On Friday morning, June 4, the ASPCA proudly unveiled our first-ever Animal Rescue Transport Trailer at a ceremony in New York City’s famed Times Square. The custom-built, two-piece, 60-foot-long vehicle can accommodate up to 60 animals and was designed to increase the ability of our Field Investigations and Response Team to deploy to emergency situations across the country. In addition to animal and equipment transport, the new vehicle will enable technical animal rescue, crime scene investigation, forensic analysis and disaster response functions.
“In the past four months alone, the ASPCA has rescued animals from puppy mills, hoarding situations and Tennessee flood zones,” says Tim Rickey, Senior Director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “In every situation, time was of the essence. Our new vehicle is a vital resource in accelerating our response time, and will allow us to assist more animals who are stranded or in need of temporary shelter. In any of these cases, the ASPCA is ready to respond.”
The Animal Rescue Transport Trailer was made possible with funds generously donated by the Silberstein Foundation of New York and the Grousbeck Family Foundation of California. It will be based in Missouri, where it is headed this week.
On June 1, the ASPCA joined a coalition of animal welfare advocates, veterinarians, family farmers and environmental organizations in support of a citizen-backed ballot initiative to help prevent cruel factory farming practices in the state of Ohio. The coalition, Ohioans for Humane Farms, is asking the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to implement minimum care standards, including the humane euthanasia of sick and injured animals, a prohibition of cruel confinement practices, and the prevention of sick and injured animals from entering the food supply. Similar laws have already been enacted in Michigan, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon.
On June 7, the ASPCA announced a $5,000 grant awarded to the equine rescue group Speak Up for Horses. The funding was gifted to assist with the care and placement of 48 severely neglected horses seized by local law authorities during a cruelty raid in Breckenridge County, Kentucky.
In April 2009, authorities discovered 11 dead horses and another 48 starving on a Breckenridge County farm. After the conviction of the farm owner, the horses were slated for auction and possible slaughter. Fortunately, with the support of Breckenridge County Executive Judge Ray Powers, Speak Up for Horses was able to acquire the animals and begin the slow process of rehabilitation. Speak Up for Horses supports the rescue of slaughter-bound horses and partners with a variety of equine organizations to rescue at-risk equines.
“Caring for 48 neglected horses is extremely rewarding, but also challenging,” says Shelly Price, Board Secretary of Speak Up for Horses. “It is imperative for us to give these horses humane care and ensure that they live out their lives in peaceful retirement. Without the ASPCA's support, this would not have been possible.”
Of the original 48 rescued, more than 30 have been placed in new homes, where an additional 10 foals have been born. The remaining 16 horses are currently receiving additional training to increase their opportunities for adoption.
“The sad reality is that abandoned and neglected horses often end up at auctions, or even worse, slaughterhouses, where their lives come to a brutal end,” says Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of Community Initiatives for the ASPCA. “Speak Up for Horses has been instrumental in rescuing at-risk horses while increasing awareness about equine welfare."
In the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill, the ASPCA has donated $15,000 to the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation (TVMF) in Austin, TX, to develop a detailed curriculum and training program for emergency animal responders in the Texas Gulf region. Established in 1978, TVMF is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of animals through owner education programs, veterinary student scholarships and emergency funds, and continuing education programs.
“The ASPCA recognizes the importance of disaster preparedness and assembling the resources to assist animal victims of both natural and man-made disasters,” says Allison Cardona, Director of Operations for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team. “We’re pleased to support the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation’s efforts to create specially trained teams.”
TVMF will recruit a number of professionals in veterinary medicine, law enforcement, and the animal sheltering field who will receive training in disaster zone assessment, animal care and handling methods, and disaster response procedures.
“As we've seen with the Gulf Coast oil spill and Hurricane Ike, disasters will always happen,” says Kay Mayfield, Executive Director of Texas State Animal Resource Team (TxSART), the companion animal emergency management branch of the TVMF. “Through TxSART, we now have a united front to manage emergencies, and the creation of specialized and skilled response teams will improve our effectiveness.”
Last year, the City of New York gave Shamrock Stables—the West 45th Street home to more than two dozen Central Park carriage horses—until June of this year to move out of its current, City-owned facilities. The City has kept its deadline and plans to demolish the current stables to build an affordable housing development that will include a new school, stores and open spaces.
Shamrock Stables has been leasing its lot from the City for below market value for many years, and Midtown's other horse stables are already packed to capacity. With a scarcity of properties that are close to Central Park, appropriately priced and zoned, the future of these carriage horses is up in the air.
The ASPCA, in collaboration with NY-CLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets), has made an offer to Shamrock Stables and the City to find homes for the horses and relocate them to safer, more humane environments. This option would put the welfare of the horses first, and prevent them from being auctioned off to work farms, the slaughterhouse or other venues where the possibility for exploitation and inhumane treatment is high.
“At this time, we have made a clear offer to Shamrock Stables,” says Michelle Villagomez, ASPCA Senior Manager of Advocacy. “We stand ready to assist in any way we can to help improve conditions for these horses.”
"Even though we have opposing views on the proper treatment of horses, we believe that in this case, we can all work together on their behalf," says ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. "We stand ready to cooperate with Shamrock Stables and the City on this important issue."