From planning pet-friendly vacations to spending oodles of money on toys and treats, most people consider their pets members of the family. Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, pets are also deemed part of the family unit and forced to suffer in silence at the hands of abusers. Some studies estimate that 88% of companion animals living in households where domestic violence occurs are routinely threatened, harmed or even killed.
In cases of spousal, child or elder abuse, a beloved family pet can become a pawn for an abuser who is willing to injure or kill the animal as a form of revenge, to create isolation, or to intimidate his or her victims. ASPCA Special Agents often witness this trend firsthand. "We see a connection between animal abuse and domestic violence all the time," says Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo. "For example, we'll go out and investigate a complaint of animal abuse and find that the children have already been removed from the home or that the suspect has a history of spousal abuse."
Studies also show that 50% of domestic violence victims delay seeking help for fear that an abuser will harm a pet. Furthermore, most domestic violence shelters are simply not set up to accommodate companion animalshowever, in recent years, animal “safe haven” programs, which provide foster care for pets in domestic violence situations, are becoming more common in cities across the country. And at least 11 states have enacted legislation to allows pets to be included in domestic violence-related orders of protection. This means a court can order an abuser to stay away from an animal or impose other conditions to protect the pet's safetyviolations could result in arrest.
To learn more about the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty, or to find out how you can lobby for stronger legislation to protect animal victims of domestic violence, visit ASPCA.org. If you or your pet is a victim of a violent crime, please call 911 or your local law enforcement.
Is your pooch mad for people food? Does your kitty like to self-medicate? Sadly, not everything we love is good for us. In fact, many common household goods that we take for granted as harmless can poison our furry friends. In 2009, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic household substances, including insecticides, cleaning supplies and prescription medications.
To help you keep your pet safe and sound in 2010, our experts have created a list of the 10 common poisons that most affected our furry friends last year. Here’s a sneak peek at their advice:
Top dishonors—once again—go to human medications, which accounted for the most calls to the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison control hotline in 2009. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up meds accidentally dropped on the floor. Remember to keep all medications, including pain remedies, antidepressants and decongestants, in a cabinet far away from pets’ prying paws.
Cats and dogs are often the unwitting victims of our efforts to battle flea infestations. The misapplication of spot-on flea and tick products can be especially problematic for our feline friends. Talk to your vet about choosing the right, species-specific flea treatment for your pet and never use products made for dogs on cats, and vice versa.
Some of the most delicious people food—including citrus, avocado and raisins—can be poisonous to pets. Chocolate ingestion accounted for nearly half of all people food-related cases in 2009, so be sure to keep cocoa hidden from your resourceful cat or dog.
Pet parents also need to remember to protect their cats and dogs from common household cleaners such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
Household plants may keep your house green and your air clean, but some can cause serious gastrointestinal problems for companion animals who nibble on them. Check out our toxic plant list before your next visit to the nursery.
As always, if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your vet or the ASPCA’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.
ASPCA emergency responders and veterinarians were in Brooklyn, NY, this morning to intervene in a hoarding situation in which 37 cats and kittens were living in a one-bedroom apartment. The cats’ owner, whose name has not been released, cooperated fully with the ASPCA before and during the operation. She relinquished ownership of 35 felines, opting to keep only her original two cats.
Tim Rickey, ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigation and Response, reports that the cats’ owner was not abusive and tried to care for all of her pets, but became overwhelmed by their out-of-control breeding.
All 37 cats were transferred to a staging area at Brooklyn Animal Care & Control (AC&C), where the ASPCA Mobile Clinic was on site to sterilize the two cats who were going to go back to the apartment and medically evaluate the others. Most of the cats appear to be in good health and were dewormed, deloused, vaccinated and implanted with microchip IDs.
After triage at AC&C was completed, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals provided transport for the 35 relinquished cats to its various partner organizations around the city, where they will be cared for and eventually be made available for adoption. Participating shelters, aside from the ASPCA, include:
A Tail at a Time
The Humane Society of New York
North Shore Animal League
“The cats will receive complete medical exams and behavior evaluations before they go up for adoption,” says Rickey. “The collaboration among all of the participating groups, including the Mayor’s Alliance and AC&C, helped make this operation run smoothly. We were fortunate to be able to accommodate these animals, and getting them to shelters as soon as possible gives them the best chance for placement in a new home.”
Please contact these shelters directly or stay tuned to the ASPCA Blog for updates.
On January 11, ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) received a tip from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) that a Manhattan woman was caught on video kicking and leash-choking her nine-pound dog. The incident occurred in the Grant Houses in Morningside Heights, the same public housing project where surveillance video captured an unrelated dog beating only two weeks prior.
At approximately 2:00 A.M. on Sunday, the NYPD's in-elevator surveillance system captured Tiara Davis beating Sparky, her four-year-old Pomeranian. The 31-year-old apparently lost her temper after Sparky urinated on the elevator floor. The video clearly shows Davis punching, kicking and swinging the small dog by his neck until he blacked out. PLEASE NOTE that the video footage is of a graphic and violent nature and is not suitable for all viewers. Viewer discretion is advised. The video can be seen here.
After consulting with the NYPD, HLE Special Agents Omar Negrillo and Brad English visited the scene, where the suspect, who works as a vocational counselor for ex-offenders, told them she never meant to hurt the dog. Davis cooperated by signing custody of Sparky over to the ASPCA and he was immediately brought to the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital for a medical evaluation.
Tiara was subsequently arrested and charged with torturing and injuring an animal, a misdemeanor. Sparky is currently recovering at the ASPCA hospital.
"The ASPCA is pleased that NYPD is diligently examining security footage with a focus on protecting both people and their pets," says Stacy Wolf, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel for the Humane Law Enforcement department. "Prompt police reaction here enabled the ASPCA to apprehend the abuser."
If you know of an animal whose health is being compromised by neglect or abuse, please report it. Visit our Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty in your neighborhood.
More than a year after the successful investigation of a Minnesota puppy mill, the federal government is closing it down. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it has suspended the kennel license of Kathy Bauck, owner of Pick of the Litter kennels, for two years. Bauck shipped thousands of sick dogs to local pet shops across the country. The USDA, in its final decision and order, declared Bauck "unfit" to be licensed because she operated the kennel in a criminally improper manner.
Bauck's case garnered attention in early 2008 after Jason Smith, an animal cruelty investigator, began working undercover at the kennel. Smith submitted testimony and video footage of injured, ill and emaciated dogs, as well as of Bauck dunking dogs in vats of insecticide, to Otter Tail County sheriff’s detectives. Bauck was arrested in August 2008 and charged with several counts of felony animal cruelty, torture and practicing veterinary medicine without a license.
Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, helped secure an animal cruelty conviction by testifying at Bauck’s trial. “The veterinarian working with the prosecution contacted me about one month before the trial started,” recalls Dr. Merck. “I was asked by the prosecutor to review all the video and case files and provide expert opinion.” Bauck was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 20 days to be served right away. The other 70 days were “stayed,” meaning they will be served only if she violates her probation.
Unfortunately, neither the criminal conviction nor the license suspension puts Bauck completely out of business. While the USDA license suspension dictates that Bauck can no longer vend animals directly to the public or pet stores, she can continue to sell them online because Internet pet sales are not regulated by the USDA. To learn more about this aspect of the case, visit our puppy mill law page.