BALTIMORE — Officer First Class Logan Walsh has seen a lot in his time with Bel Air Police, but nothing quite like what he encountered one night in November while driving home from his shift.
"It kind of took me a second to process what was going on but then this donkey comes out on the roadway and the thing I saw beside me was another donkey."
There on the side of Rt. 24 were two donkeys munching on the grass. The situation lends itself to a lot of jokes but the concern about the donkeys being hit by a car was no laughing matter. Using animal leads donated by the Love Leads Project, Walsh and others at the scene safely secured the donkeys to a guardrail.
"And they were pretty content just eating grass while we were figuring out what we were actually going to do with them," he said.
This kind of solution is exactly what Adam Lippe intended when he first started making the leads to give out to law enforcement.
"Save the life of an animal so it can be returned to its owner. Save the animal so it doesn't get hurt and help the community out," he said.
By day, Lippe is an assistant state's attorney with the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office and is chief of the Animal Abuse Unit. In his spare time, he makes animal leads to donate to law enforcement across the state, country and the world.
The Love Leads Project started as a community service project with one of his children. He said they were inspired to start it after calling police about a stray dog in their neighborhood. Lippe said the officer didn't have anything to use as a leash and had to use a belt to capture the dog.
"When we give these leashes out, the goal is people are more likely to stop and more likely to help. For officers, this gives them the opportunity to stop, engage in the community, help out with a need and then save the lives of animals that would otherwise be forgotten," he said.
To date, the Love Leads Project has sent out more than 10,000 leads to law enforcement, first responders, animal control and anyone who could use a lead. They are made out of donated climbing rope, mostly collected through Movement Gym locations.
With the help of groups like Show Your Soft Side and Pet+E.R., they are able to ship the leads for free to whomever requests them.
"We love that this project actually saves lives," said Caroline Griffin, co-founder of Show Your Soft Side. "This has reunited so many dogs back with their families."
Those involved with the Love Leads Project say the leads are not just a practical tool, they're also an educational tool to help raise awareness about the connection between animal cruelty and inter-personal violence.
"The biggest thing we're trying to get across is that the typical American family considers their pets as part of their family. In domestic violence situations, those victims are often the animals as well," said April Doherty, who also works with the Animal Abuse Unit and is part of the Love Leads Project.
"That's what we're trying to get across with this is love leading the way."
As for the wayward donkeys in Bel Air, Walsh said they were returned to their owner. It's a story that will provide a lot of fodder for years to come.
"Everybody was safe, the donkeys were safe and everybody got a good laugh out of it, that's for sure," said Walsh.