Toefu was one of 76 dogs rescued from the home of a hoarder in Tennessee in 2010. The dogs were found living in horrific filth, with fumes of ammonia and animal waste strong enough to send one rescuer to the hospital. All of the dogs were desperate for freedom; Toefu was number 16.
After their rescue, the animals were taken to a local shelter where they were treated for a variety of issues. It was there that ASPCA Animal Behaviorist Kristen Collins first spotted Toefu. Likely inbred, Toefu had an underbite, extra toes, and had never before experienced life outside of the hoarder’s home. Kristin adopted her and spent the next year helping the sweet spaniel overcome a lifetime of anxiety, fear and neglect.
In 2013, Kristin and her dogs moved to Madison, New Jersey, where Kristin began overseeing the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center—the first and only facility dedicated to the behavioral rehabilitation of canine victims of cruelty. It was there that Toefu discovered her true calling: helper dog.
Whether you believe in luck or in fate, one thing is certain: Lucas the cat has both on his side. Rescued at the last minute from a perilous situation, he survived and went on to live a charmed life in the home of an ASPCA staffer. Here is this heroic cat’s very Happy Tail.
On a warm day last June, a New York City Transit (MTA) worker heard mewing on the subway train tracks. Just north of 155th Street on the D line, he found a cat, now named Lucas, huddled under the electrified third rail. Fresh burns and wounds covered the kitty’s 9-lb. body, so the MTA worker rushed him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital. One of his ears had been burned off almost completely; the other was in tattered pieces.
At the hospital, Lucas underwent multiple surgeries and was placed on an eight-week regimen of painkillers and antibiotics to help ease his suffering and heal his skin. It was during his recovery that he met Rena L., a manager at the ASPCA Adoption Center.
Rena, who has been with the ASPCA since 2012, is no stranger to unique animals. In 2013, she adopted another earless kitty named Kylie who was also a burn victim. Her dog Jin had been abandoned in the subway with his mother and littermate. When she heard about Lucas, she knew they had to meet.
“I went to see him and he was all bandaged up,” she recalls. “I decided to foster him because I knew he needed time to heal.” She took Lucas home to her family, which already included a Beagle (Maya), a Chihuahua (Jin), and three cats (Kylie, Gizmo and Cleo). Though Lucas was instantly drawn to Rena’s older cats, it was clear that home life was an unfamiliar experience for the three-year-old newcomer. “Lucas must have been on the streets for a while,” Rena speculates. “I don’t think he had ever known a hug or how it feels to be held.”
Despite the newness of the situation—including daily medication and wound cleaning—it didn’t take long before the former street-cat grew more comfortable in Rena’s home. But it was Rena’s husband, Fabien, who first fell in love. “Lucas is a ‘guy’s cat,’” Rena laughs. “He’s a rough player, but once you have him in your arms he’s like a little baby.” After a few weeks of fostering, they knew he was destined to become a permanent member of their family. In September, he was officially adopted.
After his adoption, Lucas seemed eager to leave his painful past behind. Rena says, “He is full of energy and very mischievous—he is the Alpha to our cats for sure.” When he’s not busy playing or indulging in hijinks, he’s off looking for ways to sneak a snack and satisfy his big appetite. But despite his big personality, she adds, “He’s become a very loving cat who will easily fall asleep in your arms.”
Though Rena is the first to admit that she is a “foster failure,” she wouldn’t change a thing about her animal-filled apartment. “Fostering these special needs animals makes me realize that everyone really deserves a second chance. They really turn around when they’re in a home environment.” As for Lucas, she adds, “We’re at a perfect balance with the number of pets we have. Our home just wouldn’t be the same without him.”
To keep up with Lucas and Kylie, be sure to follow them on Instagram!
An approximately six-month-old puppy is now in the care of the ASPCA after being rescued from cruelty by officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). A concerned citizen called the NYPD early Friday morning after witnessing the puppy, named Hennessy, being beaten with a shovel and buried in the snow.
Hennessy—now called “Lacey”— is recovering in the intensive care unit of the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where she is receiving around-the-clock care and resting from her injuries. Despite the abuse she has endured in the past, Lacey is an affectionate puppy who appears to have a strong spirit.
"The amount of pain inflicted on such a young, vulnerable dog is truly inconceivable," says Howard Lawrence, Senior Director, ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Group. "Our staff is doing all we can to make her comfortable and applauds everyone involved in pursuing justice for Lacey."
The NYPD made an arrest in this case, and the alleged abuser has been charged with Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, Torturing and Injuring Animals and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree.
It is too soon for us to comment on Lacey’s ultimate prognosis, and as this is an open case, we cannot provide further information at this time.
“We applaud the brave citizens who witnessed this barbaric act and called the NYPD," says Lawrence. "We encourage anyone who witnesses an animal crime in progress in New York City to please call 911 immediately. You may be saving that animal's life."
To report animal cruelty not in progress, please call 311 in New York City. If you are outside of New York City, visit our Fight Cruelty FAQs to learn how to report animal cruelty in your area.
The remaining defendants were sentenced for dog fighting offenses and ordered to pay restitutions totaling nearly $2 million to the ASPCA for the care of the dogs seized. The ASPCA is grateful to Assistant U.S. Attorney Clark Morris of the Office of the U.S. Attorney George L. Beck for prosecuting this case to the fullest extent of the law and ensuring that those responsible for the torture of hundreds of animals received due justice.
After more than a year of care from the ASPCA, hundreds of dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and are now living in loving homes. We hope that this historic case will send a message to those involved in dog fighting that these activities will not be tolerated in our community.
Removed from properties in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, the dogs—who ranged in age from just a few days to 12 years—were scarred, starving, and tethered to heavy chains with little access to food or water. Most had never experienced life without suffering, and several of them, including a Pit Bull named Ruby, were pregnant with pups.
Though Ruby had likely spent most of her life abused and neglected, our Emergency Responders were amazed by her sweet, gentle nature. After giving birth, Ruby was adopted by one of our responders—and she is now in the process of becoming a certified therapy dog who will bring love and joy to local hospitals, schools and retirement homes.
Every dollar you donate to the ASPCA makes a huge difference in an animal’s life. For dogs like Ruby, it can mean the difference between life and death. Help us end their suffering: Make a gift to the ASPCA today.