Kristin K. knew something was wrong early one recent Monday when her 11-year-old adopted tabby, Sonny, skipped breakfast and lay on the floor.
“He’s the self-appointed sheriff in our household, always policing the other two cats,” Kristin says. “And he’s normally very active in the morning and runs to his food bowl. So I had a bad feeling.”
Kristin immediately took Sonny to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where he was examined by veterinarian Dr. Mary St. Martin.
“His symptoms were subtle, but he had a tense abdomen and a fever,” recalls Dr. St. Martin, who diagnosed Sonny with acute pancreatitis based on his blood work and an ultrasound that revealed changes in and around his pancreas.
Pancreatitis is commonly treated by veterinarians at the ASPCA, with supportive care such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and anti-nausea medications to control vomiting.
After three nights and four days of treatment at the Hospital, Sonny went home, where Kristin reports “the self-appointed sheriff is back at work.”
As it does in humans, the pancreas, a V-shaped organ located near the stomach and the small intestine, produces insulin, which helps metabolize sugar in the body and is necessary for the digestion of nutrients by producing enzymes which promote the digestion and absorption of fats.
While it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause, pancreatitis in cats and dogs can be triggered by certain infections or diseases, metabolic disorders, medications and abdominal surgery or trauma. In cats, pancreatitis is often associated with inflammatory liver or intestinal disease, also known as triaditis. In dogs, acute pancreatitis can be caused by dietary indiscretions. Obese and overweight pets, and those fed diets high in fat, are also at risk.
Sonny had never before suffered from pancreatitis but displayed the classic symptoms, including dehydration and decreased appetite. Dogs more commonly develop vomiting and abdominal pain. Both dogs and cats can also develop jaundice associated with pancreatitis.
There are also possible associations between pancreatitis (especially chronic pancreatitis) and diabetes. Sonny’s blood sugar was high and he is being monitored for the possible development of diabetes, which could require treatment with insulin injections.
“It isn't easy to prevent pancreatitis, but diet changes and keeping pets at ideal body weight may help,” says Dr. St. Martin.
ASPCA Field Investigations and Response (FIR) workers travel across the country to animal fights, puppy mills, disaster zones and other locations where animals are in immediate danger, often working 20-hour days, typically outside in extreme weather with few breaks. But one of the most amazing parts of FIR work isn’t the job—it’s the people who do it: Nearly 25% of these 1,700 emergency responders are over the age of 50.
These responders don’t measure their job satisfaction in terms of money, workplace or the nature of their position. The true rewards are the smiles, the wags, the licks and the purrs of the animals they save. In this special post, we’re shining a spotlight on ASPCA FIR responders who prove it’s never too late to do what you love—and to make a difference while doing it.
“It’s a lot of hard work, from the minute you hit the ground until you go to sleep,” says Jason Oneail, 52, a former sergeant major and Iraq war veteran who lives with his wife and two teenage daughters in New Hampshire. Jason considers his 30-year career in the army the best training for deploying as a volunteer ASPCA responder. Although he suffered a hip injury in Bosnia in 1995 during an explosion and a mini-stroke upon his return from Iraq in 2010, Jason deploys up to two weeks at a time— he spent last year’s Fourth of July helping care for 70 former fighting dogs in western Virginia. But Jason says this work with the ASPCA brings him closer to the career he wanted while growing up: a veterinarian. Jason’s also volunteered for ASPCA cases in New York, Indiana, and Florida, among other states, and was named “Volunteer of the Year” in 2014 by the Animal Rescue League of Bedford, New Hampshire.
Joanne Smith, 52, also grew up wanting to be a veterinarian. The sixth of eight kids who also shared their home with two foster children, she started working right after high school, getting a job in the insurance business before starting a home day care center when her daughter was born. But when the opportunity arose to work with animals as a veterinarian’s assistant, and later as an animal cruelty officer, for the Elk County Humane Society in Pennsylvania, she jumped at the chance. In 2008, Joanne became its Executive Director, even enlisting ASPCA’s help in a 2010 hoarding case that resulted in the seizure of nearly 400 cats. She joined the ASPCA team in 2012.
Now as an animal control officer for the town of Ridgway, Pennsylvania, Joanne finds each ASPCA deployment a valuable learning opportunity. Last May, she organized a search party for a missing Great Dane after the town experienced major flooding. “I used every skill I learned from the ASPCA’s behavior team—patience, proper body language, no eye contact—to catch that dog,” she recalls of finding “Ozzy” and reuniting her with her family.
Nebraska native Barb Davis, 66, traveled to New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina with another humane group, working in the Lower Ninth Ward to trap and rescue dogs who were running in packs. She rotated in and out every two weeks while working for her husband, a land surveyor, when she was home. After her husband died in 2008, Barb began deploying full-time. Her first experience with the ASPCA was a cat hoarding case in Jacksonville, Florida. “It was extremely rewarding. One lady fell in love with a double positive [FIV and leukemia] cat and adopted him. That was a highlight for me,” Barb recalls.
Since then, she has worked in a wide range of crises, from hoarding and animal fighting cases to disasters like the tornados in Joplin, Missouri, and Moore, Oklahoma. “After seeing what the ASPCA could do, I said, ‘I want to be part of that organization,’” Barb says of joining the ASPCA. “I’m where I should have been many years ago.”
We are so thankful to FIR Responders like Jason, Joanne and Barb for inspiring us all—and for their unwavering dedication to animals in need.To learn more about the ASPCA’s Field and Response Team and the rescue work they’re doing on the ground, please visit www.aspca.org/FIR.
At the ASPCA, we love it when animals and adopters just “fit.” It is so gratifying to bring a cat or dog into our Adoption Center and see them scooped into the perfect home right away. In the case of Vincent, a three-year-old cat who spent time at a city shelter, all it took was 10 days at the ASPCA before he found his ideal match—and he never looked back! Here is his story.
Vincent was already three years old when he came to the ASPCA in February 2015. He and five other cats were transferred from the local city shelter, where they hadn’t had any luck in their search for forever homes. At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Vincent was treated for a bacterial infection and underwent a neuter procedure. Just a few days later, he met Forrest.
A lifelong animal-lover, Forrest and his partner decided to search for a pet at the ASPCA based on recommendations from friends. “We felt like we both had a lot of love to give a furry friend in need of a home,” he says, adding, “our home would be more complete with the sounds of little paws running around.”
The couple only met three or four cats before they were introduced to Vincent, and it was love at first sight. “Although there were so many very sweet little cats in the Adoption Center, as soon as we interacted with Vincent, we knew he was the cat for us,” Forrest recalls. “He was just the right balance of playful and friendly, but also very sweet and mellow.” Vincent also looked a lot like the cat Forrest had as a child, which he said made him feel like “a familiar friend.”
The couple’s instincts proved correct as Vincent continued to impress them. Forrest says, “He let us pet him without any hesitation, and he seemed so confident and happy that we decided to start the adoption papers right away.” Without missing a beat, they brought Vincent home that very same day, which happened to be February 15—the day after Valentine’s Day and 10 days after the cat’s arrival at the ASPCA. What’s more, the five cats who came with Vincent found homes by the end of that month, too.
Back at Forrest’s apartment, Vincent settled in as if he had lived there forever. “As soon as we let him out of his pet carrier, he casually walked around the whole apartment as if taking inventory of his new habitat, and then jumped up on the couch and took turns sitting on both of our laps,” Forrest says. “He never went through a skittish or awkward adjustment period. From the first day we brought him home, he’s slept on our bed with us each night and instantly made us feel like a little family.”
What can we say? When an adoption is right, it’s just right, and Vincent and Forrest were clearly made for each other. Vincent waited his whole life to find an adopter like Forrest, and we are thrilled that he found a perfect place to call home. And when Forrest says, “We couldn’t imagine our lives without Vincent,” we know this is one Happy Tail that will last forever.
UPDATE (7/8): While we initially reported more than 250 lives saved in this rescue operation, in the days following the raid that number has climbed to 300 victims. The animals are now receiving medical and emotional care in an off-site ASPCA facility. Your support is still urgently needed.
Update (7/1): View photos from our rescue efforts in Alabama on Tuesday, June 30 and Wednesday, July 1.
This post was originally published on June 30, 2015.
The ASPCA is on the ground assisting the Moulton Police Department in the removal of more than 250 animals from Lawrence County Animal Shelter in Alabama. At the scene, our responders discovered the animals—including dogs and cats of all breeds and ages—living in filthy, deplorable conditions.
Many of the animals were emaciated and appeared to be suffering from medical issues such as parvo, distemper and untreated wounds. Some of the animals were being housed in small wire crates and others in crowded enclosures where animals fought for resources and space.
The ASPCA’s Medical Animal Surgical Hospital—a custom-built, mobile animal hospital—will allow veterinarians to provide critical care to animals on-site. From there, we will transport the animals to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location to provide them with additional medical treatment and behavior enrichment.
The Lawrence County Commission has terminated its contract with Lawrence County Animal Shelter following a complaint from a shelter volunteer citing animal abuse and mistreatment at the facility. ASPCA experts are collecting and analyzing forensic evidence and providing legal support to help strengthen the criminal case and ensure the best outcomes for the animals.
“This is a truly tragic situation,” says Tim Rickey, vice president for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “It was immediately clear upon entering the facility that these animals have been severely neglected. Our goal is to provide them with much-needed medical attention and socialization. Eventually, we hope to place them with responsible shelters that have the means to care for them and find them adoptive families.”
We’re grateful that these 250 animals will no longer suffer in secrecy. Unfortunately, our work is far from finished—we need your support so we can continue to provide care for these animals, and for countless others who are waiting to be rescued. Please consider making a donation to the ASPCA today.
When Alexis Earlbaum received Team ASPCA membership as a graduation gift from a friend, she knew she had received the perfect inspiration to train for and complete her first ever half marathon.
“The mission of the ASPCA is something that I live and breathe for,” Alexis says. “Every animal deserves to have the same protection and rights that we do. They are living beings and they feel and have a soul and they deserve to be loved.”
Alexis’s dedication to animals began as a child when she watched her grandmother rescue animals including cats, dogs, turtles and birds. Alexis says she has always had pets, and currently has two cats named Riley and Attica. Her longstanding love for animals inspired her as she began her Team ASPCA journey.
Alexis also set her sights on her weight loss goals. Although she had not been a runner before joining Team ASPCA, with the help of Team ASPCA’s resources, such as endurance training, fitness clinics, online videos, access to our coaches and more, Alexis accomplished her goals and established a healthier lifestyle.
“Knowing what at-risk animals go through pushed me to work even harder to reach my goals and to push myself to make it,” Alexis says. “Race days for me are pure adrenaline, excitement and amazement all wrapped into one. To see all the orange come together is very empowering. We push ourselves to reach each milestone, and when we’re finally about to cross that finish line—that’s a great feeling.”
Reaching her personal health goals and helping animals in the process was a win-win for Alexis.
“I achieved my goal and I was able to help make a difference in the lives of animals in need,” she says. “My Team ASPCA experience has been amazing, and something that I think everyone should experience at least once. I know that once someone does experience it, they will be hooked like me. The camaraderie that is built with the team members is unlike anything I have experienced before.”
Team ASPCAis currently looking for participants for the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon. If you are ready to reach your fitness goals and make a real difference in animals’ lives, learn how you can join Team ASPCA and get started today!