On August 25, ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Agents arrested Matthew Soto, co-owner and daily manager of Bark & Play, a dog-boarding and day-care facility in Brooklyn, NY. Soto has been charged with five counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty for severely neglecting several dogs boarded at the kennel.
The investigation began in late June after ASPCA Agents discovered that the facility was housing dogs in extremely unsanitary conditions. The animals were left unattended in poorly ventilated areas saturated with urine and feces. Two underweight Pit Bull mixes named Tango and Sweets were transported to the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, where they were treated for severe urine burns as well as other conditions of neglect. Dr. Robert Reisman, ASPCA Medical Coordinator of Animal Abuse Cases, provided emergency veterinary treatment.
Tango and Sweets were just two of several dogs who had been boarded at the kennel by local rescue groups. "Rescue groups would pay the facility to temporarily board dogs until they found homes for them," says Stacy Wolf, the ASPCA’s Vice President of Chief Legal Counsel for Humane Law Enforcement. "However, several dogs had been left there for months."
Tango, pictured here at the ASPCA, is recovering from his injuries and will soon be made available for adoption.
Soto faces up to two years in jail if convicted. Since the June seizure, Bark & Play has closed its doors to the public.
If you know of an animal whose health is being compromised by neglect or abuse, please report it. Visit our Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty in your neighborhood.
We’re already three weeks into the ASPCA $100K Challenge, and our contestants are showing some great adoption numbers and creative promotions to save more animals’ lives. Check out some of the highlights below, and stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn who else is kicking butt and taking names in the race to the $100K finish.
McKamey Animal Care & Adoption Center in Chattanooga, TN, celebrated the start of the Challenge by distributing free collars and tags to promote the importance of proper ID for pets. “We are working to increase our return to owner (RTO) rates,” reports McKamey. “So often we receive loving animals who we know must have families, but we cannot reunite them with their pet parents because they do not have identification.”
Speaking of RTOs, the Kent County SPCA of Camden, DE, returned a staggering 43 dogs and 3 cats to their pet parents during the first week of the Challenge. Some great numbers are also coming out of Colorado: As of August 13, a mere two weeks into the Challenge, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley had adopted out 118 cats and 65 dogs—“an increase of 49 animals since the same time last year,” they report.
No rest for the weary at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. When the Alabama shelter was closed one day last week, the organization still managed to turn in some exceptional results. That day, GBHS says, “the Lone Ranger, as we call our only veterinarian here, completed 26 spay/neuter surgeries and eight dentals!”
We’re consistently wowed by the innovative ways the Challengers are getting their communities involved in the action to find homes for needy pets. On August 7, Maui Humane Society assembled a team of 10 adoptable dogs for Pet Night at the Na Koa Ikaika Maui baseball game, where ticket proceeds benefitted the shelter. Meanwhile, the SPCA of Wake County in Raleigh, NC, got out some its favorite animal costumes and held an epic photo shoot with its Pit Crew.
Earlier this week, the ASPCA granted $12,000 to Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue of Lancaster, CA after the organization rescued 166 wild mustangs from a Nevada auction block. The horses, who had been living on public land, were seized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and turned over to the Nevada Department of Agriculture for public sale—many destined for foreign meat markets. After garnering incredible public support, Lifesavers was able to save the equines from potential slaughter.
In a tragic twist of fate, several of the horses fell sick soon after rescue—blood tests revealed they were positive for the West Nile Virus. Transmitted by mosquitoes and at times fatal, West Nile Virus affects countless numbers of horses each year. Symptoms typically include stumbling, wobbly gait, circling, hind limb weakness, inability to stand, fever, seizure, coma and paralysis. Unfortunately, six of the horses died due to virus complications.
To decrease the spread of infection among the uninfected horses, Lifesavers worked with local veterinarians to vaccinate the entire herd. The funds donated by the ASPCA were used to provide the critical care and life-saving medical treatments needed.
"These horses were lucky enough to escape slaughter, and Lifesavers made an extraordinary effort to provide for them during this unfortunate outbreak," says Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of Community Initiatives for the ASPCA. "Treating such a large group is a challenging task and the ASPCA was honored to assist in providing these animals with a second chance."
Since 1997, Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue has provided refuge, training and placement for hundreds of horses in need.
Take Action—Join the Pony Express! Your help is needed to help stop the inhumane roundup of wild equines. The National Wild Horse Foundation is urging animals advocates from across the country to join their Pony Express campaign—a life-saving letter writing initiative.
Supporters are asked to visit Saving America's Mustangs, click on the Pony Express button and compose a polite letter urging the BLM to end their needless slaughter and confinement of wild horses and burros.
Madeline Pickens, the organization's founder, will print and personally deliver the letters to President Obama, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey via “Pony Express”—on one of her many rescued mustangs. The group has set a goal of collecting 20,000 letters by September 1, so be sure to add your voice to the Pony Express today!
On August 18, the ASPCA Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) Team and Humane Law Enforcement Agents (HLE) rescued 11 dogs—mostly medium-sized Pit Bull and Shepherd mixes—from a small apartment in Brooklyn, NY. The rescued animals lived in cramped and unsuitable conditions with 10 other dogs who will also be removed from the home in the near future.
"A misguided rescuer, the owner took in most of the dogs after finding them abandoned in nearby streets and yards," reports Stacy Wolf, ASPCA Vice President and HLE's Chief Legal Counsel. "Since they were not spayed or neutered, a few dogs soon became more than 20, far more than the tiny apartment or the owner's meager means could support."
As they were led out of the apartment building, Stacy says, the dogs were wide-eyed and appeared startled by daylight. They likely spent most of their lives without setting foot outdoors—some refused to walk and were carried by their owner with their legs wrapped around her neck. With expert animal handling skills and compassion, the CIA team and HLE Agents made all 11 dogs as comfortable as possible in crates for the trip to the ASPCA headquarters in Manhattan. The CIA team also comforted and reassured the owner, who assisted in removing the dogs and thanked the team for helping in her time of need.
The 11 rescued dogs are being cared for by staff at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where the remaining 10 dogs will join them in groups. All of the canines will be evaluated medically and behaviorally before being made available for adoption or being transferred to partner rescue groups. The ASPCA Adoption Center and ASPCA Animal Hospital Teams—along with several rescue and shelter partners—have stepped forward to lend a hand in giving these dogs a second chance at better lives.
Animal hoarding is a complex and far-reaching community health issue. It encompasses mental health, animal welfare and public safety concerns. For more information about our efforts to help the human and animal victims of hoarding, please visit our Hoarding FAQ.
The ASPCA is excited to announce the upcoming release of The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Sports Illustrated senior editor Jim Gorant (Gotham Books: September 2010; $26.00). The book covers the Vick case from beginning to end, explaining how Vick and his cohorts were caught, detailing the abysmal treatment of the animals and examining the difficult path to rehabilitation—and the ultimate triumph—of dozens of abused dogs.
Luckily, you won’t have to wait until September to learn more about The Lost Dogs—Parade magazine, which is bundled with the Sunday editions of more than 500 newspapers nationwide, is running a feature article on the book and the lives of the rescued dogs this weekend. Look for the article on Sunday, or visit Parade’s website for a sneak peek today.
During the Michael Vick investigation, the ASPCA’s forensic veterinary team, led by Dr. Melinda Merck, helped produce the evidence that led to guilty pleas. The ASPCA’s Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, Executive Vice President, and Dr. Randy Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President, Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects, led a team of certified applied animal behaviorists in behavior evaluations of nearly 50 rescued dogs; as a result, all but one were spared euthanasia. This was an unprecedented outcome for seized fighting dogs at the time. Drs. Merck and Zawistowski are quoted extensively in Gorant’s new book.
The Lost Dogs can be preordered now on Amazon.com and will soon be available for purchase from the ASPCA Online Store. To learn more about the ASPCA’s involvement in the 2007 Michael Vick dog fighting case, visit our Fight Cruelty section.