The Colorado Department of Agriculture is pleased to announce Dr. Rebecca Niemiec as the Manager of the Bureau of Animal Protection (BAP) program. The mission of the BAP program is to prevent the neglect, mistreatment, and abuse of animals in Colorado. Dr. Niemiec is a social scientist, whose work and research have focused on the relationships between humans and animals as well as enhancing community engagement in environmental stewardship.
“Dr. Niemiec has a deep understanding of how social factors and beliefs influence human behavior, especially when it comes to the relationship between people and animals. Her background in behavioral science and research in the field of conservation psychology will allow her to lead the BAP program with a focus on addressing the root causes of animal abuse in close coordination with the livestock community, local law enforcement, animal welfare advocates, and veterinarians across the state,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg.
In her position as an Assistant Professor in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department at Colorado State University, Dr. Niemiec focused on studying how human beliefs and behavior change over time based on interactions with other humans as well as animals.
“Animal welfare will always be a complex issue that brings a wide range of passion and concerns. I look forward to exploring how the BAP Program can use education and outreach as our primary tool to take a proactive approach to prevent animal abuse, rather than a reactive approach once that abuse has occurred,” said Dr. Rebecca Niemiec. “My goal is to support the majority of Colorado ranchers and pet owners who love and care for their animals while addressing those rare instances in which animal abuse and neglect require an appropriate response to ensure the health and safety of the animals are met.”
The BAP program administers and enforces the provisions of the Animal Protection Act to improve animal protection across the State. The BAP manager will oversee program operations as well as conduct industry outreach and education on animal health and welfare issues. Dr. Niemiec’s experience in behavioral science will contribute to CDA’s understanding and mitigation of the underlying causes of animal abuse.
The BAP Manager will oversee approximately 100 Commissioned BAP Agents who work outside of the State system and who respond to complaints of animal cruelty and neglect. Commissioned Agents include law enforcement or municipal animal control agents, and in smaller jurisdictions may include non-profit agents. All BAP agents must fulfill training requirements set forth by CDA. The BAP Manager will also administer the BAP Stakeholder Task Force.
Dr. Niemiec (pronounced “Knee-Mick”) received a doctorate from the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. Her research focuses on understanding the drivers and outcomes of community action related to conservation and animal protection. She is particularly interested in applying social psychology theory and methods to design and evaluate community outreach and engagement programs focused on conservation and human-animal interactions. Dr. Niemiec will start in her new role on March 7, 2022.
As part of its continuing effort to improve the BAP Program, CDA is also looking to hire two investigators and a forensic veterinarian for the program. The additional staff will be experienced in animal husbandry and animal health and will be a resource for local law enforcement to respond to animal welfare complaints in their jurisdiction.