On March 29, Bay County Sheriff investigators arrested 52-year-old Margaret Fowler, charging the Florida woman with felony animal cruelty for allegedly using a mallet to beat a neighbor's cat to death.
Fowler, a licensed veterinarian who runs an acupuncture and holistic vet service out of her home, had been spotted by a neighbor hammering a cat several times with what appeared to be a mallet. The witness told investigators she saw Fowler carry the cat across the yard by the tail and drop it by the fence separating the two homes. When Fowler returned to her house, the witness approached the cat, recognizing the animal as belonging to her own live-in boyfriend.
When questioned by authorities, Fowler denied any wrongdoing. She claimed the cat appeared to have been hit by a car and had pulled itself into her yard—she merely tapped the body with her foot to confirm death.
Helping to make the case was Dr. Melinda Merck, the ASPCA's leading forensics veterinarian, who performed a necropsy on the battered feline. Merck's report concluded that the cat was not hit by a car but instead beaten to death with a round, blunt object. She further ruled the cause of death was internal bleeding due to blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen.
"This incident is particularly unsettling," says ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty, Matt Bershadker. "We are glad to have been able to provide assistance and that the criminal justice system is handling this case with the seriousness it deserves."
As more and more Americans turn to the Web to find the pet of their dreams, scams have skyrocketed as criminals seek to take advantage of unsuspecting pet parents. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, hundreds of complaints are filed each year by victims who were conned when attempting to buy a dog online.
One potential pet parent, Diane, was hoping to add a Yorkshire Terrier puppy to her family when she spotted a classified ad in her local paper. “It was over my morning coffee that I saw the perfect ad for a Yorkie named Nancy,” says Diane, who lives near Cleveland, OH. She sent an email to the address listed, and immediately received a response—Diane could have the puppy if she promised her a loving home and sent $500 to cover the shipping fees.
“I corresponded for an entire week with this man who claimed to be a missionary,” Diane explains. Diane sent the requested payment via Western Union, but once she sent the code for the money transfer, she never heard from the “pastor” again.
Like many trusting animal lovers, Diane fell victim to one of many “free to good home” scams currently circulating the Internet and classified sections of newspapers. So how do you avoid persuasive cons and still get the dog of your dreams? The ASPCA recommends never buying a dog you haven’t met in person and always check references. Also, keep in mind that adoption is still the best option, even if you have your heart set on a purebred dog. There are thousands of dogs waiting for good homes at local animal shelters, including purebreds! Please help others avoid being cheated by emailing your puppy scam story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 16, under the authority and request of the SPCA Serving Erie County (NY) members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team were dispatched to assist in the sheltering management and care of 73 horses seized from what is believed to be the area's largest farm animal rescue ever. More than 100 animals—including 53 cats and four dogs—were found living in deplorable and extremely unsanitary conditions on a farm in East Aurora, NY.
aspca field investigation and response team member, kyle held, comforts one of the rescued horses.
"Our goal is to help the SPCA Serving Erie County rehabilitate these horses, both physically and behaviorally," says Jeff Eyre, ASPCA Northeast Director of Field Investigations and Response. "We are glad to be able to provide support to the SPCA and the Erie County community."
For the horses' extended care, the ASPCA will grant $10,000 to the SPCA Serving Erie County and has provided them with a livestock trailer for transport. The Field Investigations and Response Team, as well as ASPCA staff skilled in horse handling, will be on hand to feed, water and clean the animals' for the next two to three weeks. Members of the American Humane Association have also been recruited to assist in the animals care. The ASPCA has contacted local veterinarians to provide pro-bono veterinary exams for the horses. The cats and dogs are being cared for at the SPCA's Tonawanda shelter.
aspca team members evaluate one of the rescued horses.
"So many people have been emotionally affected by this case—not just SPCA staff and volunteers, but hundreds of members of the community who are communicating with us through phone calls, e-mails and letters," says SPCA Executive Director Barbara Carr. "The fact that the ASPCA has stepped in with such an extreme level of assistance and care for these beautiful animals is overwhelming. It will make a difference not only in the lives of the horses, but in the minds of everyone involved."
Stay tuned for the latest information about the rescued animals and for information on how you can report cruelty, please visit ASPCA.org.
So, you want to make a difference for animals in your community, but aren’t sure where to start? Well, ASPCA experts agree that one of the most important things you can do is learn how to recognize and report animal cruelty.
“Without tips from the public, many animals would remain in abusive circumstances, unable to defend themselves,” says ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Supervisory Special Investigator and star of Animal Planet’s Animal Precinct, Annemarie Lucas. “We commend the brave and swift actions of concerned citizens who report cruelty.”
Whether you’ve seen the dog next door outside without proper shelter or witnessed the physical abuse of a neighborhood cat, you can help. To lend a hand, our experts have created an easy step-by-step guide to help you recognize and report animal cruelty.
If I report my neighbor for committing animal cruelty, and that person’s animal is taken away and put in a shelter, isn’t the animal worse off? It’s important to understand that reporting cruelty is always the right thing to do. Animal control officers never remove an animal from the home unless absolutely necessary. A seized animal will then have the chance to get much-needed veterinary and behavior care.
Can I remain anonymous when I file an animal cruelty complaint? Yes, and it is better to file an anonymous report than to do nothing—but please consider providing your information. Agencies have limited resources, and the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court.
On March 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is taking a series of steps to increase the safety of spot-on flea and tick treatments for cats and dogs. Last summer, the EPA, which regulates topical pet treatments, reported a 50% increase in the number of adverse incident reports from the use of flea and tick products. As a result, the agency is reviewing current labels—ensuring that instructions are clear—and developing stronger evaluation procedures for existing and new products.
According to the EPA's press release, the agency's new protocol includes:
Requiring manufacturers of spot-on pesticides to improve labeling, making instructions clearer to prevent product misuse.
Requiring more precise label instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight.
Requiring clear markings to differentiate between dog and cat products, and disallowing similar brand names for dog and cat products.
Requiring additional changes for specific products, as needed, based on product-specific evaluations.
Launching a consumer information campaign to explain new label directions and to help users avoid making medication errors.
"The ASPCA supports the EPA's focus on clear labeling to distinguish dog products from cat products," says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President Animal Health Services. "This alone could save cats' lives. Improving the precision of the amount applied will also increase the margin of safety for very small pets."
Dr. Hansen adds: "Post-marketing surveillance and public education will also help, but veterinary advice is still key when using these products on old, debilitated, sick or pregnant pets."
Fleas cause anemia (low red blood cell count), carry tapeworms, and can transmit infections such as Bartonella; ticks also transmit many diseases, including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. For more information about flea and tick prevention this spring, please visit our pet care pages online.