IN ISSUE #6
|People 4animals||Animals 4people||Eye 4wildlife|
|From volunteering at a local rescue start-up to becoming Vice President and Chief Counsel for Humane Law Enforcement at the ASPCA, Stacy Wolf makes animal welfare her job.||Wilson was a rescue dog provided with love, patience and training from his new family. Now Wilson is a therapy dog, touching the lives of seniors, hospital patients, and children.||This week, as the Muppets reunite in a new film to save their theater from destructive oil drilling, we wonder what the characters might look like “gone wild.” Thanks to Arkive.org for sharing their beautiful wild counterparts.|
Explore and indulge in the majesty of the animal kingdom before another month of animal advocacy begins… Enjoy!
Stacy Wolf: Making Animal Welfare Her Job
By Kim Clune
THE SEEDS OF RESCUE
Sue didn’t care for other dogs. She was a middle aged, 100 pound, Boxer/Great Dane mix without a home. Until meeting Stacy Wolf – then president of a start-up rescue group – Sue had little chance of finding one. This dog was quite large, no spring chicken and, as Stacy describes, “had a penchant for chewing footwear and attacking household appliances.”
The seeds for Stacy and Sue’s meeting were planted years prior when Stacy, a small child growing up on Long Island, would wander away from social gatherings “to sit on a staircase, in a basement or a backyard chatting with the family dog, cat, gerbil or goldfish instead of the human guests.” This affection for animals ran deep and grew over time.
After graduating law school in 1985, Stacy became a vegetarian for moral reasons and she often helped friends, relatives and acquaintances find a home for stray pets. In 1995, she joined a newly formed dog and cat rescue group in Albany, NY, first as a volunteer/foster provider, then dog adoption coordinator, and then President through 2009.
Sue was part of Stacy’s learning experience running a successful rescue group, the hardest part of which was deciding which animals to take into the program. Stacy recalls:
We had immense trouble saying no to anybody and became known as a group that would welcome the ‘less adoptable’ including large, mixed breed dogs, those in less than perfect health and those that were no longer in the first blush of youth.
Even with several less desirable traits, Sue became one of many successful placements in the most unlikely of homes – that of a large family with 6 young children and a hectic household. Stacy remembers:
Fully expecting the late night call that would have me warming up the Subaru for a drive to Schenectady to retrieve my beloved if wayward Sue, I was amazed when I visited her shortly after her placement. Sue was not only minding her manners in the house, but she was gentle and loving to all the kids, even the toddlers.
A NEW PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
After more than a dozen years working in public defense, Stacy shifted her professional focus and became the legislative director for the ASPCA. She says:
Championing the underdog was the reason I became a lawyer and, for me, the animal welfare field was another important social movement necessary to ensure better protection for an especially vulnerable and disenfranchised segment of society.
Over the course of ten years, Stacy was the principal author of New York State’s felony animal cruelty law, dog shelter law, exotic pet ban, dangerous dog law, pet dealer licensing law and more. During that time, police, prosecutors, and shelter directors from all over the country sought Stacy’s guidance on how to best navigate animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions. According to Stacy:
These often proved tricky by virtue of involving ‘live evidence,’ often in the form of dozens or hundreds of animal victims who cannot simply be housed in an evidence locker while a criminal case wends its laborious way through the court system.
Finding a new use for her criminal law experience, Stacy began travelling and teaching police, prosecutors, veterinarians and judges their cruelty laws and helped to handle cruelty and fighting cases.
I learned firsthand that it wasn’t enough to pass a law that looked good on paper. Laws needed to work well in the real world if they were to be effective.
PROVIDING HOLISTIC PROTECTION FOR PEOPLE AND PETS
In 2008, Stacy became Vice President and Chief Counsel for Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) at the ASPCA. HLE is staffed by full time NYS licensed peace officers who enforce the animal cruelty laws in the five boroughs of New York City. Investigating animal cruelty, arresting abusers and helping prosecutors successfully handle these cases is the bread and butter of the department, but Stacy says:
Some issues, like animal hoarding, did not so easily fit within the criminal justice paradigm (since many hoarders are elderly or suffer from mental illness). With that in mind, I asked if I could start a Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) Program within HLE so that we could offer a more holistic approach to help address animal hoarding in New York City.
The CIA program was born in 2010. With only two staff members, they secure the surrender, spay and neuter of hundreds of cats and dogs. Many are placed in new adoptive homes through the ASPCA Adoption Center and a growing network of rescue and shelter partners. They connect hoarders to social services, helping them get their lives back on track so that they can be better pet parents. They also provide monitoring and the follow up necessary to help prevent re-collection of animals. Stacy has tagged along on CIA operations and says:
I am in awe of the skill and compassion of my hardworking staff that do this difficult work every day. A CIA operation can involve removal and transport of hundreds of filthy and compromised animals at a time, extremely difficult work environment- feces incrusted and urine soaked homes requiring wearing special apparatus to prevent illness and disease transmission. We are building on the inaugural success of the CIA concept and expanding the program next year so that we can reach even more animals in jeopardy of becoming victims of cruelty.
In March of 2011, Stacy took on the development of a new department at the ASPCA, the Legal Advocacy department. Its focus is to make “good law” for animals across the country through two principal means:
- by establishing a “second chair” program which offers a full menu of legal backup support to prosecutors nationwide to help ensure the successful prosecution of animal cruelty cases
- and by bringing targeted, affirmative civil litigation to strengthen animal protection laws through a variety of legal actions ( in areas such as puppy mill abuses, cruel factory farm practices, and in instances where government agencies are not appropriately enforcing animal welfare laws that fall within their purview).
While ramping up administrative program tasks and hiring lawyers, real work is already taking place on the ground too. Legal support has been provided in several large scale puppy mill, hoarder and farm animal cruelty cases across the nation and amicus curiae (friend of court) briefs were authored in two crucial animal welfare cases.
NMA. v. Harris is an important case and a milestone for Stacy. Authoring the brief is her first foray at the high court. The United States Supreme Court will decide whether a California law that prohibits the slaughter of “Downed animals” for human consumption is preempted by federal law. (Downed animals are those that cannot stand and walk unassisted.) The court’s decision can affect the integrity and future of state level cruelty laws aimed at ensuring humane treatment of livestock animals. The case was argued on November 9th and the decision should be handed down soon. (To read more: visit the ASPCA’s press release.)
ALWAYS AND FOREVER HANDS-ON
So what became of Sue? Stacy says:
Sue’s family kept in touch and for years I regularly visited them at the holidays. When Sue’s time was running short, the family invited me to visit her one last time and the children presented me with a stone imprint of her paw they had made for me. It holds a place of honor in my garden today.
Two years before Sue, a fostered lab named Jack entered Stacy’s home. Joining Ben, a mischievous black lab, and Alex, an affectionate Golden Retriever, Jack became a permanent member of Stacy’s family for nearly a decade and a half. Jack was the last to join Stacy’s dearly beloved three-dog pack and he was also the last to leave, passing from cancer in 2009.
Left – Jack, Photo by Kim Clune; Right – Stacy and Ty Parting, Photo by Jeff Eyre
A handsome and sweet-natured shepherd mix foster named Ty filled the void Jack left for nearly two years, until he found his perfect adoptive home. It was difficult to let go, but a lesson well learned. Stacy says:
Emails and photos of Ty camping, hiking, swimming and boating with his people make my heart soar and remind me of all that is still possible with a little perseverance and hope. And it quickly became apparent that I could endure a dogless state for a few days at most. And so I adopted my first small dog.
WHEN HARRY MET STACY
Introduced through mutual friends, Harry Truman came from the SPCA of Upstate New York in Glens Falls. He came with the name “Harry,” and Stacy’s father suggested Truman after the street where he and Stacy’s mom live. “I was skeptical but the name has proven especially fitting for this smart little tough guy.” Harry goes to work with Stacy, either manning HLE’s “dispatch” area or snuggling in the tiny cat bed in her office. Stacy says:
Harry Truman, in his wry, small dog way, is always reminding me that I am, after all only human. But for a human, I’m incredibly lucky since I have been able to follow my own path, and spend my work and personal time doing that which matters most to me- trying to help make the world a better place for animals of both the four and two legged variety.
Recognizing the Potential
By Peggy Frezon
We’re all so busy, at work, at home, and preparing for the holidays, it’s easy to feel ineffective—no matter how much we do, sometimes we don’t feel like it’s enough. But when we are given a chance to shine, and to prove exactly what we are capable of, we can rise to the tasks at hand and surprise everyone, and ourselves, with our accomplishments.
That’s exactly what happened with Wilson, a soft, white retriever-mix, who had been abandoned in a shelter. His original owners didn’t see the potential in him.
Luckily, Wilson was adopted and his new family provided him with love, patience and training. Now Wilson is a therapy dog, touching the lives of seniors, hospital patients, and children. He cuddles up on beds, walks beside wheelchairs, and snuggles up to hear a good story. His love clearly shines through in his gentle ways.
Before Wilson was adopted, he was just another dog at an overcrowded shelter. “Every homeless shelter dog is full of love and untapped potential, whether as a therapy dog, an agility champion, a child’s playmate or an elderly person’s cherished companion.”
Dogs help us in so many ways. They just need someone to give them a chance.
Every dog is just as special as Wilson.
Watch this video and see just how special Wilson is, like many other shelter dogs searching for homes.
by Kim Clune
As the Muppets reunite to save their theater from oil drilling in their new film this week, we wonder what the main characters might look like – gone wild. Click each photo to learn interesting facts about these species, watch videos of them in motion, determine why they’re threatened in reality, and how you can help them at ARKive.org.