There is a new victim of the shadowy world of animal fighting—the Saffron Finch. This small yellow songbird is the latest species to be fought in what is often a battle to the death. In nature, the 6-inch songbirds, indigenous to parts of South America, become very aggressive during mating. These fights, however, are often short-lived, as the birds have the option to fly away. In organized finch fights, the bird's natural instincts are exaggerated. Two male birds are placed in cages specifically built to promote competition—a female finch is suspended in a small box that hangs from the top of the cage. In many cases, the fighting birds will also have their bills sharpened to fine points or wear special blades to ensure maximum damage.
"I understand it sounds odd," says Tim Rickey, the ASPCA Director of Field Investigations. "But cruelty is cruelty, and the suffering that's part of this practice is horrible."
Besides being cruel to animals, finch fighting is closely connected to other crimes such as gambling, drugs and acts of violence. "The individuals who enjoy this kind of brutality, who attend these fights should be regarded as very dangerous," Rickey says. "They're the same type of people who enjoy dog fighting and rooster fighting."
Also known as canary fighting, this blood sport was prevalent in Brazil until it was banned two decades ago—but that hasn't stopped it from coming to America. Over the past several months, authorities have busted two finch fighting operations on the East Coast. Last June, 19 men were arrested and 150 birds seized in a Connecticut bust. And just last month, more than 20 finches were seized in a Massachusetts raid, where an investigation is ongoing.
"There's more of this going on than people know," says Rickey. "Finches are much cheaper to raise, they're quieter, and they're easier to transport and secret away. Trends like this, once they kick off, don't take much time to catch on."
When a tip came in about the suspected abuse of a Bulldog pup named Spike, our Humane Law Enforcement Department took immediate action. Working hard to make New York City a safer place for its four-legged inhabitants, our Agents often rely on the brave and swift actions of concerned citizens who report acts of animal cruelty.
On Monday, the ASPCA announced the Million Dollar Rescuing Racers Initiative to help rescue retired racehorses from neglect, abuse and slaughter. The two-to-three year initiative, which was made possible by a generous donor, involves six equine rescue groups and sanctuaries that have accepted the challenge of saving more thoroughbreds than ever before.
While healthy, well cared-for horses live an average of 18 to 25 years (and often much longer), a racing horse’s career generally lasts only one or two years. “Racing thoroughbreds rarely live out their final days in peace and comfort when their careers are over,” says ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. “Too often, they end up at auctions—or worse, are sent to foreign slaughterhouses where their lives come to brutal ends. These grants will give organizations devoted to equine rescue the ability to save more horses and further advance their missions.”
The six grant recipients are: California Equine Retirement Foundation in Winchester, CA; Old Friends in Georgetown, KY; MidAtlantic Horse Rescue in Chesapeake City, MD; Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Lexington, KY; Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation headquartered in Saratoga Springs, NY, with contracted housing in 14 states; and Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER) in East Lansing, MI, with chapters in eight states. These recipients will use the grants to expand direct intake programs, incorporate physical therapy/rehabilitation programs, renovate facilities to accommodate more horses, create voucher programs to increase adoptions, and implement training programs for thoroughbreds to prepare them for second careers.
“The ASPCA truly values each group’s steadfast efforts to promote equine welfare,” says Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of ASPCA Community Outreach. “The thoroughbred that has given his all on the racetrack deserves to live out his life free of pain, fear and suffering.” For more information about helping horses and preventing equine cruelty, please visit ASPCA.org.
When two severely emaciated Jack Russell Terriers arrived at the New York City Animal Care & Control (AC&C) shelter in Brooklyn, staff immediately suspected they had a cruelty case on their hands. Brooklyn resident Vera Osborne had relinquished the starving dogs, claiming that her niece could no longer afford to feed them—and that she could no longer bear witness to it. One of the dogs, a two-year-old pup named Patches, died within hours of being admitted.
“Unfortunately, starvation is one of the most common types of cruelty we investigate,” says Stacy Wolf, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel for the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department. “Animal cruelty is a serious crime, and we are doing everything we can to see that the victims receive justice.”
AC&C contacted the ASPCA Humane Law Department for assistance with the case, and a necropsy performed at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital confirmed that Patches’ cause of death was indeed starvation.
Soon after, ASPCA Special Agent Joe Vais began investigating Patches’ death, traveling to Osborne’s East Flatbush home for an interview. When questioned, Osborne again stated that the dogs were under the sole care of her niece, Rlisa Youell, and that after several failed attempts to have the dogs properly cared for, she turned them over to the shelter.
On February 24, Special Agent Vais arrested Youell and charged her with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty. She faces up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Looking back at our accomplishments in 2009, champions of animal welfare throughout the United States have plenty to celebrate! For a quick and easy rundown of last year's coolest new laws, check out the Legislative Year in Review featured on ASPCA.org. You'll also get to see which animal welfare topics were popular with legislative bodies in multiple states.