SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Syracuse Police Department is considering eliminating its animal cruelty unit and outsourcing the work to the SPCA, according to emails between city leadership and animal advocates.

Animal advocates from 11 different agencies have signed onto a petition to encourage the city to keep the unit, citing the number of animals saved and its record of arrests.

In an email, a city employee writes: “The Syracuse Police Department is considering multiple ways to address severe staffing constraints due to the retirements of officers. The Department is in the early stages of exploring a potential partnership with the ASPCA for animal cruelty investigations. The Department continues to review the matter and has not made any determination.”

The considerations began when current animal cruelty investigator, Office Tara Kalil, announced her retirement from Syracuse Police. She works with a supervising sergeant and team of animal control officers.

Instead of replacing her with another interested officer, the work could be done by the same SPCA investigators who serve other towns and counties around Central New York.

Advocates worry that the SPCA’s investigators won’t have the same authority the police do on city streets. The SPCA staff can make arrests, but not as proactively patrol for abuse, execute search warrants or seize guns and drugs.

Nick DeMartino, who oversees the Volunteer Advocate Lawyers for Animal Abuse group, tells NewsChannel 9: “We hear a lot about defunding the police and reimagining the police. We think the police do a fantastic job in this particular area and we hope they continue doing what they’re doing.”

A police spokesperson says no decision has been made, but did not respond to NewsChannel 9’s email Monday morning asking about what factors are being considered.