In April, we put out a call to animal welfare leaders across the country to enter the ASPCA $100K Challenge to increase pet adoptions and save more animals’ lives. This friendly competition aims to inspire innovation and, to sweeten the deal, we’re offering $125,000 in prizes! Over the next two months, we’ll introduce you to all 50 of the selected contestants, but to get started, here’s a peek at our first six challengers!
Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) & Helping Animals Live On (HALO) Phoenix, AZ: AAWL and HALO are loyal partners in the fight against pet overpopulation in Phoenix and Maricopa County. Above all, these organizations engage their community by spreading the word that “shelter pets are not broken, undesirable animals—they are victims of circumstances beyond their control.”
Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT), FT Worth, TX: A multi-faceted organization, HSNT brings a “can-do” attitude to the Challenge as well as several unique adoption events, like this summer’s Extreme Mutt Makeover. Long-term goals include constructing a new facility to incorporate adoptions and educational needs.
City of San Jose Animal Care Center (ACS), San Jose, CA: The folks at ACS describe their organization as “big, busy and humane.” A young, full-service shelter, this contender has made a big splash with its new Feral Freedom Program. ACS’s commitment to trap-neuter-return (TNR) makes them a tough competitor in this Challenge.
South Suburban Humane Society (SSHS), Chicago Heights, IL: What makes SSHS one to watch? The organization has a dedicated volunteer base and a compassionate staff, and rigorously promotes low-cost spay/neuter. Taking home the grand prize will facilitate renovating kennels and cat housing and the construction of a new “kitten nursery.”
The SPCA of Wake County, Raleigh, NC: The SPCA of Wake County wants you to know one thing: “Our pets may or may not be purebred—but they are pure fun.” The organization’s staff loves what they do and spends their days brainstorming innovative solutions. Spreading the word with a “no-holds-barred mentality” makes this contestant a top pick.
Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS), Jacksonville, FL: Sometimes the wise elders hold the secret, and JHS has been saving animals’ lives since 1885. The organization engages its community by traditional and nontraditional means and believes “an animal can have a life-changing effect on a person by showing them a love they never knew existed.”
Check in next week, when we’ll introduce you to our next six challengers!
“Todd, keep an eye on Beau—he’s going to throw up,” said Robyn Salvo of Jackson, NJ, as she sent the Salvos’ eight-year-old German Shepherd to join her husband in the backyard. It was a regular Saturday night three weeks ago; Beau had been fine all day, but was now retching and acting distressed.
Once in the yard, Beau squatted as if to defecate, but nothing happened. He continued to pace, pant and dry heave. As Todd put his arm around the dog to comfort him, he felt that Beau’s stomach was hard as a rock. “At that point, I knew he was in trouble,” Todd recalls. “Twenty years ago, before I got my first German Shepherd, I read a book about the breed. I somehow remembered what I had read about bloat and stomach torsion—and Beau was showing several of the classic signs. I knew that if he didn’t get help right away, he could die.”
Food bloat is a condition—rarely life-threatening—in which the stomach swells because a dog has eaten too much, too fast. However, the word “bloat” is often used to refer to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or stomach torsion, a much more serious condition in which the stomach twists around in the body. GDV is fatal if not treated promptly. A dog who overeats and has a full, uncomfortable stomach is not the same as a dog who suffers from GDV, and a veterinarian is the only one who can distinguish between the two and make the proper diagnosis. While the causes of GDV are unknown, deep-chested breeds such as Shepherds, Boxers, Akitas and Great Danes are more prone to being stricken.
After calling ahead to see if there was a surgeon on site, Todd and Robyn put Beau in their car and raced to the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic. Beau was X-rayed, and within 10 minutes a vet told the Salvos that their dog did indeed have GDV—his stomach had flipped. Less than two hours after he began exhibiting symptoms, he was rushed into emergency surgery, where 20% of his stomach had to be removed due to tissue death. At that point, the Salvos were told that his chance of survival was 50-50.
Happily, Beau is a strong dog and pulled through with flying colors. He is back home with his family, and his stomach is now attached to his abdominal cavity wall so it cannot twist out of place again.
It was extremely lucky that the Salvos were home when Beau’s GDV struck—but when it came to taking correct action, Todd’s knowledge, rather than luck, made all the difference. “The biggest lesson from this that I hope to pass on to others is to research breeds and their potential health problems before you bring home a dog,” says Todd. “Don’t choose a dog based solely on looks. You need to find out what kinds of medical issues you might be in for, especially as they age. After finding out, if you still want that breed—as I did with German Shepherds—you’ll be better prepared to help them if something goes wrong.”
On June 17, the ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response Team was deployed to Waynesboro, TN, to assist the Wayne County Sheriff's Department with a critical hoarding intervention. A total of 85 dogs—including German Shepherds, Labradors and Hound mixes—were discovered in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on a property owned by an elderly man. The dogs were contained in large pens, chained to posts throughout the yard and found roaming the property. Many suffered from health problems, including mange and heartworm.
"In this hoarding case, a man became overwhelmed by the number of dogs in his care and he needed help," says Kyle Held, the ASPCA's Midwest Regional Director of Field Investigations and Response. "We removed the dogs from his property, are providing them with medical and behavioral evaluations and will ultimately find them loving homes."
Twelve of the rescued dogs have arrived at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, where they are undergoing medical treatment. The remaining dogs were transferred to ASPCA partner agencies, including the Nashville Humane Association and the Atlanta Humane Society.
Early this morning, we lost Senator Robert C. Byrd, a great spokesman and champion for animals. Senator Byrd—the longest-serving member of Congress—was one of our most vocal and impassioned statesmen on behalf of animal protection. He personified the best of politics—standing up for the underdog both literally and figuratively. Whether he was speaking out against blatant animal cruelty or seeking to ensure that laws like the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act were adequately funded, Senator Byrd made it clear that animals really matter—they enrich us—and, as a result, we are responsible for their humane care and well-being every day of our lives.
During the early hours of June 24, members of the ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response Team assisted the Elk County Humane Society of St. Mary's, PA, in the rescue of nearly 400 cats from a sanctuary known as the Animal Friends of Elk and Cameron Counties. More than 50 first responders, including staff and volunteers from the American Humane Association, which also provided sheltering services, and PetSmart Charities, which provided much-needed supplies, assisted in the raid.
Joel Lopez, member of the ASPCA Field Investigation and Response Team, checks in on one of the rescued cats.
The cats—including numerous kittens—were found living in deplorable, overcrowded conditions on the first floor of a two-story commercial building about 120 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The investigation was set into motion after complaints about the facility were received by the Elk County Humane Society, which in turn contacted the ASPCA for assistance.
According to Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, the cats are suffering from a host of ailments, including upper respiratory and eye infections and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). In addition, many cats are expected to test positive for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)—a highly transmittable disease that weakens the immune system and makes cats susceptible to secondary infections. Several of the cats were found in critical condition.
"The overcrowding and unsanitary environment coupled with the stress of coping with untreated illnesses, has resulted in severe conditions for many of these cats," says Dr. Merck. "Every effort is being made to treat them and make them comfortable, and most appear to be friendly and well-socialized."
The cats were placed into the custody of the Elk County Humane Society and transported to an emergency shelter set up in a nearby location. Once there, a team of veterinarians conducted exams on each animal and triaged any immediate needs. The veterinary team led by the ASPCA's Dr. Merck, included Dr. Rhonda Windam, Anti-Cruelty Veterinarian at the ASPCA, Dr. Jason Byrd, Associate Director of the Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Dr. Julie Levy, also with the University of Florida, veterinary students from the University of Pennsylvania led by Dr. Michael Moyer and veterinary technicians from the ASPCA.
To aid ASPCA investigators in the collection and management of forensic evidence, the Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit was deployed to the site. The ASPCA's new custom-designed animal transport trailer, mobile command truck and equipment trailer were also on hand.
"We are grateful to be in a position to provide resources and assistance in this overwhelming situation," says Tim Rickey, ASPCA's Senior Director of Field Investigation and Response. "Right now, our primary concern is to get these animals the care and treatment they so desperately need."
Please stay tuned to the ASPCA Blog for updated information on the St. Mary's case.