On Monday, the USDA released a report in response to a front-page New York Times story detailing horrific animal abuse at the tax-funded U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). The report attempts to let USMARC off the hook for the needless pain and suffering imposed on countless animals and demonstrates that the USDA continues to be its own best rubber stamp.
The New York Times piece made clear that there were serious problems at USMARC, and in some ways, the report backs that up. It acknowledges that USMARC’s animal welfare oversight committee was not compliant with certain policies and procedures. Specifically, the animal welfare oversight committee didn’t know what its job was, didn’t adequately review or oversee animal research to ensure it was humane, and didn’t meet regularly to discuss animal welfare.
But while it’s laudable that the report calls out those problems, that’s where the accountability ends. Inexplicably, the report finds that despite widespread systemic flaws, life for the animals at USMARC is just hunky-dory and no suffering results from the complete lack of structure and welfare oversight. This conclusion defies common sense and contradicts what we saw in the New York Times piece.
While USMARC was charging ahead with animal experiments outside of compliance with its own policies, the agency was failing to notice or act. Meanwhile, federal funds were doled out to pay for these projects—including experiments that allowed hundreds of lambs to freeze to death in fields, “twinning studies” that retooled cows to have more twins even while the calves died at higher and higher rates, and “libido studies” where heifers were restrained and mounted by bulls, causing the death of at least one cow from her injuries. If not for courageous whistleblowers, who knows when or if the USDA would have investigated?
This cavalier attitude toward animal well-being simply wouldn’t be tolerated at any respectable research institution. The fact that these deficiencies exist 13 years after the USDA instituted a largely ignored policy on humane animal care and use demonstrates all too clearly where animal welfare lies on the USDA’s priority list.
They say timing is everything, and in the world of animal adoptions, nothing could be more true. For a tiny Shih Tzu named Maverick, a painful past paved the way for a bright, happy future—but none of it would have happened if he hadn’t been in the right place at the exact right time. Here is his Happy Tail.
In December 2012, Maverick was hit by a car. He was rescued by the local city shelter, but was transferred to the ASPCA once it became apparent that he couldn’t walk or use his legs. He had a fractured pelvis, a broken hip and a ruptured ligament in his knee. At the ASPCA Animal Hospital, Maverick trembled and cried while doctors assessed his situation. He was terrified of people and objects; he urinated and defecated from fear. It was clear that the poor dog was hurting in every possible way.
ASPCA veterinarians performed multiple surgeries on Maverick during his month-long stay at the hospital, and by January he was able to walk again. To ease his recovery, we sent him to live as a foster pet in the home of an ASPCA staffer, where he slowly learned to trust people. He became a regular at our facility, both as a patient and with his foster mom, and it was there that he first met Crissy.
Crissy M. had been working at the ASPCA as a customer service representative for just two weeks when she met Maverick in April 2013. “He was the $11,000 dog, that’s what we called him,” she says, referring to the costly surgeries the tiny pup had received. As a new employee, Crissy hadn’t planned on bringing home a new pet any time soon, but there was something special about Maverick, and she began visiting him on her lunch break. “He was always thrilled to see me. He was so friendly, so sweet,” she recalls fondly.
One day when Crissy went looking for Maverick, he was nowhere to be found. “I panicked,” she said, assuming that the dog had been adopted. She was waiting anxiously for the elevator when, all of a sudden, the doors opened and there he was. “He was going out for a walk with his foster mom. He had on a pink cast. I knew it was love.” Against all prior plans, Crissy knew that she and Maverick were meant to be. “I wanted to be the lucky human who gave him a loving home.”
Still in a cast, Maverick had one more hurdle to overcome: Crissy’s other dog, Rebecca. “I had Rebecca come in to meet him. She wasn’t thrilled at first, but they were cordial enough with each other that we were able to take Mav home and he finished his recovery with us,” she says. But it turns out that a little R&R—and a permanent home—were all that Maverick needed to come into his own. “Within a few days, Becky and Maverick were sharing toys and cuddles,” Crissy says with pride.
In the year since his adoption, Maverick’s life has done a complete 180, and he seems to have forgotten all about his painful past. “Maverick is definitely a mama’s boy,” Crissy says. “If I’m in the shower, he’s on the bath mat. If I’m in the kitchen, he’s at my feet. He grew very attached to us and he’s filled our home with so much happiness.”
We’ll never know who hit Maverick with that car, but we do know that in some way, it led to his meeting with Crissy at the ASPCA. If she had started working one week later, or if he hadn’t been on the elevator at that precise moment, they might never have ended up together. But as we said, timing is everything, and after all his pain, Maverick is finally having the time of his life.
In recent months, the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) has seen an increase in cases of pets with matted coats—many of which have necessitated surgical procedures, and in severe cases, amputations. One such case involved Chia, a one-year-old female Shih Tzu who was surrendered to the ASPCA last November.
When ASPCA staff opened Chia’s carrier for the first time, they found that she was encased in a severely matted coat. They were unable to even locate Chia’s ears or neck in order to place a lead around her. In order to help Chia, a licensed veterinary technician at AAH began to shave off her coat. Her matting was so severe—and coated with feces, urine, and foreign debris—that the vet tech was able to remove the majority of the matting in one large, intact piece, which weighed more than one pound.
Beneath the matted coat was a gentle, loving 12-lb. dog. After receiving treatment for some skin issues and undergoing a spay procedure, Chia was adopted and is now a cherished family member.
We’re so glad we got to Chia in time to help. According to ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Julie Horton, matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets:
Even very mild hair mats can cause skin irritation and progress to infected lesions. A wound left unattended can accumulate maggots.
Fleas and ticks can live deep in the hair mat—out of the owner’s sight—and infest the animal.
Mats around the hind end can cause an accumulation of feces and in severe cases impede defecation.
More severe hair mats can cause strangulating wounds, most often seen on an animal’s limb. The mat can grow around the leg in a circumferential fashion causing blood supply to be cut off. In severe but reversible cases, the mat cuts into and sometimes through the skin which can be surgically and medically treated over a long period of time typically weeks to months. In severe but irreversible cases, the mat can cut down to the bone and /or become so tight that blood supply is cut off on that limb requiring amputation.
Dr. Horton provides the following tips for preventing your pet’s hair from matting:
In general, mats are extremely uncomfortable for your pet and should be avoided. Owners should be aware of grooming needs based on hair type and breed of the animal. Pets with medium-to-long hair require frequent brushing, some even once daily. Speak with your groomer or veterinarian regarding appropriate brush types for your pet’s hair. Early mild mats can be brushed out. Mats which have progressed require clipping the hair.
If you notice a mat which cannot be easily brushed out, your pet should visit a groomer or veterinarian. They can safely clip the mats out and provide instant relief. If a pet is severely matted he may require sedation and full body clipping.
NEVER cut mats out with scissors. Your pet can unexpectedly move or jerk resulting in a severe laceration or puncture.
Moises Cruz, 71, and Manuel Cruz, 60, both received sentences of nine months jail, a $1,500 fine and were required to sign an Animal Non Possess Order which indicates that they may not posses any animals nor work, live, or stay in any place where a live animal is kept.
“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice. It tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of our communities and is known to facilitate other crimes” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We are holding accountable those who raised animals for illegal sport, operated illegal gambling venues and trafficked fighting animals to New York City. My office, along with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare, are committed to ending this vicious blood sport in New York.”
“Operation Angry Birds,” as the raid was known, resulted in the dismantling of the largest known cockfighting ring in New York State history. The birds, including roosters and hens, were found to be boarded in deplorable conditions and were transported to cockfighting events throughout the region. Moises and Manuel Cruz are among ten defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case.
Two adult dogs and three puppies are under the care of the ASPCA following cruelty arrests by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in the Bronx. The officers were responding to a call reporting a domestic dispute, and when they arrived at the apartment, they noticed that the five pit bull mixes appeared malnourished and sick. The officers noted an absence of water dishes or food for the dogs within the apartment. Both residents were arrested and charged with animal cruelty.
The ASPCA is caring for the dogs at our Animal Hospital and at one of our partner veterinary facilities, where they’re receiving medical treatment for malnourishment. It is too soon to discuss eventual adoption options.
"This case clearly illustrates the impact that the NYPD-ASPCA partnership is having on the city's most vulnerable animals," said Howard Lawrence, Senior Director, ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group. "While in the course of their normal duties, the Bronx officers were able to identify and stop animal suffering that might otherwise have never been reported."