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Officer Leinberger has been saving animals for 30 years with no plans to hang up the leash

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Posted at 8:01 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 16:07:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Barking dogs is the soundtrack to Rob Leinberger’s career. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It is so ingrained in who I am. I’ve been doing this since I was 21,” said Rob.

The 51-year-old serves as an animal control officer. It is a role he harnessed 30 years ago and hasn’t let go.

Rob began his career in Chesterfield in 1991. “Its so invigorating, so fulfilling and so enriching so it is literally my world,” he said.

For the last five years, he’s been working with Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) as field supervisor. By putting the welfare of all animals first, Rob and his team of seven officers are shedding the outdated image of dog catcher.

“They are what makes this world so successful,” said Rob. “There is no way we could do this by ourselves individually.”

In three decades, Rob has rescued thousands of neglected and abused animals.

“You never leave it here. I take it home every single day,” said Rob.

Experiences that come with a heavy emotional toll.

“It never turns off,” Rob explained. “Have I sat and cried because I couldn’t fix things? Totally. Yeah.”

When the pressure builds, Rob need only look down at his partner, Piper, who was a stray dog Rob rescued 12 years ago.

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“She literally, again, is the poster pup for what we do,” said Rob.

The father of two admits his job also comes with fringe benefits with fur. Rob can often be found cuddling with kittens or dogs in their kennels

“This helps. This takes away that feeling of taking care of that terrible thing and dealt with that horrible thing. Now I get to do this nice thing and get to snuggle,” said Rob.

RACC’s Executive Director Christie Chipps Peters said Officer Leinberger’s expertise and experience pay dividends.

“He is a key player in the work we do every single day. He brings a very level headed compassion to a world that can be very ugly.”

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Rob said when he took the oath 30 years ago, Virginia laws protecting animals didn’t have much teeth. But that has changed -- especially since the death of Tommy.

“None of this existed. Far and few between,” said Rob. “We’ve absolutely made progress.”

Tommy was the dog tied to a tree and intentionally set on fire in 2019. The man who committed the crime was sentenced to five years in prison.

“That is a breathing moment that says you know what out of this terrible, terrible incident something good has come,” said Rob.

Officer Rob Leinberger found his calling and isn’t hanging up the leash anytime soon. Why leave when you love something inside and out and from head to tail.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be in a wheelchair or a nursing home still doing something,” said Rob. “I have no plans on stopping.”

Officer Leinberger begins his 31st year in animal control in December.

If you know of someone I should feature in my “Heroes Among Us” email me at Heroes@wtvr.com

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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