It’s every pet parent’s worst nightmare—temporarily leaving your pets with a trusted caregiver only to find out that things have gone terribly wrong. That’s exactly what happened to one New York City family. Late last month, ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) Agents responded to a call from a panic-stricken woman: She had just returned home from an extended vacation only to find her beloved cats were missing.
In a shocking twist, our investigation revealed that the pet sitter, a trusted friend of the family, had purposely abandoned the animals.
“He simply didn’t want to take care of them anymore,” says Howard Lawrence, Senior Director of Operations for the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement department. “And that is just not acceptable.”
Video surveillance shows two men transporting the cats from the home in carriers and dumping them in a nearby alley. A witness has also stepped up to corroborate that he saw the incident occur.
Rafael Lugo, 59, and his friend Robert Ramos, 55,were both charged with two counts of animal abandonment. If convicted, they face up to two years in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. To date, the cats have not yet been found.
“Trust was severely violated in this case, and a family is now beside themselves over the loss of their pets,” says Lawrence. “We hope that these two individuals will be held accountable for their actions.”
Anyone with information about the cats’ whereabouts is asked to please contact the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Hotline: 877-THE-ASPCA (843-2772). Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #PetSitterBust
Tomorrow (Saturday, May 18) is Armed Forces Day, which honors Americans serving in the five branches of our military: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. In addition to the brave men and women who defend our country and assist others around the globe, we’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to another kind of hero—the U.S. military working dog, or MWD.
According to the Department of Defense, in early 2012 there were approximately 2,700 MWDs serving worldwide, keeping us safe and performing important tasks that can be difficult, if not impossible, for people. Some experts estimate that the average military dog saves 150 soldier lives during his or her career.
Thanks in part to the efforts of animal lovers like you, late last year Congress took action in the National Defense Authorization Act to protect these canine heroes. Their post-service adoption processes are being streamlined and the Department of Defense is working on authorizing a veterinary care program at no expense to taxpayers. And while it might not mean much to the dogs themselves, it means a lot to us that all retiring military dogs will receive letters of commendation for their service.
We thank the Defense Department and the U.S. Air Force, which administers the Military Working Dog Program from its Lackland base in San Antonio, Texas, for recognizing that our government’s commitment to these amazing animals’ well-being must extend beyond their period of military service.
Show your appreciation for the selfless service of our canine heroes by sharing this article on Twitter with the hashtag #MilitaryDogs.
As we mentioned earlier today, the House Agriculture Committee moved forward with a new Farm Bill last night. Although the ASPCA is thrilled that the bill includes a provision to make it a crime to attend animal fights, we’re very disappointed that a last-minute amendment proposed by Rep. Steve King of Iowa also passed committee. This amendment would have far-reaching consequences for state laws that protect animals.
The King Amendment would gut existing state laws to protect animals as well as undermine states’ ability to pass their own laws regarding any “agricultural product”—including animals. Because of the broad nature of the federal definition of agricultural products, this amendment could potentially undercut state laws and regulations on a whole host of animal welfare issues, including not only farm animal welfare, but also issues from puppy mills to horse slaughter. This amendment violates states’ rights and is a solution in search of a problem.
“This is a federal law that seriously inhibits a state’s ability to protect animals,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Government Relations department. “For example, in California, where a state initiative will require eggs to be cage-free in a few years, the King Amendment would block this type of voter-approved legislation and permit eggs to be transported to California from other states with fewer protections in place.”
Though we’re dismayed by this addition to the Farm Bill, we’ll continue to fight efforts to undermine animal welfare legislation on the state level. Please stay tuned to the blog for the latest news about the farm bill, and join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to learn how you can take action for animals in your state.
The life of a racing Greyhound is often short and painful. Every year, thousands of young and healthy Greyhounds are euthanized because they are no longer deemed worthy racers, but some of the lucky ones make it to Greyhound rescues. ASPCA staffer Lauren discusses adopting her Greyhound, Lewis, a racing survivor.
When my then-fiancé, Grant, and I began looking for a dog, we assumed that we would need to narrow our search to smaller breeds because of our NYC lifestyle. On a whim, I searched for large-breed dogs that are suitable for apartment living. Much to our surprise, Greyhounds were the most recommended! We fell in love with the breed.
A volunteer from an NYC Greyhound rescue visited our apartment with a spotted, male Greyhound who had recently retired from the industry. While this gentle giant had some difficulty climbing the stairs to our apartment, once inside he had no problem exploring every inch—all 400 square feet!
When Linda left that day, Grant and I looked at each other and without words knew we had found our dog. We called Linda the next day and arranged to pick him up. Being an avid Formula 1 fan, Grant decided to name our new dog Lewis after Lewis Hamilton, the race car driver. Considering his retired profession, I found it quite fitting.
Learning about Lewis
As we fell more in love with Lew, I started researching his past. Like all racing Greyhounds, Lewis has ear tattoos: his birthday and litter number on one side, his ID number on the other. I typed his ID number into a registry and learned he’d participated in 40 races and won eight. He raced until he was nearly three, which is a long career. I also learned he’d raced at Ebro Greyhound Park. He was pulled from Ebro in September 2010; in October 2010, an owner at the same track was arrested after 30 dogs died from starvation.
At the track, Lewis lived in a stacked cage, only coming out four times a day: twice to go to the bathroom and twice to train. When we met Lewis, he was fearful, really underweight and had flea dermatitis—but that’s really good shape compared to how many Greyhounds come out of the industry. It took three weeks for his personality to come out. But when it did, it was hysterical—Greyhounds are hysterical—he was lying upside down, sneaking on the couch and sneaking onto our bed. It made me think this was likely the first time his personality was allowed to shine.
Lewis made himself at home in our NYC apartment right away, but shortly before getting married, Grant and I moved to the house in the suburbs. Lew loves the new space, and he’s got a dog bed on each floor. He loves car rides—any time we go on any errands he comes along and adores it. Lew lives for the tennis ball and will jump eight feet in the air for it. He spends weekends playing in our backyard and at the neighborhood park.
Lewis loves children, and that’s why we’re really excited for him to meet his new little (human) brother or sister in the next month! We think he’ll be a great big brother. He just turned six on Earth Day. It’s cheesy, but I always say his birthday makes sense, since he’s my whole world.
Late last night, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee approved an amendment to the House Farm Bill to strengthen our nation’s laws against animal fighting. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), would make attending an organized animal fight a federal offense and impose additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. This amendment is similar to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 147 cosponsors introduced by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA), John Campbell (R-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA) and McGovern.
“Animal fights are cruel and gruesome spectacles where animals are exploited and forced to fight as their owners profit from their torture,” said Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Children need protection from the dangerous culture of animal fighting, as well as its associated illegal activities such as drugs, weapons and gambling. The ASPCA applauds Representative McGovern and all our Congressional leaders for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety.”
While clearing the House Agriculture Committee is a major success, we can’t declare victory just yet. The U.S. Senate’s version of the Farm Bill also includes the anti-animal fighting provisions, but both bills still must pass in their chambers of origin. Once that is achieved, the House and Senate have to reconcile any language differences prior to full passage.
We’d like to thank all the representatives on the House Agriculture Committee who voted to include the animal fighting spectator prohibition language in the House Farm Bill. If you see your rep in the list below, tell him or her thank you! You can find your rep’s contact info here.
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Ann McLane Kuster
Sean Patrick Maloney
Please be a voice for animals—join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade and we’ll let you know when it’s time to contact members of Congress about this and other important animal-related bills.