It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since more than 300 dogs were rescued from lives of misery and horror in one of the largest federal dog fighting busts in U.S. history. The August 2013 raid spanned Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, and resulted in ten arrests and the rescue of 367 dogs, ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years.
The dogs were left to suffer in extreme heat, with no visible fresh water or food, and some were tethered by chains and cables attached to cinder blocks and car tires.
What a difference a year makes. Thanks in large part to the incredible efforts of countless organizations* and volunteers, many of the dogs are now enjoying carefree lives of comfort in the loving arms of families who adore them. We’ve told you some of their stories (who can forget Timmy, the poster pup?) but to mark the one-year anniversary of the dogs’ freedom, we have a few more updates complete with adorable photos. Please enjoy and share these inspiring happy tails using the hashtag #367rescue.
Arabelle Sharon N. was volunteering with Plenty of Pit Bulls in Gainesville, Florida, when she heard about Arabelle, a senior dog and one of several who had been used as a breeder. “I have a soft spot for the seniors and couldn’t wait to meet her,” Sharon says. “It was love at first sight for both of us. I spent some time with her in her kennel and when I got up to leave, she got up and barked as if to say, ‘please don’t go.’” It was the first time since the rescue that anyone had heard Arabelle bark. This lucky lady adores her new family, including her canine siblings, and loves life and everything it has to offer her. Sharon adds: “From the moment we arrived at the house, it was as if she had been waiting her whole life for a home of her own.”
Hope (FKA Mabel) Mabel was one of six dogs recently transported to the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas to find her forever home. Mabel’s stay at Great Plains SPCA didn’t last long—three days after her arrival, Lisa G. saw Mabel on the local news station and immediately contacted the shelter expressing interest in adopting the rambunctious pooch. When Lisa saw that Mabel’s shelter ID collar read “923,” she smiled. It was the same as her birthday, 9/23. “It was meant to be,” says Lisa. “We just love her to pieces.”Mabel, now renamed Hope, spends her time with her canine sister, Jasmine, who was a rescued bait dog from a separate dog fighting case, and two human siblings along with Lisa and her husband.
Abby Abby was 3-months-old when Tamara H. became her foster parent through Charleston Animal Society (CAS) last October. Tamara was told that Abby came from a cruelty case, but that the specifics couldn’t be disclosed. She knew it was likely a dog fighting case. Although Tamara already had two dogs—a Chow-Shepherd mix and a hound—and hadn’t planned on adopting another, she knew soon after bringing Abby home that she wouldn’t be able to give her back. When CAS contacted Tamara to ask if she would like to keep Abby or bring her back to CAS to be made available for adoption, Tamara came in immediately to sign the adoption papers and make her forever home official.
* We want to extend a special thanks to the many volunteers and organizations (listed below) that have partnered with us over the past year, especially those agencies that have adopted out more than 10 dogs from the case: Thank you, Humane Society of Calvert County, Charleston Animal Society, Humane Society of Pinellas, Plenty of Pitbulls and Atlanta Humane Society!
Looking back at all of our Happy Tails, a clear theme emerges: pets are more than just furry, four-legged animals living in our homes. They are our best friends, our support systems, and our constant sources of joy. That’s why, when Joshua S. was struggling through a difficult period in his life, a dog named Brewster was the only thing able to turn it all around. Here is their Happy Tail.
Joshua grew up with dogs—a Pomeranian and a Newfoundland—but had been without a pup of his own since moving to New York City. While going through what he describes as “the most trying time in my life,” Joshua thought the companionship of a dog was just what he needed. At the end of May, he headed to the ASPCA Adoption Center in search of a little companion. “I was originally looking to adopt a smaller breed as they seemed more practical for city living,” says Joshua. “However, when I began looking at the ASPCA, I fell in love with pit bulls.”
Fortunately for Joshua, Brewster—a one-year-old pit bull—was at the ASPCA Adoption Center waiting for his new forever home. He and another dog, Bonnie, first came to the ASPCA in October 2013 after being rescued from an abusive situation. Though initially timid and nervous around new people, Brewster’s puppy-like energy soon shone through, and he was eager to meet the right person.
“I knew Brewster was the dog for me as soon as I saw him,” says Joshua. “I had seen quite a few dogs, but when I got to his room, he immediately jumped up and wanted to play.” The two spent some time getting to know each other, but Joshua was already certain that Brewster was right choice. “He was so affectionate, and you could tell that he had so much love to give. I knew definitively that he was the one.”
Back at home, Joshua’s new companion proved to be everything he had hoped for. “Brewster sleeps with me at night, and if he’s not curled up at the end of my bed, he’s next to me with one paw resting below my shoulder as if he’s protecting me.” Brewster loves to daydream by the windowsill, and the two pals spend lots of time together at the dog park, running, and exploring the neighborhood. Before Joshua leaves for work, he says, “Brewster will literally jump up and wrap his arms around me to give me a hug. He does the same when I return home, except he has a lot of kisses as well.”
Both Joshua and Brewster persevered through a period of suffering before they found each other, and their bond is so much stronger because of it. “I thought the companionship of a dog would help me through,” says Joshua, “and Brewster has done just that. He has helped me more than I could ever imagine possible.”
Brewster’s sister, Bonnie, is still waiting for her forever home. If you are interested in adopting this sweet girl, please contact the ASPCA Adoption Center at 212-876-770 ext. 4120.
Just days before the ASPCA’s free vaccine clinic in Lincoln Terrace Park in Brooklyn, as three team members taped flyers to windows and knocked on doors, they ran into Jessica Velez and her very skinny 4-month-old pit bull puppy, Nevesa.
Jessica told the ASPCA team that the pup was from a litter born to her dog Maddie, and she was now “stuck” with three puppies. Not only that, but Nevesa, though eating well, remained underweight and thin.
“Right then and there, we had a discussion about de-worming and the importance of vaccinations,” says Maria Hertneck, Public Outreach Coordinator for ASPCA CARES (which stands for community, advocacy, resources, enrichment and service). Maria and her team visited Jessica at her home a few days later, armed with de-wormer and puppy care information, then followed up a week later.
“All three puppies were housed in a small crate,” Maria remembers. “Jessica told us she couldn’t house train them and found it difficult to constantly clean up after them. By this time, Maddie was also fed up with the pups so they had to be separated, especially during feeding times.”
Maria’s team provided a larger dog crate and a giant bag of food. “We talked again about the dogs getting their first round of shots and invited Jessica to our upcoming vaccine clinic,” says Maria. “Jessica said she would definitely come. And she did.”
After her dogs were vaccinated, Jessica signed Maddie up for spay surgery. Maria expressed relief and excitement.
“It took the leg work of all our advocates to get Jessica there, but we did it,” says the ASPCA’s Richard Encarnación, who is now helping Jessica re-home the pups in order to keep them out of the shelter system. He’ll also arrange to have them neutered. In the meantime, Maddie won’t have another litter—another sigh of relief.
This is the crux of the ASPCA CARES team’s work: To spay and neuter every pet, especially large breed dogs and cats. It’s what keeps them motivated, inspires them to do more, fuels reward and pride. The team stays in constant contact with clients to ensure that they have the resources and services they need: food, toys, leashes, collars, ID tags, even a free ride to the mobile clinic. They also work cross functionally with the ASPCA Animal Hospital and Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) staffs and frequently host “tabling” events in underserved neighborhoods to promote their work and book spay/neuter appointments on the ASPCA’s mobile spay/neuter clinics.
On the day of the Lincoln Terrace vaccine event—one of 12 the ASPCA will host in 2014—153 vaccines were administered, and fully subsidized spay/neuter appointments were made for 33 cats and dogs the next day.
Latesha Coleman and her brother Davon, along with their neighbor, Marlene Forde, brought Doodles, a sparkly-eyed dilute calico, for vaccines. “If they hadn’t knocked on my door, I wouldn’t be here,” said Latesha of the ASPCA CARES team.
Jacqueline Pinto and her 9-year-old daughter, Karissa, who learned about the clinic through the ASPCA team’s grassroots outreach, brought Brownie and Sophie, a pair of Chihuahuas. “They’re my babies,” says Jacqueline, who gave Brownie a big kiss after his inoculation.
In the coming weeks, Richard, Maria along with team member Isadora Peraza-Martinez will personally visit clients who attended the vaccine event to assess if their pets have other needs.
“We want to make a difference and offer solutions,” says Maria. Then she adds, with a dose of optimism and pride, “It may take awhile, but we’ll get there.”
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
Yesterday, August 24, was the 48th anniversary of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a groundbreaking law establishing minimum standards of treatment for animals… Well, some animals.
You see, while some animals used for research, as pets, or for exhibition, are considered worthy of minimal legal protection (and to be clear, the AWA protections leave lots of room for improvement), animals used for food, like farm animals, are explicitly left out. Other federal statutes, like the 28 Hour Law and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, cover livestock transportation and slaughter, but both exclude birds, and there are no federal laws at all governing the conditions in which farm animals are raised.
The big question is: why?
Do the over 9 billion animals farmed in the United States each year require less protection? No. Should we allow them to endure extreme cruelty during their lives just because they’re destined for slaughter? Certainly not.
If anything, considering how many farm animals there are and the direct link between farm conditions and food safety, farm animals require more attention, and their conditions more scrutiny. As the products of agricultural corporations, farm animals are among the most exploited and abused animals in the world.
You don’t have to look very hard to find documented cases of cruelty against farm animals or on-going practices that fit the very definition of torture, such as battery cages for egg laying hens and gestation crates for sows. In late June of 2014, Compassion Over Killing released undercover video from a poultry farm in North Carolina that showed sick and injured chickens being dumped alive into pits of carcasses, where they suffocate or expire of hunger, thirst or exposure.
Instead of working to fix these abuses, the factory farming industry uses its influence to keep them secret by trying to pass “ag-gag” laws, which prevent video or photographic documentation of farm activities.
Ironically, this anniversary comes only a week before the start of National Chicken Month, an annual September promotional exercise by the National Chicken Council to promote chicken sales and to celebrate chicken consumption, which in effect also celebrates the cruel ways we treat those very chickens.
But imagine, for a moment, a very different “National Chicken Month,” one in which we ensure chickens are not abused, exploited, or tortured. A month in which we highlight farmers who treat chickens more like the animals they are, not like the products they become.
Some states are acting on their own to institute farm animal protections, and we hope that trend spreads throughout the country and on the federal level. But even before that happens, there are things we all can do to help.
We urge concerned consumers to ask their supermarkets and the companies that supply them to think about raising chickens that can stand up and be chickens, not be pumped with unnecessary antibiotics and bred to be so absurdly huge that they fall over in their own waste. And we encourage people to sign our pledge, urging more humane industry practices.
Whether it happens on the federal, state, community, or personal level, action must be taken to safeguard the welfare of all animals, no matter what purpose they serve.
Animal lovers from across the Lone Star State adopted 2,256 cats, kittens, dogs and puppies—and even a few pocket pets—on Saturday, August 16, during “Empty the Shelter Day,” the largest ever pet adoption effort in North Texas, sponsored in part by the ASPCA.
Shelters large and small, municipal and non-profit—33 total—literally emptied their shelters during the one-day, fee-waived adoption event.
“It was a sight to see and the best day of my 18-year career,” said Corey Price, animal services manager for the City of Irving Animal Services, an open-admission shelter. “Veterans of the animal welfare community were left speechless, and shelter workers and volunteers shed tears as they walked past empty kennels and cages.”
It was Price who set the wheels in motion in June for the multiple-shelter collaboration when she and her staff began thinking beyond the smaller scale “Empty the Shelter” event they had hosted in previous years. They pitched the idea to broadcaster NBC5/Telemundo39, which immediately got on board, and began spreading the word.
Shelters signed on like wildfire. NBC5/Telemundo39 provided PSAs and promotional coverage; the ASPCA provided funds for other local advertising and grassroots efforts.
Lines of soon-to-be-adopters began at 7 a.m. at the Humane Society of North Texas in Ft. Worth.
Ann Barnes, executive director of the Humane Society of North Texas, the oldest animal welfare agency in the region, placed more animals—339—than any other single agency, said the event was “all hands on deck” for her team and, despite the Texas heat and long lines, “the community support was overwhelming.”
At Dallas Animal Services, customers waited as long as three hours to adopt but were “patient and committed,” says Rebecca Poling, a board member of the Dallas Companion Animal Project, which supplied volunteers to DAS for the event. “It was not so much about adopting a pet for free as it was about saving lives. The event really gave people the chance to be a part of something.”
“People got the message,” adds Pam Burney, vice president of community initiatives for the ASPCA and who visited several participating shelters during the event. “What’s great is all the shelters did well—even small ones.”
That’s certainly true of North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center, which placed 39 pets during their event. “In 2013, for the entire month of August, we placed less than that—just 34,” says Chun Mezger, humane division supervisor for the City of North Richland Hills. “Our community really supported us.”
Staff at North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center rallied in memory of their co-worker Mary Beth Chastain who died of cancer four days earlier. The shelter placed 39 pets during the event—more adoptions than in the entire month of August 2013.
For Chun’s staff, the event was also tinged with sadness. “We just lost one of our own—Mary Beth Chastain, a humane officer—to cancer on Wednesday,” Mezger says. “But our team did an amazing job pulling together to honor Mary Beth by ‘knocking it out of the park’ on Saturday.”
In 2013, aggregate adoptions for the same 33 participating shelters, on the same August day, was just 266, according to Price. The final count for Empty the Shelter Day increased that number nearly ten-fold.
“For the first time ever, our two shelters were nearly empty,” says James Bias, president and CEO of the SPCA of Texas, where just three dogs remained at the organization’s Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center in Dallas and its Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney stood empty. “In one day, 163 animals found their forever homes—half as many as find homes in any given week.”
By 4 PM, HSNT had run out of dogs (Courtesy HSNT)
“We’ve never seen room after room of empty kennels,” adds Barnes, whose organization was out of its 208 dogs by 4 p.m. and by day’s end had also placed 126 cats, two rabbits and three other small mammals. “It was a real morale booster.”
By 2:30 p.m., Dallas Animal Services was out of adoptable pets and began directing clients to its Lost and Found area where they could pre-adopt animals on stray hold if they went unclaimed. “I’d never seen it empty like this since the day we opened,” says Poling. “Pod after pod, row after row. It was almost eerie. But it was a great thing.”
Hazel Russell of Watauga, Texas adopted Chloe, a Chihuahua, at the N. Richland Hills event. (Courtesy NRHAA&RC)
Despite the myth that fee-waived adoptions don’t yield good homes for cats and dogs, Barnes says her team’s experience during “Empty the Shelter” de-bunked that theory. “Our adoption applications were perfect—just what we wanted for each animal,” she says. Adds the ASPCA’s Burney: “It’s only the fee that was waived, not the criteria. In fact, some adopters visited shelters on Friday and paid fees so they could be sure to get first pick.”
In the end, says Price, the best part was not only the support from the community, but how “participating shelters embraced and ran with the concept.”
“I’m really impressed with the North Texas animal welfare community,” she says. “This is just the beginning.”