Louise Lathey always knew she wanted to make a difference.
She always figured she would accomplish that through a front-line role in policing or paramedicine.
In preparation for that, she completed several programs at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), from the Emergency Medical Responder Certificate, and Bylaw Compliance, Enforcement and Investigative Skills course, to the Investigation & Enforcement Skills Certificate and Law Enforcement Studies Diploma (LESD).
Louise had applied for a policing job after her first year of LESD, but was told to reapply after gaining more experience in a related role. It was while searching for such a role that she tapped into her longtime love of animals. She landed a job at the BC SPCA as an on-call night emergency officer.
“This job was intense and incredibly rewarding. I responded to calls of sick or injured domestic and wild animals, and had to rescue and transport these animals to vet clinics, wildlife facilities or wherever else they needed to go. Thanks to this position I learned that skunks love peanut butter and raccoons are not as cute as they look.”
I wanted to get as much knowledge around the law and enforcement as I could ... I really enjoy learning and JIBC has been a great place to do that
She began to explore the field of animal law. She transitioned into the BC SPCA’s cruelty investigations department, became a Special Provincial Constable doing cruelty investigations, worked in the Vancouver SPCA animal shelter as an animal care attendant, and had a chance to work in shelter management.
“At this point I think I had taken a break from school as I was sort of re-evaluating my career path. This is when I started realizing that the law enforcement world was bigger than just policing.”
Louise returned to JIBC to finish the LESD program and continued her studies to complete the Bachelor of Law Enforcement Studies (BLES).
“I wanted to get as much knowledge around the law and enforcement as I could. I felt that having a degree would open more doors professionally as I want to grow within the SPCA. I really enjoy learning and JIBC has been a great place to do that.”
It was while studying towards her BLES and working at the Vancouver SPCA shelter that she took part in a highly-publicized puppy mill seizure in which 66 scared, matted and sick dogs were rescued.
“Once everything was said and done, and we had the joy of adopting out all of the dogs, I approached upper management with some ideas about a new position within the organization that may help assist both the operations department and the cruelty investigations department next time a large scale seizure occurred.”
Over several months, she presented her proposal to senior managers and the job was fleshed out. When the position was posted, for a “seized animal liaison administrator,” Louise applied and after a series of interviews was ultimately chosen to fill it.
“It was definitely an amazing moment to have the Chief of Prevention and Enforcement call and offer this position to me, waiting for that yes or no was definitely one of the longest weeks I've ever had … I feel very fortunate and privileged to be where I am right now, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.”
It was her studies at JIBC that led Louise to fall in love with the law, as she found courses on labour, civil and criminal law absolutely fascinating. Those classes, along with report writing, communications, and conflict resolution, are all heavily utilized in her job, which focuses a lot on case management, adjudication and dispute, and working with lawyers and legal terminology.
She learned the importance of teamwork through group projects, something that has transferred to her work. And she gained confidence and assertiveness.
“Being in a classroom full of like-minded individuals and wanting to be successful, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and get my voice heard. The small and safe environment of the JIBC classroom allowed me to do that. It also gave me the confidence to speak up at work, and get me where I am today,” she said. “The instructors are a wealth of knowledge and I highly recommend taking advantage of that. The legal classes have helped me tremendously and the communication and conflict resolution courses have been beyond valuable.”
Having graduated from the BLES program this past spring, Louise is focused on her passion for animals, and hopes to use her knowledge of the law and enforcement to assist in animal advocacy, prevention and investigations of animal cruelty. This fall she will be pursuing her master’s degree in criminal justice where her thesis will expand on her JIBC research into the link between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. Louise credits her JIBC instructors for encouraging and inspiring her along her journey.
“When an instructor is a retired Deputy Chief, lawyer, PhD researcher, or something along those lines of impressive, and they say 'thank you for being a leader' and they genuinely believe in you and make an effort to help you succeed... how can you not?”