Guest Blog by Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President & CEO
One of the most remarkable things about animal advocacy is that, while our mission has never been more urgent, the opportunity to create substantial and lasting change has never been more obtainable.
Whether you represent an organization with strong support and national reach like the ASPCA, or are simply in a position to make a difference locally, every effort has a life-saving impact.
Last week, we recognized some of the most remarkable people and animals on the front lines of that effort by bestowing our annual ASPCA Humane Awards. The recipients we honored include incredibly resilient dogs and cats, organizations tackling animal cruelty and transforming communities, a congressional leader who championed compassion like no other, and a child who gave her most valuable gift to animals in need.
Collectively, they open our eyes to not only to the challenges of protecting animals from cruelty, but also, our ability and duty to better their lives, and – as a result – improve our own. I hope these stories are shared and appreciated so that such laudable behavior will one day shift from remarkable acts by dedicated individuals to social norms of our entire culture.
To that end, I share these stories with you now.
ASPCA® Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year, Annika Glover
Alabama native Annika Glover, 11, had been battling a cancerous brain tumor for nearly four years. But when she became a participant in the Make-A-Wish program, she put the needs of vulnerable animals ahead of her own. Annika used her one wish to save shelter animals. This wish was granted by the Alabama chapter of Make-A-Wish, which donated $7,000 in Annika’s name to the Pets Are Worth Saving (P.A.W.S.) rescue group in Florence, Alabama. With her cancer now in remission, Annika spends much time volunteering at shelter events.
ASPCA® Presidential Service Award recipient, Congressman Jim Moran
When Congressman Jim Moran announced that he would retire at the end of his term in 2014, it became clear that animals would lose a longtime ally in Congress. Moran’s unwavering dedication to ending animal cruelty gave a compassionate voice to the voiceless in the halls of Congress. The twelve-term Congressman from Northern Virginia has been one of Capitol Hill’s strongest champions for animal welfare, advocating for causes including ending horse slaughter, cracking down on abusive animal fighting, and introducing a bill to phase out animal testing for cosmetics in the United States. As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Rep. Moran worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to create humane, common-sense legislation, ensuring a strong legacy of accomplishments and advocacy that will no doubt inspire other leaders.
Cat of the Year, Studley
Studley the cat was found abandoned and starved along the side of the road in Washington state in 2006. After making a full recovery, Studley became a therapy cat—giving love and comfort to people in need. The only therapy cat in the program out of more than 30 animals in the Providence Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy program (PAAA/T), Studley has been a regular visitor to the Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington, where’s he’s offered comfort to patients of all ages since 2007.
The ASPCA assisted in the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, which helped convict him of operating a competitive dog fighting ring, a federal offense that led to prison terms for Vick and three co-defendants. We conducted medical and behavioral evaluations on the rescued dogs, and placed the 48 who were behaviorally fit for rehabilitation with sanctuaries, rescues, foster homes and adopters throughout the country.
The black and white pit bull, who previously had few if any positive interactions with people or other dogs, was given a new life when he was adopted by foster parents in San Francisco. In 2008, Jonny found his true calling as a therapy dog with a particular affection for children, participating in programs where children practice their language skills by reading aloud to him. These days he spends much of his time offering love and support to terminally ill children receiving medical treatment, and inspired a line of plush toys in his image.
ASPCA® Henry Bergh Award recipient, Lori Weise of Downtown Dog Rescue
During her daily commute eighteen years ago to a furniture factory on the edge of Skid Row in Los Angeles, Lori Weise routinely saw stray dogs suffering from terrible abuse and horrific neglect. Inspired to act, Lori and her coworkers created Downtown Dog Rescue, which has evolved into a large volunteer-based animal charity that rescues dogs and assists underserved communities in South East Los Angeles, Watts and Compton. In 2013, Downtown Dog Rescue created the South L.A. Shelter Intervention Program, which provides pet owners resources to keep their pets at home, rather than abandon them or relinquish them to shelters.
ASPCA® Public Service Award recipient, Commissioner William J. Bratton on behalf of the New York City Police Department
In early 2014, the ASPCA initiated a historic and groundbreaking partnership with the NYPD in which the NYPD responds to all animal cruelty complaints city-wide, while the ASPCA provides expanded direct care support for animal cruelty victims. Thanks to the dedication of tens of thousands of NYPD officers—newly-trained and firmly on the case of animal abuse—animal cruelty arrests in the first six months of the program increased nearly 160 percent, and the number of animals rescued and treated by the ASPCA increased 180 percent. This past summer, the NYPD formed the department’s first Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad, which will solely focus on serving the abused and neglected animals of the city, making New York City one of the safest places in America for animals.
During the holidays it can be difficult to make it out of stores alive, never mind navigating the confusing labels around farm animals’ welfare. If you eat meat, eggs or dairy, look for certifications that require better treatment and independent farm audits, specifically Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and GAP (Levels 2+ for turkeys and 3+ for chickens). Unfortunately, common terms like “humane,” “hormone-free,” and “natural” can be meaningless when it comes to animals’ welfare. Take our label guide with you so you’re armed with facts.
2. Beware of Cheap Meat
Holidays can be expensive, so it’s especially tempting to go for money-saving promotions at the supermarket. But both consumers and animals can pay a steep price for cheap meat, eggs and dairy—in the form of poor animal welfare, poor quality and potential human health risks. Animal products often cost less because companies cut corners with welfare, but all things considered, choosing higher-welfare animal products is a much better deal.
3. Go to the Source
Whether you’re a city mouse or a country mouse, there’s bound to be a farmer’s market in your vicinity. Use this search engine to locate one. There you can often talk directly to people who work on or for the farms to learn how they raise animals. Start by asking about the farm’s policies on cages, debeaking, feedlots and antibiotics. Farmers tend to appreciate an informed consumer, so don’t be shy.
4. Plant Power
Try adding more vegetables to your holiday meal. Veggies are super healthy, look beautiful, and tons of recipes exist to make them taste delicious. You might also try some of the ever-more-available and tasty plant-based alternatives for meat, egg and dairy products. Testing out plant-based versions of old favorites or bringing in new veggie-based dishes is an exciting opportunity to develop new family traditions. Let us know your favorites in the comments section!
5. Ask and Receive
Above all, don’t forget that you have the power to demand more humanely raised products in your stores. This holiday season and going forward, you can impact which brands your grocery store carries. Start by demanding more humanely raised chicken in your stores with our supermarket request letter.
If you’re in the market for a new best friend, look no further than Ruth. She may seem shy at first, but don’t be fooled—once this pretty girl gets to know you, she’ll stick by your side like glue. With a little patience, a lot of love and her favorite toys, Ruth will warm up to her new family in no time.
This sweet girl plays well with others and would make a great best friend to your resident dog. Like most New Yorkers, Ruth loves to be on the move and prefers daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. She’d be thrilled to join you for a jog through the park or spend an afternoon playing with her canine buddies at the dog park. Ruth would do best with an experienced adopter in a household with kids ages 10-and-up. Adopt Ruth today!
Ruth is available for adoption at the ASPCA Adoption Center. If you are interested in adopting, please call our Adoptions department in New York City at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120. To learn more about Ruth, please visit her profile page.
From age to color to personality, there are a lot of factors that might go into a choosing a new pet. And though we try to find the best animal for every adopter, we can’t always guarantee an exact match. So when Wendy and Jamie A. came to the ASPCA Adoption Center with not one, but two, certain types of kitties in mind, we never dreamed that they would get quite this lucky! Here is the story of how this happy couple created two Happy Tails for cats named Bronte and Macaroni.
Bronte and Macaroni are about as different as their names suggest. Macaroni, a three-pound, five-month-old kitten, came to the ASPCA when she was just four weeks old. She had been rescued from a hoarding situation and she was timid, shy and fearful of strangers. In addition, the tiny kitty suffered from a severe eye infection that left a white scar across her cornea and blindness in one eye.
Bronte, on the other hand, was five years old when she was rescued by the ASPCA. Also saved from a hoarding situation, she was wary of strangers but had a distinctly social side to her personality. Though they were at the ASPCA Adoption Center at the same time, the two kitties were in different parts of the facility and had never met—until Jamie and Wendy showed up early in September.
After losing their beloved 18-year-old rescue kitty, Elspeth, Jamie and Wendy were heartbroken. Though they knew he could never be replaced, their house didn’t feel like a “home” without cats. Wendy recalls, “We had too much love to give and we knew there were too many kitties out there in need of love.” The couple agreed that it was time to adopt again, but they were torn on what they wanted. Wendy hoped for an older, black cat, stating, “I knew that they were harder to adopt out.” Jamie, on the other hand, was hoping for a special-needs kitten that would remind him of his best friend of 18 years, Elspeth. They decided to head to the ASPCA Adoption Center to take a look around.
Wendy remembers her first meeting with Bronte at the Adoption Center very vividly. “I sat on the floor in the front area and she came over and rubbed against me right away. Not only was she a beautiful, shiny, five-year-old black cat, but I noticed that the tip of one ear was missing. This imperfection made me love her all the more!”
Meanwhile, in a different part of the Adoption Center, Jamie met Macaroni. “The only kitten to reach out to him just happened to be the same coloring (gray and white) as Elspeth,” Wendy recalls. “Macaroni was also blind in one eye. Jamie was smitten with this kitten right away!”
Having found the older black cat and special-needs kitten they were hoping for, the couple decided to adopt both that same day. They changed Bronte’s name to “Maya” and Macaroni’s to “Gelsomina,” and headed home to begin their new life as a foursome.
Back at home, Maya and Gelsomina (or Gelsie, as she’s called) got to know each other—and their new home—right away. Wendy says, “They’ve adjusted beautifully. Maya is extremely affectionate and sleeps in my arms every night. She’s more loving than I could have imagined!” Both cats love to take advantage of the many windows in their home, and they love to spend their days on window sills, in their “cat tree,” or in their cat beds watching birds and enjoying the view. Wendy adds, “Gelsie is a rambunctious rascal that loves to play. She also loves her big sis. We expect some major cuddling between the two come winter.”
It’s hard to believe that these two very different kitties from two separate hoarding situations could end up in the same happy home. Gelsie and Maya were not only perfect for Wendy and Jamie—they were a perfect fit for each other, too.