if I would have gotten my baby back without him,” Vasquez who suffers from depression, told DNAinfo of Nieve’s pro-bono help to find her therapeutic dog, Skylar.
Nieves says he’s always liked to help since he was a kid.
“I’ve always loved animals,” says the ex-cop whose parents are from Puerto Rico. “My dad always taught me to respect animals.”
You might recognize Nieves’ familiar brawny face. That’s because last year he was a star on National Geographic’s “Rescue Ink Unleashed,” a show about eight tattooed tough guys who save New York’s animals from dangerous situations.
The program went off the air after just one season, but that doesn’t stop Nieves from his love of saving animals. Instead, he started his own pet investigating Web site, where anyone can contact him if their pet is missing or in trouble, called SecureYourPet.net.
“I believe animals need a voice, and I use the skills I got in the NYPD to reunite animals with their families,” says Nieves who gets calls from out-of-state or even internationally. “For example, I had a call from Africa, and they wanted to know how they can do investigations undercover…I guide them and let them know how to proceed.”
He says one of his most challenging cases involved a 200 cat hoarder.
“When we threw the cats in the truck, they were multiplying in the car – it was out of control,” says Nieves. “We had to pull the cats out, give them to a vet, bring them back to health and take them to a rescue organization so they could be adopted. The smell was unbearable.”
Stolen pets seem to be the most common problem. He says dognappers ask for ransoms or reward money, or give them as gifts. Sometimes it’s rescuers who see one tied up to a pole, or in a heated car, and say it’s abusive.
“Animals are getting hurt in domestic violence, and the law doesn’t really comprehend that, and that’s what I’m trying to do myself,” says the big-framed Nuyorican from the Bronx. “When I saw Maria’s face when she got her dog back, that’s my fulfillment right there – helping out. When I make it happen, that makes my day.”
Nieves may not have his tattooed entourage to help him fight pet crimes anymore, but he says one partner always sticks by his side – his white dog, Chris.
“He’s everything to the whole family,” he says. “He is family. No matter how bad it is, Chris is still moving his tail and running around and playing with us. That’s what everybody needs. No matter what happens, they show us life is still good.”