When disaster strikes, it is the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team's first priority to get into the field to save as many animals as possible. At the height of the recent flooding in Tennessee, the team navigated swift water currents, pulling struggling animals from floodwaters, out of trees and from dilapidated homes.
On May 8, a family who had been forced to leave pets behind placed a desperate call to authorities. "The family had been able to move the animals to higher ground before they were evacuated," reports Allison Cardona, the ASPCA's Director of Operations. "But this was almost four days ago, and we had no idea the conditions we would find them in."
Aided by the ASPCA's powerful and fully equipped search and rescue boat, the Team set off for the home in question. "In situations such as these, proper gear and equipment is vital for a successful rescue," says Kyle Held, Midwest Director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. "When doing water rescues, it's always the unseen that presents the biggest hazard. The murk could be covering shattered glass, wire fencing, even cars or other large objects that the boat could potentially hit—or worse, that a rescuer could step on or become entangled in"
Yet, the most eminent danger of floodwater is contamination. The water itself becomes a deadly toxic soup, which can cause serious harm to both humans and animals, reports Held. "It's polluted by everything you find in a home—sewage, kerosene, garbage, bleach and other hazardous chemicals—and it's everywhere."
Navigating the flood waters, the team arrived at the scene to discover a dozen chickens, a peacock and a goat congregated on a tiny area of dry land which was rapidly shrinking with the rising water. "When you see an emergency situation like this, the initial impulse can to be to rush in because you know the animals are in desperate need," reports Allison Cardona, the ASPCA's Director of Operations. "But you have to slow down, size up the entire scene and determine the safest course of action." An investigation of the home, uncovered a cat, as well.
After taking precautions, the team successfully secured the animals on the boat. During their final survey of the scene, they noticed a small Tabby cat stuck on top of what appeared to be a small trailer engulfed in water. "The cat was hiding in a small nook," says Cardona. "The amount of dry space left was so small, she was soaked, but surrounded by 4-feet of water, there was nowhere for her to go."
The ASPCA search and rescue boat has the capacity to hold dozens of animals comfortably. "As soon as the animals were secured in the boat, they fell asleep," says Joel Lopez, ASPCA's Logistics Manager. "Between the rain, followed by severe heat, and not having access to food or water, they were just exhausted. I like to think they were finally able to relax, now that relief had come."
The next step was to get the animals back to the shelter and decontaminated, a process that consists of repeated washings with Dawn liquid dish detergent. "We set up several decontamination stations at the shelter," explains Lopez. "These animals have been exposed to heavily polluted waters, and since they groom themselves by licking their fur or preening their feathers, the risk for serious illness is high."
At the shelter, a reunion of pets with their families is always a touching experience and this case was no exception. "The family was there to greet us as we arrived back at the shelter," says Lopez. "Emotions were high—they were just so happy to be reunited with their beloved pets."
Signed into federal law in 1999, the Crush Act banned the creation, sale and possession of materials depicting genuine acts of animal cruelty where such acts are illegal. The law had effectively dried up U.S. commerce in “crush” fetish videos (also called “squish” videos), which generally depict a woman’s feet crushing to death small animals such as rodents and kittens. Unfortunately, three weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Crush Act unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. The Court’s main concern was the broadness of the law’s language, which could make the law applicable in many circumstances not intended by its authors.
The day after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Representative Gallegly (R-CA) introduced H.R. 5092, a new bill designed to overcome the Court’s decision to strike down the Crush Act. The bill amends the Crush Act to give it a much narrower focus, but would still prohibit selling or offering to sell any depictions of animals being crushed, drowned, impaled, or burned where such acts are illegal. Passage of H.R. 5092 will help ensure that the crush video industry is not revitalized in the absence of an enforceable federal law.
Since its introduction, H.R. 5092 has gained tremendous support in the House of Representatives. Out of the House’s 435 voting members, 199 have signed on as cosponsors. H.R. 5092 is currently awaiting action in the House Committee on the Judiciary.
If you would like to help fight animal suffering and exploitation, please visit aspca.org/HR5092 to quickly send an email to your U.S. representative asking him or her to support the revised Crush Act. We also encourage animal lovers to become members of the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to receive important, timely news about pending animal-related legislation in your state and in Congress.
While many have their sights on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, four counties in Tennessee have been declared a federal disaster area after devastating floods hit the Southern state. The flash floods killed at least 28 people and put Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House under six feet of water, and have also affected countless numbers of companion animals, livestock and wildlife.
Earlier this week, members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team were deployed at the request of the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society to help with the crisis. The ASPCA is currently on the ground caring for more than 70 animals, including dogs, cats and various birds rescued from floodwaters, trees, rooftops and abandoned homes. The team is also continuing the search for additional animal victims.
Thursday morning, in conjunction with the Dyersburg Fire Department, the Field Investigations and Response Team explored the flooded streets using a search and rescue boat. Reports had recently surfaced that a herd of cattle was stranded in a nearby pasture.
"The fire department took us on their rescue boat to survey the flooded area," reports Allison Cardona, the ASPCA's Director of Operations. "But the current was a lot stronger than we anticipated, and it was determined not safe to do the cattle check by boat."
The team immediately began searching for an alternative way to reach the stranded herd. Within hours, with the help of local authorities, they were able locate a small-plane pilot willing to take Cardona on a fly-over of the flooded pasture.
"We saw approximately 35 head of cattle in the affected area," she reports. "Fortunately the water was receding, the cows appeared active, and they had access to dry land."
"Countless numbers of animals have been adversely impacted by the storms' recent destruction and are in need of emergency care," says ASPCA Senior VP of Anti-Cruelty, Matt Bershadker. "We are proud to assist Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society and to be in a position to provide aid for all animal victims."
UPDATE: If you would like to directly help the animals impacted by this disaster—either with donations or by fostering/adopting—please contact the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society at (731) 285-4889 or through its website, dyerhumane.org.
On May 7, the trial of Dachshund killer Dudley Ramsay came to a close. The 25-year-old Brooklyn man was found guilty of aggravated animal cruelty for the deadly beating of his 5-month-old puppy, Junior. The incident occurred in 2006.
An ironworker by trade, Ramsay was convicted of punching and repeatedly smashing the pup against the side of the tub. In spite of the dog’s obvious injuries, Ramsay then waited several hours before taking Junior to a veterinary hospital—ultimately resulting in the dog’s death. A necropsy showed extensive internal injuries, including six fractured ribs and damage to the liver and lungs. The alarmed veterinarian contacted the ASPCA for assistance.
After a thorough investigation, Ramsay was arrested by ASPCA Special Agent Richard Ryan. Upon questioning, Ramsay admitted that he was only trying to "discipline" Junior for misbehaving during a bath. Further inquiry resulted in Ramsay confessing to killing his first Dachshund puppy, Viola, and burying her body in the backyard. Viola’s remains were unearthed, and a necropsy performed at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Hospital revealed that the small dog’s skull had been crushed.
“I think I need help with anger management because I killed my first dog, too,” Ramsey stated several hours after his arrest, according to Special Agent Ryan’s testimony in court.
The brutality of Ramsay's acts impelled Deputy Assistant District Attorney Carol Moran to push for the maximum sentence allowed by law—two years in jail. Despite her efforts, Ramsay was acquitted of killing Viola, but found guilty of felony animal cruelty in the death of Junior. He was sentenced to four months incarceration by Judge Michael Gary. The ruling also places Ramsay on five years probation, mandates anger management training and psychological counseling, and he is banned from owning an animal for eight years.
"While the severity of the crime certainly would have justified a stiffer sentence, we are pleased that this senseless violence resulted in a felony conviction and a term of incarceration," says Stacy Wolf, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel for ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement.
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.
After two days of intense thunderstorms that brought devastating floods to the city of Nashville, TN, and forced evacuations across multiple states, members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team have been deployed at the request of the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society. The ASPCA is currently on the ground helping to care for more than 70 companion animals, including dogs, cats and various birds that were rescued from floodwaters, trees, rooftops and abandoned homes in the Dyersburg city limits, approximately 80 miles north of Memphis.
ASPCA responders arrived Tuesday afternoon and immediately established a temporary shelter behind the humane society to handle the overflow of animals—providing extra cages, bowls, food, industrial fans and other necessary supplies. The team also set up a decontamination station where animals affected by the polluted flood water can be washed and cleaned.
"The temporary shelter has helped ease the strain on the already full humane society," says Allison Cardona, the ASPCA Director of Operations. "The Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society and its staff and volunteers have been extremely dedicated toward the animals in their community during this life-threatening event."
The ASPCA has also worked with local authorities to implement a water rescue team, with volunteers navigating some areas in small motor boats to access abandoned pets. Most of the animals in custody have been removed from homes at the request of pet parents forced to evacuate and will be housed at the temporary shelter until they are claimed. All incoming animals will recieve a physical exam, and if veterinary records cannot be located, will be vaccinated as a precaution. The Humane Society is not charging for the emergency boarding or medical care.
"Our city has been declared a disaster area and many neighborhoods have been evacuated," says Dr. Carol Feather, President and Co-founder of the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society. "We're grateful for the ASPCA's assistance, and to our own staff and volunteers, all of whom have been working non-stop to help animals that are abandoned or lost. We want to save all the animals we can—that's our job."
In addition to the ASPCA, local businesses assisting Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society include Hollywood Feed, which provided cages, and Pet Stop, which relieved the organization of some of its adoptable pets so room could be made for incoming animals.
"The ASPCA will continue to provide supplies, support and manage the temporary shelter and decontamination area for as long as we're needed," says Cardona. "We are glad to be in a position to provide relief."
Please stay tuned to the ASPCA blog for breaking news on this disaster and our efforts to aid.