- 1. Award Goes to ASPCA Forensic Vet for Work on Vick Investigation
- 2. Does Lead in Toys Pose a Danger to Pets?
- 3. ASPCA Argues Cruelty to Animals Is Not Free Speech
- 4. ASPCA Happy Tails: We Are Family
1. Award Goes to ASPCA Forensic Vet for Work on Vick Investigation
In an unprecedented moment in animal welfare history, Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, received the National Asset Forfeiture Award from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Honored at the 2009 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and Asset Forfeiture Program National Leadership Conference, Dr. Merck was presented with the Outstanding Investigation or Case Award for her forensics work in the investigation of Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennelswork that helped to produce evidence that led to a guilty plea.
“This is the first time an animal-related agency has received such an award or recognition,” says ASPCA President & CEO, Ed Sayres. “It was a great opportunity to show that pursuing animal crime cases can produce important results in drug investigations.”
Dr. Merck assisted in the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, including carcasses and skeletal remains of numerous Pit Bulls. The evidence helped to convict Vick of operating a competitive dog fighting ring, a federal offense that resulted in a prison term for Vick and three co-defendants. Vick was also ordered to pay restitution of $928,073 to the United States Government for expenses related to the interim and long term care of the Pit Bulls seized from his property.
The award ceremony had over 1,500 attendees, including prosecutors, U.S. attorneys and criminal investigators who have worked on the biggest drug and organized crime cases in our country.
Read about the forensics work of Dr. Melinda Merck.
2. Does Lead in Toys Pose a Danger to Pets?
Whether your pet prefers squeaky rubber squirrels, stiff rawhide bones or fuzzy mice, he or she undoubtedly loves to play with toys. But is the source of your dog's or cat’s merriment safe? Many common household productsincluding toys for children and petsmay contain trace amounts of lead and other toxins. In most cases, however, the levels of these ingredients in toys don’t pose a significant threat to your furry friend.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) reviewed 200,000 cases from the past two years and produced no examples of lead poisoning from pet toys. According to Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, ASPCA Vice President and Medical Director of the APCC, younger dogs, just like children, are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, but most studies reveal only tiny amounts of lead in pet toysnot a grave risk for acute or chronic lead poisoning in dogs.
“Just because it's 'detectable' doesn't necessarily make it hazardous,” says Dr. Gwaltney-Brant. “Even oxygen is toxic at the right concentration.”
And what about other types of treats such as rawhide bones? Like pet toys, rawhide chewscan include trace amounts of pesky chemicals. Dr. Safdar Khan, Director of Toxicology at the ASPCA, believes many dog lovers would be surprised if they learned the true contents of their pets’ treats. But he also adds that pet parents would likely be surprised if they knew the complete ingredients of what they eat and drink, too.
The reality is that a dog is much more likely to suffer obstruction from a rawhide bone than poisoning from a hidden toxin. In general, the smaller the dog, the fewer rawhide treats he should receive, and only give your pet rawhides under a watchful eye. Remember, it’s always wise to supervise!
And lest you think we’re leaving out our feline fans, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when shopping for kitty’s favorite play things:
The wand toy, often adorned with feathers, string or small stuffed toys, is ubiquitous. But take care with it, and watch for pieces of string or other components that might fall from the toy and get swallowed by your cat.
Another popular treat for the kitty set is catnip. Word to the wisesome cats become very excited when smelling or eating it, so be careful about petting your cat until you know how she will respond.
Please don’t let your cat play with rubber bands, paper clips or plastic bags. All can prove dangerous and a choking risk to our feline friends.
For more information about playing it safe with your pet, please visit APCC online.
3. ASPCA Argues Cruelty to Animals Is Not Free Speech
On Tuesday, October 6, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. v. Stevens, a landmark appeal case that will decide whether the sale of dog fighting videos is protected by the Constitutional right to free speech.
The case involves dog fighting propagandist Robert J. Stevens, who was convicted in 2005 for marketing three videos that showed genuine animal fighting. Stevens became the first person convicted under the Crush Act (or U.S. Code Section 48), a 1999 federal law banning the sale of materials depicting animal cruelty. The law was meant to stop the creation and sale of “crush” videos and other depictions of illegal animal cruelty acts, including dog fighting, “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed.”
In July 2008, a United States Court of Appeals overturned Stevens’s conviction, ruling that the Crush Act was “an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Due to this ruling, the Crush Act is no longer in effect. Internet trafficking in crush videos, which had slowed significantly since 1999, has reportedly surgedand in April of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review U.S. v. Stevens to determine the future of the Act.
“This is only the second time in history that the Supreme Court has taken on a case directly related to animal cruelty,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Field Services. “It represents a difficult conflict between two traditionally ‘liberal’ valuesfreedom of expression and animal protectionso it is unclear how and if the court may be divided.”
While some view the now-overturned law in question as an attempt to create a new exception to the First Amendment, animal welfare groups argue in favor of protecting animals from brutal abuse for profit.
The ASPCA filed an amicus curiae (pdf) (or “friend of the court”) brief at the Supreme Court, siding with the position taken by the U.S. ASPCA representatives also attended the October 6 hearing in Washington, D.C., listening to arguments presented by both sides.
“Although the ‘Crush Act’ was rarely used, it had the potential for aiding in the prosecution of a variety of forms of animal cruelty that are increasingly being encouraged through the dissemination of videos,” says Lockwood. “If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court's decision, the ASPCA will gladly work with Congress to draft new laws that can withstand tests of constitutionality to address these problems.”
The Court’s decision is expected in early 2010. Please watch for developments on ASPCA.org/lobby.
4. ASPCA Happy Tails: We Are Family
In April 2007, shortly after they received the keys to their first apartment in New York City, Lisa and John Bolender decided their first order of business was to adopt a dog. The young couple made a beeline for the ASPCA Adoption Center in Manhattan, where they met a special, one-year-old Cane Corso named Aniya, who also goes by the nickname Niya.
“She put her paw up against the glass when I came near, and we knew we had to meet her,” Lisa says. “The first night in our place in New York was spent with Niya curled up with us on a pile of blankets and pillows. She has been devoted to us ever since.”
Eventually, the little family moved back to their home state of Michigan, where they decided to expand their brood. “Niya wanted to play with every dog and person she came across, from sun up to sun down,” explains Lisa. “So John went to the Livingston County Humane Society and adopted Brutis, another Cane Corso, about four months younger than Niya.”
Now the two pooches are best buddies. Says Lisa: “Niya will plop herself down on Brutis' head or back her rear end into his side at least once an hour to get him to play. They run around and follow us from room to room, always jumping on each other.”
But the family didn’t stop therein March 2008, Lisa and John welcomed a daughter, Ava, into their furry world. “Niya was wonderful with Ava from the start,” Lisa muses. “She even sleeps in Ava's room at night by her bed. Every time Ava wakes up, Niya is the firstone she looks for.”
This fun-loving, loyal pooch has settled into life as a big sister and canine matriarch with ease. “She shakes her entire rear end when she is happy, to make up for the lack of a long tail,” Lisa laughs. “She also likes to ‘talk’ to us when she wants to play or just wants attention, and never ceases to get excited to see us when we walk through the door.”
She adds: “Niya is very special to us. She is an essential part of our every day. She makes us laugh and is Ava's best friend. I am so happy that we walked into the ASPCA that day.”