Good news—the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed regulations for the care of “organic” dairy cows, which we asked you take action on two weeks ago, have been approved! The new rules, effective June 17, stipulate that organic milk and meat must come from livestock grazing on pasture for at least four months of the year; 30 percent of the cows’ feed must come from grazing; and ranchers must have a plan to protect soil and water quality.
“We are delighted to learn that so many cows will now have access to pasture and an opportunity to graze,” says Robert Baker, ASPCA Senior Manager of Farm Animal Welfare. “We hope this will be the first of many steps the USDA will take to align organic standards with humane standards. Consumers need to be given an opportunity to make a ‘humane’ choice as well as a healthy choice when they choose organic products. We welcome these initial measures toward this goal.”
We would like to give a big thanks to News Alert readers and members of the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade who took the time to email the White House from ASPCA.org. Over the span of 15 days, more than 33,000 emails were sent!
“Clear and enforceable standards are essential to the health and success of the market for organic agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a USDA press release issued last Friday. “The final rule published today will give consumers confidence that organic milk or cheese comes from cows raised on pasture, and organic family farmers the assurance that there is one, consistent pasture standard that applies to dairy products.”
For the second time in a week, the ASPCA helped respond to a suspected dog fighting ring in rural Georgia. On February 21, five days after the ASPCA rescued 26 alleged fighting dogs left to die in Sandersville, GA; the Washington County Sheriff’s Department received a second tip.
The anonymous call led deputies to a property in the East Sandersville section of Washington County, GA. When the Washington County Sheriff’s Department arrived, two dogs were in the act of fighting and three men fled the scene. ASPCA Investigators helped secure the scene and found nine other dogs on the property. Eight of the dogs found were severely underweight and some of the dogs were suffering from various skin ailments.
On February 16, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team along with Washington County officials rescued 24 dogs and recovered the remains of 6 others and identified a total of over two dozen grave sites. While the two cases are very similar in nature, authorities believe they are unrelated.
“The second tip came in because the witness had seen the first case on television news reports,” says ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty, Matt Bershadker. “This just proves the importance of reporting cruelty and the fact that it inspires others to take action as well.”
Authorities have two suspects in custody in conjunction with the East Sandersville case. Other arrests and animal cruelty charges are anticipated. The dogs from East Sandersville have since joined the two dozen others at an emergency shelter, where officials from the ASPCA and United Animal Nations are caring for their immediate needs. The dogs from both cases are being provided with all necessary medical care and are in the process of undergoing behavioral assessments.
For the latest information about the rescued dogs or for information on how you can report cruelty, please visit ASPCA.org.
On Wednesday, February 17, under the authority of the Washington County (GA) Sheriff's Office, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team assisted in the rescue of 26 Pit Bulls near Sandersville, Georgia.
The dogs, allegedly used for fighting and breeding, were found chained to tire axles and posts scattering the 25-acre property. Left to starve without sufficient food, water or adequate shelter from freezing temperatures, all were severely emaciated and suffering from obvious neglect, including broken bones, wounds and a variety of infections. An additional six dogs were found dead and in various stages of decomposition.
"It's bad enough that these dogs were treated cruelly and raised in horrible conditions," said Tim Rickey, the ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response. "But to leave them like this to starve is incomprehensible and speaks exactly to the kinds of heinous crimes the ASPCA fights day in and day out."
Authorities believe the dogs had been used for fighting. "They bear the battle scars consistent with those of fighting dogs," Rickey said. "Being chained 24/7 is no way to live—they have lived miserable lives, and are just starved for human contact."
With the help of other rescue organizations, including the United Animal Nations and Sumter DART (Disaster Animal Response Team), the dogs were safely transferred to an emergency shelter in Washington County where they received immediate triage by a team of veterinarians, including Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, and Dr. Robert Reisman, ASPCA Coordinator of Abuse Cases. They were assisted by ASPCA veterinary technicians and Dr. Jason Byrd, Associate Director of the Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida.
Washington County authorities intend to arrest the caretaker of the animals, who claims the original owner did not provide the dogs with adequate food or other necessities. Other arrests and animal cruelty charges are anticipated.
"We are grateful to be able to respond to this situation, and for the agencies assisting us," said Deputy Lynn Schlup of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, who contacted the ASPCA for assistance.
The dogs will be cared for at the temporary shelter by volunteers of United Animal Nations until a forfeiture hearing. For the latest information about the rescued dogs, please visit ASPCA.org.
On February 7, while folks around the country celebrated Super Bowl Sunday, the ASPCA Adoption Center was in festive spirit, as well. ASPCA experts gathered to welcome 34 dogs rescued from a notorious puppy mill operation in Holly Springs, MS. The dogs, which include small breeds such as Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers, Corgis and Chihuahuas, were discovered living in feces-encrusted pens and filth. The ASPCA worked with Pet Airways to bring the rescued pooches to the Big Apple.
“We are grateful for the collaboration of Pet Airways, which offered to fly these dogs at cost, as well as local and out-of-state animal welfare agencies that assisted in this effort,” said Matt Bershadker, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group.
Last week, under the authority and request of Shirley C. Byers of the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office in Marshall County, MS, the ASPCA dispatched members of our Field Investigations and Response Team to manage operations in the investigation of a local puppy mill. More than 95 dogs were seized and signed over to the ASPCA. Many were underweight with skin problems, among other medical conditions.
Participating agencies on the scene included American Humane Association, Marshall County Humane Society, Mississippi State University and Collierville Humane Society. In addition, many veterinarians and volunteers assisted in the on-site medical treatment of the animals.
“We are glad to have been able to be part of another major, collaborative effort to rescue these dogs from such deplorable conditions,” said Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President, ASPCA Adoptions Center. “Once we have medically and behaviorally evaluated these dogs, we look forward to finding them forever homes.”
For more information about puppy mills and how to fight animal cruelty, visit www.aspca.org.
The ASPCA is extremely grateful to the shelters and organizations that have aided in the housing and future placement of these animals. We are honored to recognize their generosity. They include:
On February 3, the trial of “gothic kitty” creator, Holly Crawford of Luzerne County, PA, came to a close. Crawford was charged with using a 14-gauge needle to pierce the ears, necks and tails of three kittens and then attempting to sell the bejeweled felines over the Internet. The 35-year-old was found guilty of one misdemeanor count and one summary count of animal cruelty.
Crawford, who owns a dog grooming business, was charged after a tip led humane investigators and the state police to her home on December 17, 2008. Investigators found and seized three kittens wearing heavy ear, neck and tail piercing jewelry. At least one of the kittens had a thick elastic band wrapped around its tail to prevent blood flow, as a means of docking it.
Crawford pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying she used sterile needles and surgical soap when piercing the kittens. Her defense attorney further argued that parents often have the ears of their children pierced.
Despite these arguments, a Luzerne County jury found Crawford guilty. Helping to seal the conviction was expert testimony from the ASPCA’s leading forensics veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck, who testified that the kittens had been maimed and disfigured, had their hearing altered, and could have died.
The cats are now recovering in the custody of a local SPCA—the cost of their rehabilitation already exceeding $1,000.
Crawford’s sentencing hearing is set for March 31. She faces up to five years in prison.
If you know of an animal who is being hurt, please report it. To report animal cruelty in New York City, call the ASPCA's tip line at (877) THE-ASPCA. Visit our Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty elsewhere.