American Humane Association’s (AHA) famed Red Star™ Emergency Services team deployed at the request of the ASPCA® to assist with what is believed to be the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. The abused, malnourished animals were transported to undisclosed temporary emergency shelters where American Humane Association’s highly-trained Red Star responders helped to provide critical daily care to 253 of the dogs rescued during the raids.
During the raid, the remains of dead animals were discovered on some properties where dogs were housed and allegedly fought. The 367 dogs that were rescued ranged in age from just a few days to 12 years. The dogs were found in the sweltering heat with only makeshift, filthy housing for shelter. Some dogs appeared to have no access to water at all. A large number of the dogs were emaciated and many exhibited wounds, scars and other conditions consistent with dog fighting.
“As a responder, there is always some anxiety about where we are going and what we will see,” said Andy Bass, a response specialist for Red Star Emergency Services who acted as the team lead for AHA and helped to provide care for the rescued animals.
Arriving last Thursday, Bass said, “Although we were to begin the next day, we were asked if our team would consider coming straight from the airport to the shelter and start a day early. And in true Red Star fashion, we were ready and eager to start, even though some of our responders had been traveling for more than 10 hours.”
Helping to provide socialization to the animals rescued during the investigation and helping to keep everything clean to prevent disease – our teams immediately jumped into the mix. Our mission was clear and our work was important to these animals who have for so long known nothing but brutal torture, abuse and neglect. But we wouldn’t be able to do it without our supporters and our fabulous Red Star volunteer responders.
Cleaning and socialization aren’t the only things our teams helped with; another way that we helped the dogs is by assisting with established behavior modification protocols. Positive reinforcement was one method that was used to teach the dogs that all four of their paws must be on the ground before receiving their ‘payment’ in the form of a tasty treat. This simple learning helps to curb any inappropriate jumping on the kennel doors or on people and starts the dogs on their new journey.
To our responders, seeing the amazing transformation of these animals was very uplifting. And even though these dogs have lived miserable lives – suffering unimaginable cruelty – they have now experienced the compassionate touch of people who love and care for them.
As a testimony of their new beginnings, Red Star responder Anita Patterson gave this account which she said was one moment that made her stop, and smile with great joy: “In my pod, the maternity ward at the shelter, a momma dog who for the past two days had her tail between her legs and head down, came up to the side of the cage, looked up at me, wagged her tail twice and went back to lay down in the swimming pool whelping box with her puppies.”
“It is the smallest steps toward her improvement that warms my heart,” she said.
AHA’s Red Star™ Emergency Services team deployed at the request of the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®). Other agencies assisting the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) with the operation include: Florida State Animal Response Coalition and Sumter Disaster Animal Response Team (Bushnell, Fla.); University of Florida (Gainesville); Humane Society of South Mississippi (Gulfport); International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, Mass.); Asheville Humane Society (Asheville, N.C.); Charleston Humane (Charleston, S.C.); Louisiana SPCA (New Orleans); Greater Birmingham Humane Society (Birmingham, Ala.); Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, Ga.); PetSmart Charities (Phoenix, Ariz.); Code 3 Associates (Longmont, Colo.); RedRover (Sacramento, Ca.); and Montgomery Humane Society (Montgomery, Ala.). We applaud the cooperation and collaboration of these groups who are working tirelessly to stop the abuse of animals.