Helping Pets Before They Get Harmed

We cannot go back in time to protect the animals before they become victims of neglect and cruelty, but there is one better thing. To the ANIMAL WELFARE ASSOCIATION, we call this the plea for intervention against cruelty (CIA), an approach to intervention holistic and takes into account the way in which societal challenges that pet owners often face, including poverty, the constraints on housing, lack of transportation and limited resources—strongly affect the animals under their care.

As we commemorate the 5th year of our CIA program, which began in New York, I want to share why this unusual approach is so necessary to keep the animals alive.

In general and in the media in particular, we focus on unsheltered animals in shelters, nursing homes or on the street, focusing on rescue and adoption. And this is certainly very important.

But imagine that you start much earlier, when the animals are still in the houses, but are about to be leaved in shelters or take to the streets, because their owners do not have the financial, logistical or other personal means to take care of them. These animals can not only become unsheltered, but also be hoarded, neglected or mistreated.

This is the time when targeted interventions can make a big difference—talking to people about their pets ‘ underserved communities and the obstacles they face to connect them with support and resources.

The next step can take several forms, including:

  • Provide free or low-cost veterinary treatments of sterilization, vaccination and other veterinary treatments
  • Make emergency veterinary care available for needy pets
  • Distribution of free isolated niches to protect dogs living mainly outdoors
  • Intervene in hoarding situations to help people reduce the number of animals in their homes and provide the necessary care for these animals.
  • Connect families with social services that can help them improve their General Conditions, which helps the animals.

This work is especially relevant in the midst of a sudden crisis, such as a natural disaster or domestic roughness. A 2014 collaboration between our CIA program and the Urban Resource Institute’s People and Animals Living Safely (Pals) program resulted in the City of New York’s very first initiative to house domestic roughness victims with their pets-an important service when considering the extreme perils domestic roughness poses to humans and animals.

This homeowner-oriented approach is also very beneficial for shelters. As more pets are kept with their families, more shelter opens up for the animals they need most, and shelter staff can spend more time and energy taking each animal into their care.

Our own successes help to put these interventions in perspective. Since the creation of the CIA in 2010, more than 1, 600 financial subsidies from the ASPCA have been provided for emergency veterinary care for low-income pet owners, nearly 2, 000 animals have been sterilized or sterilized, and crucial services have been provided in more than 200 matter of hoarding.

In June 2014, the CIA program was extended to Los Angeles, where our services prevented more than 1,600 pets from reaching the shelters in Los Angeles County. In addition, hundreds of animals received vaccinations at disaster preparedness events in low-income areas in New York City.

One of those beneficiaries is Patty, who moved from Florida to New York in 2014 with her husband, their two daughters and their 5-year-old terrier Abby so Patty’s husband could take a new job. But the position never materialized, leaving Patty and her husband unemployed, with declining savings.

The family was in an unsheltered shelter, and although they tried to sneak Abby, they made her barking impossible to stay. Desperate, Patty put Abby in a box in her car. A passerby noticed and called the NYPD, who returned Abby and took her to the ASPCA.

This story could have ended with Abby going to a shelter and taking up valuable space in the cage as well as the shelter’s time, energy and resources. But in Abby’s situation, the CIA team took over the matter and met the family. No citations were issued, and a nursing home was found for Abby until the family could find longer-term accommodation. After a few months, the family managed to find an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and was reunited with Abby.

It is noteworthy that Patty was able to keep in touch with Abby in the most difficult situations, but we hope to make this result less remarkable over time. There is simply no safer place for an animal than in a house with responsible owners. With the help of supporters, defenders, and human leaders, we can provide pet owners with resources that keep families intact and stop suffering long before they start.

Gwendolyn B. Baggett

Gwendolyn B. Baggett

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