Tag: cat

Life in the Sci-Fi Movie

Thanks for clicking on this, our 6th issue of the TASP e-newsletter. We’re a little late getting this out to you for myriad reasons all relating to juggling volunteer activities amid jobs, families, aging pets and “The Invisible Enemy.” At this writing, Rich and I are in pseudo-isolation here on the farm, observing social distancing as much as is practical. The business I work for is considered essential so it’s off to work I go each weekday, with my mask dangling from my rearview mirror, ready to be donned at the least sign of an approaching human.

I count my blessings daily about my own health and the location of our home that is 20 minutes from civilization in any direction. Being farmers for so many years, we became accustomed long ago to stockpiling two weeks’ worth of groceries meds and staples in our basement; that’s what country people do. And having the privilege of just being able to let the dogs out into a safe, secure yard where we don’t have to worry about sharing a 6-foot radius with a stranger while leash walking is something we can’t possibly take for granted. Our hearts go out to all the folks with pets in the cities who have to share elevators and sidewalks to exercise their best friends. We know this piles stress upon stress right now.

Speaking of stress-upon-stress, I’ve been observing animals (my own and those of local owners in need) as they go to the vet clinics and hospitals these days and I recognize this is not an ideal situation for anyone concerned: pet/vet/guardian. For those of you who haven’t yet had to avail yourselves of a visit to the vet since February, here’s how social distancing at the vet’s office goes: you drive up to the building, text or call the vet front desk to announce your arrival, and then a gloved, gowned, masked vet tech comes out to take your pet from you. They carry or leash-walk the pet inside while you sit in your car and await a call from the vet who discusses diagnosis and treatment with you. Then you wait some more while that work is done, and then another call from the front desk to collect the fee via credit card over the phone. At last, the vet tech brings your freaked out pet back to your car and you drive them home, hoping that the pet will forgive you for what you just put them through.

It’s all necessary. But so many things can go sour throughout a process like this, it’s hard to list them all here. There’s the possibility of the pet falling or getting loose from its leash/collar during the walk to and from the vet’s building. There’s the possibility that the gowned, masked, gloved vet will misread the pet’s symptoms because that pet hadn’t previously ever seen a human dressed like this (usually they’re already under anesthesia by the time the prepped surgeon shows up) and is reacting with such stress that temperature, pulse and respiration, the benchmarks of all vet visits, aren’t even close to what they are back home. Even blood levels change in the presence of severe stress. And then there’s the possibility that the pet may be so stressed by this kind of management that they don’t trust you anymore when you offer the opportunity to go for a ride. Don’t think these things can happen? They are ALL things that have already happened to me and to pets I brought to various vets since the COVID-19 sci-fi movie started. Not every time, but enough that I think it’s important to mention it and suggest a way to make things a little easier on everyone.

So for starters, I suggest that as pet owners, we should all be working to desensitize our pets to the approach of a masked person. Hand the pet a treat, pull out the mask and let them smell it. Hand them another treat. Put the mask on and treat. Take the mask off and treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you have different kinds of masks, do this with all of them. Then do it in different places…in the bedroom, in the car, outdoors, and so on. Keep associating your pet’s favorite things with the mask, gradually working up to the point where you can wear the mask in their presence without them emptying their bladder/colon and without them fleeing when you reach out to pick them up.

Social distancing mandates have impacted the way TASP does things, too. Our RPI volunteers have all had to leave the school indefinitely so we miss those young, enthusiastic faces and strong backs more than I can say. We had to shut down our monthly photo clinics that we always looked forward to as much as our supporters did. After about 10 years of these clinics, I personally had lost touch with the concept of being at home on a weekend instead of sitting at the computer at Benson’s or Pet Supplies Plus. In the tradition of improvisation, which is one of the things TASP prides ourselves in, we moved those clinics to the internet and are now emailing and mailing out photos to folks, instead of creating our art on the scene. So far so good with this approach, although it’s going to take some time to ramp up business. We are still hoping that once COVID-19 has become better understood, there will be a way for us to return with our computers, lights and cameras to the real world where people can see each other in person instead of on Zoom. Until then, take a look at the online photo clinics posted on our website and please consider sending us your orders and your comments and suggestions on how we can make the experience even better: http://www.theanimalsupportproject.com/tasp-fantasy-photos-the-fun-continues-online/

TASP also had to implement a new plan for meeting the needs of animals in our community. We used to visit homes as standard procedure for delivering supplies, investigating pet-owner’s needs and doing things like grooming, nail trims and first aid. Now, to protect our volunteers and the pet owners who need our help, we can’t go into homes, at least for now. We’re meeting up with people in parking lots and at the curb to drop off pet food and flea collars, shipping products via mail and UPS, and scoping out situations over our smartphone cameras. This approach is not what we like to do; being with animals and the people who love them is why we do what we do. But if anyone understands the value of safety, it’s The Animal Support Project. For now, this is the best way we can think of to keep supporting animals and their owners, especially through THIS tough time.

One of the most difficult things for me to say to all of you is, in 2020, thanks to COVID-19, TASP will probably not be able to meet or exceed the number of animals served last year. While we have the funds available, we are still helping qualified low-income folks with vet expenses. But with so many of our local fund raisers (photo clinics, tag sales, adoption clinics…..) being postponed or outright cancelled, TASP won’t see the same level of donations this year. Our first quarter financial review illustrated that very clearly and painfully to us. So we’re doing our best to stretch every dollar spent while still delivering the highest possible level of service to the local animals in our community. We’re making every effort to seek grants wherever we can find them to help fund the programs we already have established but alas, there are more grants available for shelters and rescues with paid staff than for all-volunteer outfits like ours who are keeping pets OUT of the shelters.

One program that we feel very strongly about is the Paws2Protect program. Through Paws2Protect, we provide free Seresto flea & tick collars to low income pet owners. We’re convinced this approach is the cheapest way for TASP to help animals and their owners avoid the costly consequences of flea and tick issues. Don’t get me wrong, these collars aren’t cheap by any means. But the cost of a Seresto collar is a whole lot less than the cost of a vet visit and treatment for things like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, tapeworm or flea dermatitis. So with each collar we distribute, TASP saves approximately $150-$600, depending on the size and number of pets in the home. TASP just placed our order for 90 more of these collars for cats and dogs; so if you know someone in the Capital Region who earns under $30,000 annually and who needs a Seresto collar, please feel welcome to put them in touch with us. And if you know someone who wants to help sponsor this important work, please send them our way.

Personally, I’m looking forward to a time when COVID-19 is not turning everyone’s world inside-out. I’m fortunate to have a job and a home that is isolated by definition. But not everyone in my family can say this and I miss them as much as I’m sure y’all miss your friends and families. I thank God we have our pets to help us keep things in perspective, to remind us to live for the moment and to not let our worries get the best of us. Everyone at TASP is committed to keeping pets and people together in every way possible, using every tool we have available, even if a virus changes the way we do it. And if it takes setting up a kennel in a parking lot to hand out Seresto collars at a low income apartment complex and groom dogs outdoors then that’s what we’ll do. I just hope the animals aren’t too freaked out by my mask.


TASP Fantasy Photos: The Fun Continues ONLINE!

COVID lockdown may still be keeping us socially distanced, but thanks to the wonders of technology, TASP continues to keep the Fantasy Photo Fun flowing indefinitely!  Continuing until COVID-19 lets us all get back on the circuit, The Animal Support Project’s Fantasy Photo clinics are being updated monthly ONLINE!  Now you can order your TASP Fantasy Photos ONLINE each month, at your convenience, in the comfort of your own lockdown……and know you’re continuing to help our community’s pets stay safe and healthy while you stay safe and healthy, too!

It’s easy to get a TASP Fantasy Photo emailed directly to your inbox and/or a print mailed to your home.  Just send us an email at taspinfo@yahoo.com that includes the following:

Choose your background(s). CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BACKGROUNDS.

Attach your own photo of your subject(s) taken against a plain background.  If you have multiple subjects and want them to appear in the same photo, just send us a photo of each subject separately and we’ll combine them digitally.  Already been to a TASP photo clinic in the past? We can look up previous photos of your subject(s) from our archives and use them to create this month’s photo.

Let us know how you’d like to receive your photo:

Emailed .jpg photo @ $10 donation

Mailed hard copy print @ $10 donation (Be sure to supply your mailing address).

Or get both for $15 donation!

Lucite® frame for mailed photos optional @ additional $5 (covers cost of frame and mailing)

*Please be sure your email includes a phone number where you can be reached in case we need to contact you.

TASP volunteers will create your special photo and email you an invoice when it’s ready.  Payment can be made through Paypal, Venmo or Facebook Pay.  Finished photos will be sent out within 24 hours of payment received.

With so many challenges brought about by COVID-19, more companion animals than ever are going to need TASP’s help to stay safe and healthy.  Bringing our friends and supporters this popular activity ONLINE at this time is our way of continuing to finance our mission, while hopefully creating some much-needed smiles.  As always, all proceeds are spent on supporting our community’s most vulnerable companion animals. Thanks for caring!


TASP Fantasy Photo Backgrounds

May, 2020 “Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and More….”


#1 Lilac Lane


#2 Forsythias


#3 Happy Mother’s Day


#4 American Flag


#5 Keep Calm


#6 Patriotic Cupcakes


#7 Sunrise on the Farm


#8 Best Mom


#9 Memorial Day


#10 Flower Power


#11 Crocus Patch


#12 Luv U


#13 TP Mystery Solved


#14 Tulip Portrait


#15 Love on the Beach


#16 Heart of Flowers


#17 Quarantine with my Dog


#18 Seascape


#19 Stars & Stripes


#20 Spring is Sprung



WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?

Well, since our last issue talked about poop, for this issue, we thought we’d supplement that knowledge by exploring the topic of (ugh!) worms and other parasites. Yep, those gross little things that seem to grow for no apparent reason inside and outside of our pets can cause all sorts of complications. If you didn’t care about your pets, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter, so we want to make sure you have a full kit of information on pet parasites. It will help you better understand where they come from, what trouble they can cause if left untreated, and what the most common treatments are these days.

First of all, nasties like worms, giardia and fleas do NOT grow for no apparent reason. They grow because they were transferred to a host and that new host has a favorable environment in which to set up camp. Didn’t know your pet was so hospitable, did you? And depending on the type of parasite, the transmission and preferred environment can vary; so can the life cycle. There are lots of good articles out there that are written to explain this in detail. We’ll list links to some of our favorites here.

Please bear in mind some of these authors work for companies that sell parasite treatments. TASP isn’t endorsing any particular one and we aren’t suggesting that you necessarily deworm on a monthly basis as some of these articles recommend. Discuss the type and frequency of treatment with your vet; based on your pet’s age, condition and lifestyle, the vet will know how often and what kind of treatment should be administered.

Here goes……

The gold standard for reliable information about just about any condition in animals, including all forms of parasites is the VIN:

VIN

VCA Hospitals published two very straightforward articles about potential transmission of disease (some from parasites) between pets and their families:

VCA Hospitals – Zoonotics in Cats

VCA Hospitals – Zoonotics in Dogs

Perhaps the most comprehensive of all websites dedicated purely to parasites in our pets is (imaginatively called) Pets & Parasites:

Pets & Parasites website

Little City Dogs sells reasonably priced dewormers, flea prevention and heartworm prevention. They also have some really cute blogs about some of the different kinds of worms:

Little City Dogs’ Blog on Heartworm

Little City Dogs’ Blog on Roundworm & Tapeworm

Little City Dogs’ Blog on Tapeworm

Parasites may not be a pretty topic but arming ourselves with good information about them can make a real difference in the quality of life we and our pets can share. So let’s all become parasite warriors for our pets so they and we can live together in harmony .


Life With a Big Cat – What a Gas!

I have permission from my close friend and staunch TASP supporter to tell y’all this story. As they used to say on Dragnet, “The names are changed to protect the innocent.”

Like so many others these days, my friend (we’ll call her, “Lucy,”) has been enthusiastically researching her genealogy through one of those DNA sampling kits that are so popular. Through her work, she’s discovered new branches in her family tree that she hadn’t previously known about. She’s made contact with some and developed new relationships, filling in gaps in the family history and discovering some remarkable similarities between these folks across the country and her immediate family: her son’s unusually curly hair is shared by her second cousin’s son. And her father’s remarkable smile is now being displayed on the face of another of these long-lost relatives. It’s been a fascinating journey for her, to say the least.

Recently, one of these new-to-Lucy cousins came from out of town to spend a day sharing family photos with her and to generally nurture the family bond. Lucy wanted everything to be perfect for this occasion. So for the week ahead, she planned the day’s menu and agenda like a true event organizer. Like any of us, she wanted her cousin to feel as comfortable and at-home with her and her family as possible on this inaugural visit.

To fully digest this story, you need to know that Lucy has a soft heart for animals. Her home is host to a wildchild scruffy-faced something-poo-mix puppy and two ancient small-breed dogs who are still thriving thanks to her investment in a steady supply of heart meds, bronchodilators and arthritis easers. And did I mention, there are also 10 or so cats living at Lucy’s home at any given time, of a range of ages from young adult to dottering senior; this one blind, that one unfriendly toward people; yet another so affectionate she can slide under a door like a hamster to join her humans when she wants to. Rumor has it, Lucy is a candidate for her own parking spot at her local vet’s office; she visits there a lot.  

Anyway, in preparation for the much-anticipated visit from her distant cousin, Lucy determined that Simba, the giant blond male cat who is so antisocial/lazy, he spends most of his time lounging under the comforter on Lucy’s bed, needed special consideration. In addition to the endearing features already described, Simba’s distaste for humans (other than Lucy) causes him to defecate immediately any time a stranger enters his field of view. And because he is a mammoth cat, the gift he leaves any stranger is likewise mammoth and of a scent that can burn one’s eyelashes off. The cat has a reputation. Knowing this, Lucy powwowed with her family and came up with the perfect solution: Simba was securely ensconced in his favorite bedroom with his food, water AND litterbox for the duration of Cousin’s visit. Doors closed, Simba, tucked away in his little kingdom, could be spared the hubbub of the family reunion that was about to ensue downstairs. Yes, this was a perfect plan……..

Doorbell rings, Cousin arrives and is ushered into the formal parlor which is the hosting spot for Lucy’s most treasured guests. Snacks circulated, introductions exchanged, and out come the family photos that are appreciated by the family that had grown by one that afternoon. But only a small percentage into the family albums, EGAD! The security alarms are going off! Sirens shrieking, Lucy’s husband and son run to investigate while Lucy, not missing a beat in spite of the din, continues guiding Cousin through the pages of the photo albums, describing this relative and that one and sharing family memories. She has to raise her voice a bit to be heard above the alarm, but this is the only acknowledgement she will give to this disturbance in her perfectly planned day.

Turns out, according to Husband, it was the gas sensor that tripped off the sirens, but no indication that anything was malfunctioning in the HVAC system. Must have just been a fluke. Sirens are turned off and the home becomes normal again. The walk down memory lane continues in the formal parlor and more snacks are passed around now that everyone can hear each other again. But then…….

Youngest daughter walks to the back door with young wildchild dog, giving her the fresh-air break she needs. But if only that could have been all! Now, Daughter lets out a scream as she’s nearly run over by a line of firemen in full firefighting attire coming at her at speed from the home’s parking area, straight into the hallway and into the kitchen. Lights flashing, sirens wailing in the driveway, the young men are there in response to the alarm that apparently had not been cancelled at the security company’s central dispatch. “Gas leak! Everyone out,” shouts the Captain as he runs into the house.

While Lusy and Cousin continue this now VERY MEMORABLE trip down memory lane, Husband and Son explain to the firemen that all systems show no real gas incident. Firemen examine the system with them and agree this was not a gas leak incident……or was it?

Later, after all the firemen had gone home and somewhat-shaken Cousin had departed back to his, Lucy and Husband climbed the stairs to let Simba out of his exile, where they discovered: AHA! Not a gas leak, but certainly a gas incident!

Moral of this story: When situating your GI-challenged giant cat’s litter box for an impromptu lockdown, be sure not to place it too near the security system’s gas leak sensor.


TASP Joins ASPCA and Other Partners Caring for Hurricane Sandy’s Displaced Pets


TASP Fantasy Photos, NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!

Jonesing for your monthly TASP Fantasy Photo clinic?  Wish you could have gotten that special photo of your best friend on one of our fabulous Easter/Springtime theme photo backgrounds BEFORE quarantine?  Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, TASP has found a way to keep the Fantasy Photo Fun flowing!  Starting this month and continuing until COVID-19 lets us all get back on the circuit, The Animal Support Project’s Fantasy Photo clinics are going ONLINE!  Now you can order your TASP Easter/Spring photo ONLINE and know you’re continuing to help our community’s pets stay safe and healthy!  

It’s easy to get a TASP Fantasy Photo emailed directly to your inbox and/or a print mailed to your home.  Just send us an email at taspinfo@yahoo.com that includes the following

Choose your background(s). CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BACKGROUNDS.

Attach your own photo of your subject(s) taken against a plain background.  If you have multiple subjects and want them to appear in the same photo, just send us a photo of each subject separately and we’ll combine them digitally.  Already been to a TASP photo clinic in the past? We can look up previous photos of your subject(s) from our archives and use them to create this month’s photo.

Let us know how you’d like to receive your photo:

Emailed .jpg photo @ $10 donation

Mailed hard copy print @ $10 donation (Be sure to supply your mailing address).

Or get both for $15 donation!

Lucite® frame for mailed photos optional @ additional $3 (covers cost of frame and mailing)

*Please be sure your email includes a phone number where you can be reached in case we need to contact you.

TASP volunteers will create your special photo and email you an invoice when it’s ready.  Payment can be made through Paypal, Venmo or Facebook Pay.  Finished photos will be sent out within 24 hours of payment received.

With so many challenges brought about by COVID-19, more companion animals than ever are going to need TASP’s help to stay safe and healthy.  Bringing our friends and supporters this popular activity ONLINE at this time is our way of continuing to finance our mission, while hopefully creating some much-needed smiles.  As always, all proceeds are spent on supporting our community’s most vulnerable companion animals. Thanks for caring!


COVID-19 and The Animal Support Project

Right now, many folks are reading this message while sitting home in isolation or quarantine. You may be wondering how The Animal Support Project will be dealing with the changes in all of our lives brought about by the arrival of the Novel Corona Virus here in the Capital region. Like everyone else, TASP faces some challenges ahead. We face a loss of revenue from having to temporarily call off our popular Fantasy Pet Photo fund raisers. Add to this an already-evidenced reduction in donations due to the financial stresses many of our supporters are facing after the State imposed mandatory shutdown of so many businesses in NY….these are realities we can’t get around.

That being said, TASP is morphing to adapt as well as we can to continue offering the most support we can muster with available resources. For now, all personal visits to homes have been postponed. That means no adoption home visits, no visits inside the homes of ailing pets. This is the way it has to be in order to reduce risk of infection to our volunteers and our community. By coincidence, our list of adoptable pets is very small right now and their continued care at their foster homes is perfectly alright until the situation eases. And just because we can’t enter a pet’s home doesn’t mean we can’t help pets who need us. As long as our budget allows, we will utilize all available technologies like video, photos, messaging and facetime to confirm financial need and explore the situations of individual pets so they can be directed to whatever proper professional care we can afford. We can also use video and photos to demonstrate and instruct on preventive care practices to help our community’s pet guardians do the best they can for their best friends.

Our ability to pay for large procedures at this time is very much in flux with funds temporarily drying up, but TASP is actively seeking grants for worthy purposes like veterinary care and continuation of our Paws2Protect program that provides free Seresto flea & tick collars to financially needy dogs and cats. We also have expanded our pet food pantry stocking program to serve TEN food pantries across Albany, Rensselaer, Washington and Bennington counties. The Paws2Protect and Hoss Fund programs continue to serve as long as resources remain available and if one of our already-submitted grants is awarded to TASP, we will introduce yet another great program to our toolkit, The Vintage Club: offering vital veterinary services specifically for senior pets.

We’ve even found a way we can still run our Fantasy Photo EASTER CLINICS completely online, with an option for a mailed hard copy photo. So if you’d like an Easter/Spring theme photo of your best friend, just scroll down and click for the lowdown on how to make it happen. We’ve posted details of this new fund raising scheme with sample backgrounds right here on the TASP website, taking orders through Paypal. Depending on how the social distancing orders go, we may even be offering the May Mother’s Day photos online as well, so stay tuned!

COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic situation that virtually every American jurisdiction knew would occur someday. Even so, it would have been financial and logistical folly for any nation to stockpile the number of devices and supplies needed for this scale of a disaster for the 102 years since the last great epidemic, the Spanish Influenza of 1918. The incident command system shared by local, state and federal agencies as well as 1st responders, businesses, nonprofits and institutions across our nation is the modular, scalable method for efficiently and accountably answering the challenges ahead that COVID presents. TASP will do our best to add our compassion, skills, experience and elbow grease to this response to prevent the suffering of our community’s animals. It’s what TASP is trained to do and we’re up to the task.

We wish all of you reading this a safe and healthy path forward. Please be kind, be brave, be objective and be smart. We WILL get through this and we will bring our animal companions with us to a wiser, kinder world.


Grrrrrrreat Reads – Not Just For 1st Time Adopters

 

It is exciting to find so many good books about pet adoption on the market. Those of us who live with adopted pets know how much they mean to a family.

 

If you have ever opened your heart to an older pet, here’s a book you’ll want to check out:

 According to William Hageman, Reporter for the Chicago Tribune,  “If you read My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts (New World Library) and don’t want to run out to a shelter and rescue a senior pet, you have a heart of flint.”  The book, written by Laura T. Coffey and photographed by Lori Fusaro, champions a sometimes-forgotten segment of the animal shelter population.  It contains some truly beautiful photographs of senior dogs and a very nice resource section for folks who make older dogs a part of their life. http://www.myolddogbook.com/

 

 

Perhaps the writer of My Old Dog will follow up with an equally well-built version about senior cats? Let’s hope so. In the meantime, we have an excellent book available now, offering the latest information on Senior Cat Care. Written by Susan Easterly, Your Older Cat – A Complete Guide to Nutrition, Natural Remedies and Veterinary Care is a veritable Bible of good information for anyone whose cat is reaching its sunset years. With easy to follow tables, resource lists and helpful hints, this book will help any reader get a grip on old-cat topics like the aging process, preventive care, natural healing options, chronic diseases and senior cat nutrition. The suggested reading list is most helpful and the photos are just beautiful.

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s an excellent book on how to raise a great puppy written by Dr. Sophia Yin. Dr. Yin died a few years back, but she left behind her a tremendous wealth of writings about positive methods in pet training based on the latest research. Being a veterinarian, Dr. Yin also tempers her writings with the physical drivers behind behavior. Illustrated profusely with photos and drawings that are easy to interpret, Perfect Puppy in 7 Days – How to Start Your Puppy Off Right not only can help someone raising a puppy to do it right. It also can help the owner of a young dog understand the reasons behind behaviors they may be seeing in their pet, and how they can best modify those behaviors without ruining the dog.

 

Since we like to be even handed in our reviews, we owe it to the felines and their families to mention an equally interesting and well-designed how-to book about cats by Pam Johnson-Bennett: Think Like A Cat – How To Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss  From how to choose a new cat or kitten to how to kitten-proof a home to how to help your vet diagnose your cat’s ailments, this book is the one cat owners will turn to again and again over the lifetime of their cat. There’s some exceptional material in here about how to not only train a cat, but how to modify and even eliminate undesirable behaviors your cat may have developed. Personally we might have liked to have seen a few more illustrations in this book to break up the text a bit and help the more visual learners in our midst to get the message; but with so much valuable information in this book, we can forgive the lack of images and appreciate the treasure between its covers.


Legislative Corner – What is Animal Cruelty?

TASP gets our share of calls from folks concerned about this or that animal’s welfare in their neighborhood. Whether it’s a neighbor’s dog tied out in weather extremes, or dairy heifers with hip bones protruding in springtime, it’s commendable that people care enough about animals to seek help on their behalf. Sometimes what they’re seeing is actually not cruelty, according to NY State law, and sometimes it is. In the previous TASP newsletter, we talked about how to make change happen at the federal level. I thought it might be a good idea to take it back a notch and talk about state level matters, especially concerning animal cruelty.

When the topic of animal cruelty comes up, sometimes I lose a friend when I explain what TASP can and can’t do, legally. After all, TASP is not the official Animal Control officer for any jurisdiction. We’re educated in Animal Law so we can recognize it when we see it and share information on the topic with concerned members of the public. We’re glad to communicate what we’ve learned to enlighten others, but we don’t have the authority to remove animals from premises without the permission of the animal’s owner or of law enforcement officials responsible for the location where the suspected cruelty is taking place. We also don’t have the legal authority to demand that law enforcement remove an animal from its owner, even when cruelty is suspected. And we can’t legally represent you to law enforcement and make a formal complaint on your behalf about something you’ve witnessed and we haven’t.  All we can do is what YOU can do if you suspect animal cruelty:

Look carefully at the big and small picture and compare what you see to Article 26 of the NY State Agriculture and Markets Law. Remember, not everything that looks like cruelty is legally cruel under our existing laws. In this state, animals are still considered the property of their owners, just like a car or a ladder. Companion animals have a bit more protection under Article 26, but even at that, the protections are in some cases vaguely worded and up to the interpretation of officers, attorneys and judges.

Not all cruelty or neglect is intentional and not all cases of neglect are considered by law enforcement to be prudent to prosecute, from a resource-availability perspective. An elderly pet owner who isn’t able to trim their pet’s nails or whose dog/cat’s fur is matted isn’t necessarily intending to hurt their pet. On the contrary, they may be distressed, embarrassed and/or ashamed that they aren’t able financially or physically to keep up with the animal’s care. It may be their only companion and so they may be reluctant to let it go. There may be no relatives or neighbors nearby who can/will help them with the tasks, or they may not understand the physical discomfort that long nails or matted fur can cause an animal.  The owner’s arthritis, poor eyesight, lack of resources or the onset of their or their loved one’s illness may also be legitimate reasons for a lapse in a pet’s care. Swooping in to judge/accuse/publicly shame the owner in such cases without knowing the backstory adds to the tragedy instead of helping overcome the issue for the long term. Those are the cases where TASP might be able to help by paying for grooming or vetting for that pet. Or, if the situation is a sinking ship, TASP may even offer to help the owner place the pet in a more secure home so the owner can move on to assisted living. But before you set us on that pet owner, why not drop by with a cup of coffee, a little tray of cookies or some animal-related trinket that shows you care, so you can get acquainted and learn more about why your neighbor’s animal looks the way it does and how we outsiders might be trusted as worthy to help?

I actually had a very nice lady call me once with great concern about abused dairy cattle on a farm near where she lived. It was spring and she said she was seeing the female cattle standing outside with hip bones protruding. She said they looked starved and were all muddy and she was sure they were being horribly neglected. She didn’t stop in to talk with the farmer and she didn’t research on the internet to learn more about how to judge a cow’s body condition score. She just drove past the farm day after day on her way to and from work and with each pass, she got herself more and more worried about these poor cows. When she called me to talk about it, I assured her I would take a look, but that these cows were probably fine, given it was calving season. I gave her a brief rundown in what makes cows look the way they do so she could understand why what she was seeing might be expected at this time of year. And when I drove over to take a peek, my hunch was confirmed; there was no shortage of food available to those cows and they were happily chewing cud when I got there. This lady was a very well meaning person unfamiliar with dairy farming. She was judging the appearance of these cattle against the condition of her pet dog and saw a disturbing contrast. But those familiar with dairy farming will tell you the cow’s physical structure is far different from any dog’s (let’s start with just the number of stomachs for an example) and a heifer’s body condition fluctuates with the time of year and her calving/lactating cycle. As it turns out, these cows were in fine condition; they had just been calving and that takes alot out of the system so the Moms all naturally looked a little droopy around the hip bones at that time.  There was no law broken here.

So here’s a test for you…. a couple of photos of a suffering dog. Is it a case of animal cruelty/criminal neglect?

 

 

 

 

Answer: Not. This dog had a loving owner who spent thousands of dollars in her attempt to overcome her dog’s allergies. She trusted her veterinarian to diagnose and treat this dog, but unfortunately, this particular vet was having difficulty getting a grip on the case. The stack of invoices and reports in this little guy’s vet history attested to a year’s worth of repeated trips to the vet, each time with a new proposed treatment that was supposed to stop the tormenting itch. By this time, the dog had ulcers from too many steroids, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection from too may antibiotics and he was half his normal weight. At the recommendation of her vet, his owner was about to euthanize the 2 year old West Highland Terrier when she reached out to her coworker who reached out to TASP.  We had the dog properly diagnosed and treated by another vet with more experience in helping animals with severe allergies. The dog’s Mom gratefully surrendered him to TASP because she didn’t feel equipped to deal with the care he would need going forward. He’ll always need allergy shots and carefully controlled diet and environment, but here’s a recent photo of Spencer …..he actually needs regular haircuts now!

If we pass judgement just by what we see without digging deeper to obtain more context, we can deceive  ourselves. But let’s say you did your homework. You’ve made unsuccessful attempts to clarify/rectify the situation. Perhaps, in spite of your asking your neighbor to clean up their yard, the smell of feces and/or garbage coming from the person’s back yard where their dog is tied is enough to gag a maggot; so you know Article 26 Section 353b.3.b has been violated. Or worse yet, you’ve witnessed the animal being beaten or otherwise abused (Article 26 Section 353 and/or 353a). In other words, you are convinced that you have a case of unjustifiable cruelty. Here’s what you need to do next:

First, do NOT change the condition of any of the animals on that property. Don’t groom the matted one, don’t trim the nails or make any improvements to the suffering animals. Sound cruel? Wellllll, if you change the condition of any of the suffering animals before they can be witnessed and professionally documented by a vet/officer, you’ve changed the evidence of the crime. Instead, start documenting the cruelty you suspect. In a perfect world, this would entail taking photos or video of the situation. But the important thing you need to know is, you aren’t legally allowed to step onto the property of others of whom you suspect cruelty without their inviting you to do so. This reality may be the factor that determines you aren’t able to gather images of the animal you think is suffering. If that’s the case, write down the dates and times when you witness cruelty occurring and write detailed descriptions of the incident: what kind and how many animals and how are they being abused? What evidence are you seeing? Be specific. Try to match up what you’re seeing with the actual section and subsection of Article 26 that applies. List any other witnesses present and try to be objective in your description. These notes may be reviewed by law enforcement and may eventually be considered evidence in a trial if the case gets that far.

With your evidence in hand, call 911 or visit the local police department and report the suspected cruelty. You need to file an official complaint with the local police, and you may need to insist that they take your complaint, depending on how animal-friendly the officer on duty is. After that, the case will be reviewed and an officer may visit the suspect’s home, or they may send the dog control officer (if it’s a dog that you are concerned about) to see if they see any evidence of a cruelty issue.

Don’t be surprised if the officer/DCO points out to the suspect that they are in violation of one or more sections of Article 26, and offers the suspect an opportunity to correct the situation. This is akin to an officer offering you a warning instead of a citation for speeding in your car…..and based on what the officer learns when visiting the suspect, he or she may feel it makes good sense to give the suspect a chance to get things back under control over a given period of time instead of immediately drawing them into the criminal justice system. Now, some people may say, “How can you equate suspected animal cruelty with my innocent speeding violation?” The answer is, your vehicle weighs ALOT, and when it’s going faster than recommended, the chance of your imposing cruelty on an innocent animal/human who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is actually quite high. That’s one reason why we have speeding laws. But if an officer looks you in the eye, communicates with you, looks around your vehicle, checks your past record and feels you would change your behavior after a warning, then they’re entitled to make that judgement and give you the opportunity to self-correct. This saves valuable police and court resources for the really heinous cases that absolutely require immediate prosecution: the person who lights the stray cat on fire, the person who beats a pet to death with a shovel, the person who slashes their neighbor’s pet horse in its stall, or the person who blatantly refuses or is unable to heed the warning of an officer who has already given them official warning of their violation.

The New York State Humane Association wrote the  book on investigating animal cruelty. Literally. CLICK HERE to read their indepth procedural layout for animal cruelty investigators. This is the book by which many police departments learn how to investigate Animal Cruelty, so in becoming familiar with this manual, you can help your officers do the best job of bringing an animal abuser to justice with a case that isn’t likely to be thrown out of court.

We’re a nation of laws. They’re certainly not all perfect but they’re part of a system that attempts to provide at least a bare minimum of protection for the vulnerable. The tricky part of all this from the perspective of law enforcement is protecting the rights of animals without violating the rights of humans. As animal lovers, it’s easy for us to confuse our own standards of care for our pets with what is legally required. This is one of the root causes of misunderstandings and polarization among the community. By becoming more educated ourselves about the legal side of animal welfare, we can help law enforcement do a better job and we can also offer our law makers concrete suggestions for new bills that can update and improve laws. And that’s how we can make our community a better place for all species.