Lisa Kisiel, a case worker for the ASPCA’s Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) program, first saw the two tiny kittens whose eyes were sealed shut. Just days old, they lay with their mother and three siblings atop a ragged cardboard box and empty bags of Meow Mix, confined to a filthy closet with another nursing feline and her brood of five.
Throughout the squalid apartment, 75 other cats, ranging in age from six months to 14 years, suffered from upper respiratory infections and intestinal parasites. They competed for kibble that was scattered on top of dirty linoleum flooring. They breathed in the stench of urine and feces 24/7.
“It was a very toxic environment,” says Lisa. Following up on a neighbor’s complaint, she assessed the situation and moved the case to the top of her priority list. She and the team removed the nursing mothers and kittens first, and the remaining cats on two other occasions.
“When they’re so little, the chances of them coming out of such compromised surroundings and recovering are slim,” Lisa says. “But I knew if we pulled them immediately, they would at least have a chance.”
For four months, Puccini and Pierre, as they became known, and 13 others from the case were cared for by the Anti-Cruelty staff at the ASPCA Animal Hospital. According to Dr. Bonnie Wong, medical supervisor of the Anti-Cruelty group, they were treated for upper respiratory infections, ear mites, exposure to parasites and anemia, and kitten diarrhea. Warm compresses were applied to their sealed, swollen eyes and heat to their tiny bodies. Then, during Valentine’s Day week, they were adopted by Suzanne G., a Manhattan attorney whose two senior cats passed away in 2013.
These days, Puccini and Pierre run on three speeds: “eating, sleeping or running,” according to Suzanne.
Since 2010, CIA has intervened in more than 150 hoarding cases in the five boroughs, helping more than 4,000 animals. The team also links hoarders to social service agencies and other resources that provide appropriate human services.
“Building strong personal relationships so that we can do these interventions is key,” says social worker Carrie Jedlicka, whose background, like that of her colleagues, is conducive to nurturing clients’ trust. In this case, the client also received medical attention.
“What keeps us going is seeing the animals we rescue go on to happy endings like this,” adds Lisa, who initially was not sure the fragile felines would survive. “We see them at their worst, and it’s rewarding to see them at their best.”
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We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President for Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects at the ASPCA, has been honored with an Achievement Award by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
The award was delivered at the Annual Scientific Meeting, held in Seattle this past February. Over the last 25 years, Dr. Lockwood has served as an expert on dog aggression, dog bite prevention, dog fighting, and the interactions between people and animals. He has given testimony in numerous trials involving cruelty to animals, and has written several books on the subject. In addition, his efforts to increase awareness of the connection between animal abuse and other forms of violence were profiled in the 1999 BBC documentary “The Cruelty Connection.” He is an active leader of The Link Coalition, a network of animal welfare and human service professionals who focus on “The Link”—areas where animal cruelty, domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse intersect. His most recent book is this year’s Animal Cruelty and Freedom of Speech: When Worlds Collide.
Dr. Lockwood has been with the ASPCA since 2005, and we thrilled and proud to congratulate him on this latest achievement.
At the ASPCA, it’s not uncommon for our staff members to make special connections with animals under our care. That’s exactly what happened when Cheryl Suydam, a Rehabilitation Counselor at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, met Tallulah.
Tallulah, along with a dog named Sara, came to us from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society in New Mexico in September 2013. Both dogs had been victims of a hoarding situation and were extremely undersocialized and fearful. Tallulah and Sara were perfect candidates for our rehabilitation program.
“While Tallulah was at the Rehabilitation Center, we focused mainly on building relationships with familiar people, socialization with new people, learning to walk comfortably on leash and handling and petting,” Cheryl says.
In time, both dogs made tremendous steps forward.
“It was such a pleasure to witness the progress both Sara and Tallulah made over the course of the rehabilitation program,” says Kristen Collins, ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation. “As their confidence grew, the two dogs learned to enjoy life—to actively engage with people and explore the world around them. The whole team is so proud of both of them.”
Cheryl reports that she fell in love with Tallulah the moment she saw her, and made plans to adopt her.
“Tallulah is beautiful and has the sweetest disposition,” Cheryl says. “Toward the end of her stay at the Center, I brought her home as a foster to gather more information about how she would do living in our home. She was a great match for my other dog Roscoe and was lovely with my children. She never went back!”
Chicken Scratch is an ASPCA Blog feature that highlights interesting news about farm animals and their welfare.
This might be a new low. Lawmakers in Kentucky got sneaky and added ag-gag language to a bill to ban gas chamber use at animal shelters—a bill that the ASPCA and other animal welfare groups had previously come out in support of. They’re trying to make it illegal to expose animal abuse on factory farms. The same thing is happening in Tennessee. Please take action if you live in TN or KY. Wherever you live, become a part of our Advocacy Brigade to stay updated.
With the help of our advocates and a multi-interest coalition, this year we’ve defeated ag-gag in New Hampshire and Indiana. Last year we defeated ag-gag bills in all 11 states that proposed them.
Finally, all 50 states will have felony-level penalties for animal cruelty now that South Dakota has passed Senate Bill 46—a huge milestone. But this and many other state laws exclude farm animals from protection. We will continue to work to close loopholes: All animal abuse should be taken seriously and punished appropriately.
The Food and Drug Administration says drug companies have agreed to comply with the agency’s recommendation to phase out antibiotics used to accelerate farm-animal growth. Unfortunately, the same drugs can just be relabeled and used to “prevent” the illnesses caused by inhumane, unsanitary conditions on factory farms. This won’t help animals or the growing number of children getting sick from antibiotic-resistant infections.
A Dutch advertising standards commission decided that McDonald’s in the Netherlands was wrong to say on its website that it does not use cheap, fast-growing broiler chickens, and forced the company to take down the language. But these are the same types of chickens used for meat in the States, too. Learn more about fast-growing chickens at TruthAboutChicken.org
ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker responds in a NY Post op-edto the Jets’ signing of Michael Vick.
On Friday, the New York Jets signed Michael Vick to a one-year contract worth $5 million. His return on that investment is unknown, and frankly I don’t care.
Vick is free to do as he pleases both on the football field and off. But one thing he can’t do is absolve himself of his direct participation in horrific and fatal animal torture and abuse. And whether he takes our home team to the Super Bowl or spends the season riding the pine, we’re not obligated to forgive, and it’s essential we don’t forget.
History bears repeating: The Michael Vick investigation began in April 2007 with a search of Bad Newz Kennels, located on Vick’s Virginia property. We at the ASPCA were involved early on, assisting in the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, including carcasses and skeletal remains of numerous dogs.
The ASPCA also led a team of certified applied animal behaviorists in behavior evaluations of the rescued dogs, making recommendations to the USDA and US Attorney's Office regarding the dispositions of the dogs.
It became clear over the course of the investigation that this was not a crime of passion or a case of obliviousness. Michael Vick was fully involved in a six-year pattern of illegal activity that included dogs being savagely electrocuted, drowned, and beaten to death.
We fully acknowledge Vick has "done his time" and even participated in some public outreach, but that does not erase the crime.