The first time we met Coconut, she was starving, shivering and extremely fearful of people. It was May 2013, and she was being rescued from a puppy mill.
Coconut was one of 150 dogs the ASPCA helped save that day, and while many quickly found homes, Coconut couldn’t even handle being touched. Battered and broken, it is likely that she had never before experienced a kind human hand. Coconut needed help, so we sent her to our state-of-the-art Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey.
Over the next few months, Coconut underwent intensive treatment for her fear and anxiety. Though she was one of the most severe cases we had ever seen, our staff refused to give up on sweet Coconut—and within the first few weeks of treatment, she began to show massive improvement. It’s hard to put into words how incredible her transformation was, so we invite you to witness it for yourself:
By the end of the year, Coconut was a whole new dog. Her shaking, barking and extreme fear subsided as she learned that there are humans she can trust. In January 2014, she was adopted by a retired couple, and she is now flourishing in their home.
We will never stop fighting for animals like Coconut. She is proof that victims of abuse can be saved, and that every animal has the potential to love and to be loved. We hope that you feel the same way, and that you will help us continue to save lives like Coconut’s by making a donation today.
Winter is one of the most perilous times of the year for stray, feral and outdoor cats. With freezing temperatures, limited food sources and little shelter from the elements, many turn to unusual tactics to keep safe and warm. One such tactic is to hide under car hoods for warmth, and this week, we met a lucky kitten who did just that—and survived a 30 mile journey in the process.
On Tuesday, Robert Promisel of Westchester County, New York, drove into New York City with his wife, Susan. Temperatures dipped below 25 degrees as they parked their car in a garage on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at 9:00 A.M. When they picked the car up a few hours later, they heard a distinct “meow,” but assumed it was coming from somewhere inside the garage. When the meowing continued, they pulled over.
“We checked the trunk, the glove compartment, under the seats. Then we looked under the hood,” Robert recalls. That’s when they first saw the frightened feline.
“Outdoor cats sometimes crawl or sleep under the hood of cars to stay warm,” says Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Adoption Center. It is likely that the kitten was seeking shelter from the elements when she got stuck in the Promisels' car.
After finding the kitten, Susan remembered that the ASPCA’s hospital was just five blocks away. She walked over immediately and told her story to Stephen Cameron, an intake assistant, who summoned George Harris, a foreman in the ASPCA’s facilities department, and behavior counselors Blair de Jong and Alfonso Sawadan. They headed to the garage with hastily-assembled rescue equipment, including a laser pointer and a can of sardines.
At the scene, George shined a high-powered flashlight under the car and spotted the kitten maneuvering around the engine block, wiggling her way up toward the hood before disappearing. When she meowed, they pinpointed her exact location—wedged behind the battery.
With help from the AAA and 54th Street Auto Center owner Nick Santana, the team was able to work around the engine bay and lift out the battery. Blair then reached in, scruffed the cat, and gently pulled her out. Though scrawny and dirty, the petite, green-eyed Siamese mix appeared unharmed and welcomed the attention. The rescuers named her “Miracle.”
While Miracle’s story is a memorable case, it’s sadly not an unusual one. Pounding on car hoods before starting the engine can give cats or other small animals a chance to escape or make their presence known and could help save lives this winter.
Though Miracle is not currently available for adoption, there are many cats and kittens at the ASPCA looking for a family. Please visit our Adoptable Cats page and consider opening your heart and home to feline friend today.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded sentencing today for eight individuals arrested during the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013. The case was led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who requested assistance from the ASPCA and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) in the removal, transport, sheltering, medical and daily care of the animals seized during the raid. Sentences ranged from supervised probation to eight years—which is the longest prison term ever handed down in a federal dog fighting case.
Throughout the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins commented on the extreme cruelty committed both due to dog fighting and the conditions in which these dogs were forced to live. Judge Watkins further reiterated that the federal sentencing guidelines for dog fighting are wholly inadequate to address the seriousness of the crime. He estimated that the defendants had injured or killed between 420 to 640 dogs in the course of this dog fighting operation.
“These dogs lived in deplorable conditions, were emaciated, had parasites, ear infections, eye infections, heartworms, fleas and ticks,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “Their living conditions constituted extraordinary cruelty. These dogs were also made to fight and, if they lost the fight, they were killed. I hope that these sentences demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and will deter others from committing these atrocities.”
Judge Watkins also ordered that after their release from prison, each defendant serve a three-year term of supervised release. While on supervised release, the defendants are prohibited from possessing dogs.
“This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who testified at the hearings. “We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On August 23, 2013, The ASPCA and HSUS assisted the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Many of the dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and were placed with various rescue groups across the country to be made available for adoption.
We believe that there will come a time when dog fighting is seen for what it really is: the shameful pastime of cowards. But until that day comes, we will continue to fight for the victims—so that they never have to fight again.
At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina (USASC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the ASPCA is currently on the ground assisting with a federal investigation involving drugs and dog fighting in Columbia, South Carolina.
Earlier today, agents executed a search warrant and seized a dozen dogs from a property in Gaston, South Carolina. Upon arriving at the scene, ASPCA responders found severely emaciated and dehydrated dogs with scars and injuries commonly associated with dog fighting. Some were chained and anchored to car axles. The remains of deceased dogs were also found.
“The truth is that dog fighting happens all over the country, but it’s an underground activity that goes mostly unnoticed by the public,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response Team. “Dog fighting is often linked to other illegal activities including drugs and gambling, and we’re pleased to work alongside state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in ending these dogs’ suffering and seeing justice served.”
Earlier this month, a separate warrant was served for the removal of drugs and 35 dogs from the same property. The Lexington County Animal Shelter provided daily care for the seized dogs until the ASPCA was able to transport the dogs to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location.
The ASPCA will continue to provide daily care for the dogs at the temporary shelter until custody is determined by the court. PetSmart Charities® is sending supplies such as pet crates, toys and treats to support the rescue operation.
We are committed to helping these dogs heal, both physically and emotionally, but we need your support now more than ever. When you make a gift today, you will help provide these dogs with the urgent care they so desperately need, and you’ll help us continue to rescue victims of animal cruelty across the country.
In May, the ASPCA assisted in the rescue, removal and sheltering of more than 550 birds from properties associated with cockfighting in Virginia. Five people charged in conjunction with the case have now received sentencing, and today we have an update on their status.
On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Kentucky man Walter Stumbo, 51, to 18 months in prison. His wife, Sonya Stumbo, 51, and their son, Joshua Stumbo, 33, each received ten months. Sonya Stumbo was convicted at trial and the other two pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including possession of an animal for use in animal fighting.
In addition, Wesley Robinson, 57, and his son Jonathan Robinson, 33, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling enterprise and illegally conducting cockfights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone.
On August 27, Wesley Robinson was sentenced to six months in prison. On October 8, Jonathan Robinson was sentenced to join his father in prison for a sentence of one year and one day.
“The cruel and inhumane practice of cockfighting has no place in civilized society and is against federal law,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said in a written statement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”
In the aftermath of the raid, the ASPCA has learned more about the illegal cockfighting operation. Known as the “Big Blue” Cock Fighting Pit, the enterprise in McDowell, Kentucky, featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The Robinsons reportedly brought the birds from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue on weekends, and spectators allegedly travelled from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and other states to attend fights at Big Blue.
“Big Blue” had approximately 5,000 members. Entrance fees ranged from $250 to $2,500, and over $90,000 in cash was seized at the Stumbo’s home.