Bruno’s Story: When You Help a Pet, You’re Helping People Too

November 13, 2019

The lives of pets and their caregivers are deeply linked; what happens to one significantly affects the other. Our Community Engagement team in New York City collaborates with pet owners and agencies to work through obstacles that put people and pets at risk and helps to identify solutions to keep animals in their loving homes whenever possible. Meanwhile, our Community Medicine team provides critical veterinary services to vulnerable animals, making services like vaccination and spay/neuter surgeries affordable and accessible. Together, these teams are removing barriers that stand in the way of pets getting the care they need. 

Cesar Gutierrez, a bilingual Patient Liaison for Community Medicine, which operates two mobile ASPCA Primary Pet Care (PPC) clinics—one in East New York and one in the Bronx—has rescued dozens of strays, but one dog named Bruno made a lasting impact on Cesar and his team.

Finding Bruno

Bruno came to the ASPCA’s attention in May 2019 when Hugh H. approached the East New York PPC with a dog he’d found tied to a fence in nearby Highland Park.

“He was in bad shape,” Hugh recalls. “He had diarrhea, he was thin, he had skin problems and his right ear was badly injured.” 

Hugh wasn’t sure he could afford the dog’s vet care, but he wanted to help.

Dr. Suzy Ryan, a PPC veterinarian, examined Bruno and found him lethargic and malnourished. She also discovered an aural hematoma—a pool of blood that had collected between the skin and the cartilage of Bruno’s ear—that required immediate surgery.

“You could just tell he didn’t feel well,” Cesar says. 

Fortunately, Bruno qualified for treatment through the One ASPCA Fund, a program that covers the cost of medical conditions in animals with a good prognosis who require short-term care. 

Bruno was then rushed to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where he underwent surgery for the hematoma and was treated for dehydration. Dr. Kimberly Sarter, another PPC veterinarian, and Dr. Ryan monitored Bruno’s ongoing care, which included ear medication, medicated shampoo and antibiotics. 

During Bruno’s recovery period, Hugh and his family brought him in for weekly appointments, and on July 6 visited the PPC for Bruno’s final set of vaccines.

“Hugh nursed Bruno back to health and really followed through,” says Cesar. “After one month, he was a completely different dog. He looked stupendous. Dr. Ryan even had tears in her eyes.”

By August 2019, Hugh and his family, including daughters Amiyah, 14, and Avianna, 12, had officially adopted Bruno into their loving home.

Helping People Keep Their Pets

Hoping to keep more pets like Bruno with loving families, the ASPCA announced a $45 million, multi-year commitment in June 2019 that will expand access to basic veterinary care (such as vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery) by building a network of Community Veterinary Centers in the most underserved communities of New York City. 

The Centers will also treat homeless dogs and cats being cared for by animal rescue organizations, expanding the ASPCA’s services to the animal rescue community.

“Our work in Community Medicine is all about providing basic and preventive veterinary care so that dogs and cats can stay healthy and have a better quality of life,” says Dr. Lori Bierbrier, Medical Director of the ASPCA’s Community Medicine team in New York City. “Bruno’s story is one of many we could tell about how we help animals, one family at a time.”

A Lasting Impact

Although he is now healthy, Hugh still brings Bruno to visit the PPC every Saturday to say hello, a refreshing reminder to the Community Medicine team how their work has improved the lives of local pets and residents alike. 

“I know how hard it is to raise a pet, and we wanted to do right by him; he’s worth it,” says Hugh. “He’s a good and grateful dog. And having the help of the ASPCA for these animals—it’s a real blessing for our community.”

“Bruno’s case was special,” says Cesar, who has three rescue dogs of his own—one of whom came from a dogfighting case. “To see Hugh commit to Bruno’s care and follow through in such a loving way—that really touched us.”

Bruno’s story shows how important it is to keep vulnerable animals in loving homes, and the challenges we can overcome with a little help, love and determination. Through close collaboration, our Community Medicine and Community Engagement teams are creating a model for other communities to help pets, animals and families who need support. And through the ASPCA’s new initiative, we’ll expand these programs, providing critical resources and services in other underserved areas of New York City. 

We plan to share our findings and best practices with animal welfare organizations and shelters nationwide to improve the lives of animals across the country. Together, with the help of our generous supporters, we’re tackling pet homelessness head on and providing more second chances for our nation’s most vulnerable animals.