Cold Nose, Warm Heart: Butler Goes to Boston

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This Valentine’s Day, Butler, the Weather Channel Therapy Dog and American Humane Association spokesdog, and I deployed to Boston in advance of Winter Storm Neptune. Boston had experienced a three-week snow siege, accumulating a record-setting 80 inches of snowfall and Winter Storm Neptune was forecasted to bring another 16 inches.

Butler’s mission was to give respite to snow-weary and stressed Bostonians dealing with repeated school closures, closed metro services and growing piles of snow. His first stop was the Boston Fire Department where visited the dedicated firemen who had been working around the clock shoveling snow in order to keep the city’s over 13,000 fire hydrants accessible.

Despite the cold, Butler put smiles on the faces of many Bostonians as they prepared for the next onslaught of snow. He visited stranded visitors, city workers who were clearing sidewalks and many locals who needed a break from shoveling, plowing and ice chiseling. When Butler wasn’t providing comfort to community members, he was providing laughs and love to Weather Channel meteorologists and crews working long hours to bring vital, severe weather information to impacted areas.

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Dogfighting Ring Raided: Another ‘Brutal’ Reminder

dog-fighting-raidFor more than 250 dogs, the nightmare is now over. After a year-long investigation, 22 people have been indicted following the dramatic raid of a suspected multi-state dog fighting operation. Our Red Star® Rescue team was waiting to spring into action at the request of the Baltimore City Police Department to help the animal victims. Our team’s mission was to help local groups, such as the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), bring peace and compassionate care to the dogs that were rescued from what was presumably years of suspected abuse and neglect.

During their investigation, police found treadmills, guns, dogs on heavy chains, “rape stands” and other items which are frequently found at properties with ties to dog fighting rings. Many of the dogs were reportedly found living in deplorable conditions – and it was also reported that many of the individuals who are suspected of being connected with the alleged operation, have a criminal past.

Animal fighting is a barbaric and cowardly form of cruelty. It is an unfathomable abuse that occurs in our nation’s neighborhoods – large or small – all under the veil of devious secrecy. One that not only leads to immense animal suffering – but one that frequently also involves other crimes and violence. In fact, we’ve known for far too long about The Link® between violence towards people and animals.

The Baltimore operation had connections to other states where other raids also occurred. But the message behind these “take-downs” is quite clear – now is the time for zero tolerance by all in our society for blood sports. The fighting must end. The brutal, heinous abuse of animals must end. But it takes a person with compassion and empathy, not violence and hatred, to show an animal you care – and to ultimately help put an end to violence in society as a whole.

The dogs rescued during this operation will no longer have to face an opponent in a ring of torture. But unless we put a stop to violence in our communities today, the horror will continue.

We are working to ensure this type of treatment of animals ends, and we will be there whenever and wherever we are needed. Thank you to our generous donors who have supported our Red Star Rescue team’s efforts to help animals in crisis.

American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Visit American Humane Association at and remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Red Star® giving a happy holiday to shelter animals in need in New Jersey

Red Star National Director Justin L. Scally comforts a cat in the Helmetta, NJ shelter

Red Star National Director Justin L. Scally comforts a cat in the Helmetta, NJ shelter

When we received the call, it seemed like déjà vu. It’s the second time our Red Star® team was asked this year alone to help a New Jersey animal shelter on the brink. And again, the situation was bleak. According to the New Jersey SPCA, “Simple matters such as….the lack of cleaning of cages, basic feeding, the co-mingling of sick and healthy animals, insufficient veterinary care, the lack of disease control protocols, [with] the majority of the animals thin or emaciated, and the need for emergency vet care of some severely sick animals, are all of a very disturbing nature and require immediate action.”

To help, we deployed our 50-foot Lois Pope Red Star Rescue Vehicle assigned to the Northeast region along with a team of staff and volunteers to care for the animals – and to turn things around for the more than 100 dogs and cats impacted by the situation. As I’m writing this today however, we helped to reduce the number of animals here to 62 cats and 15 dogs. Happily, many of the animals who have since left the shelter have been taken to other rescue groups where they can be adopted out and where they can begin their new lives. Some of those animals, however, were in such dire shape that they needed more intense veterinary care than we could provide here.

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The facility is still under quarantine by the health department until further notice, meaning they cannot bring in any additional animals, nor are they open for adoption. That said, we remain hopeful that soon more of these beautiful creatures can find a second chance in a forever home. But until then, the Red Star team will continue to clean the facility, treat the animals, and provide them with the compassionate care that they haven’t experienced in a long time.

In the week since our team arrived here in Helmetta, we’ve seen a remarkable change in the disposition of these animals. They were scared, and sometimes even sick or hurt.  But our highly trained team of staff and volunteers is here to provide tender loving care and these animals seem to sense that. The transformation in these few short days has been miraculous.

Thanks to Our Volunteers and Major Sponsors

We are grateful to our volunteers who chose to use their hard-earned vacation time before the holiday season to deploy with the Red Star team.

But it’s not just our Red Star team that’s been working to help animals in Helmetta. Our Red Star team is only able to do its lifesaving working thanks to its presenting sponsor, MARS Petcare US, makers of PEDIGREE® Food for Dogs. In addition, MARS has sent a shipment of food and coupons to make sure the animals have plenty of good, nutritious food to eat.

Our Northeast emergency response vehicle was generously funded by philanthropist Lois Pope and Banfield Pet Hospital®, which also sent a team to provide some of the veterinary care and veterinary supplies these animals have desperately needed for so long. It’s wonderful to have sponsors who not only provide the necessary support to keep our team moving and outfitted, but who are also there side by side with us, rolling up their sleeves to help the dogs and cats in any way they can.

It’s been a hard but heartwarming week in New Jersey, and we remain hopeful that we can give a happy holiday to the  animals who remain in our care.  If you can help, please do by visiting here. Thank you!

American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Visit American Humane Association at and remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Our Top 10 Reasons to Be Thankful this Year

On this special holiday devoted to giving thanks, we would like to share our Top 10 Reasons to be thankful in 2014:

  1. Farmers and ranchers who put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving by going the extra mile to raise their animals humanely.

Some 10 billion animals are raised on our nation’s farms and ranches, yet the vast majority – almost 90 percent – are not provided animal-centric welfare standards beyond the industry standards offered by trade association guidelines and retailer-imposed audits. Our hats are off to those farmers and ranchers who go the extra mile and raise their animals according to science-based, verifiable standards that ensure they have adequate space, lighting, food and water, humane treatment and the ability to express natural behaviors. More than 100 producers on 8,000 farms have joined our American Humane Certified™ program – the country’s first and largest farm animal welfare effort now protecting 1 billion animals. Thank you! And now it is even easier than ever for Americans to make humane choices at the grocery store and to set a humane table this holiday season and all year long. Join us and do your part by purchasing humanely raised products.

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The Reunion of Specialist Brent Grommet with his Warrior Dog Matty

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It was a dream come true for hero dog and hero soldier.  Thanks to Don Grommet’s personal mission to right a wrong for his son, a hero in the War on Terror, MWD Matty is now at home in Missouri with his battle buddy.   I am so thrilled that Specialist Brent Grommet and his dog Matty have been reunited after more than a year apart.  I am also humbled that American Humane Association was able to play a part in making this reunion happen.  American Humane has helped numerous warrior dog handlers reunite with their battle buddies, but this reunion is extra special because of all the work and effort that went into it. After working with so many veterans to help them be reunited with the dogs with whom they developed such a close bond, you come to understand just how important and meaningful those relationships are to these men and women. It’s about compassion, caring and healing. Continue reading

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On Tour With Animal Stars: Part 1

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Last month I published my first book Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors, co-written with my friends Allen and Linda Anderson, and featuring a foreword from America’s Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker.

I approached the book with a fan’s mentality: I was raised on Disney movies and iconic television shows like “Lassie,” “Mr. Ed,” and “Flipper.” Those animal stars are some of the most iconic in Hollywood history, and I was so honored to learn that American Humane Association’s “No Animals Were Harmed®” Program was there on set then to make sure those stars were safe when bringing their larger than life roles to the silver and small screen. This book is a love letter to not only those amazing animal actors, but their hardworking, dedicated trainers as well. My goal with the book was to show readers how much hard work and long hours it takes to make these roles a reality, and the amount of effort our own Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ go through to truly ensure the safety of those furry, winged, and scaled actors.

Now that the hardcover edition (featuring Richard Gere and Chico the Akita, the titular canine star of Hachi) is in bookstores everywhere, I’ve been on the road at Barnes & Nobles around the country to meet people like me: lifelong fans of animal actors. We’ve had some great stops along the way, and have many touching experiences we’ll cherish for a lifetime.

So far, the tour has hit Houston; Dallas; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and Winston-Salem, in my home state of North Carolina, and it’s been the thrill of a lifetime to meet so many wonderful Americans and share tales of animal actors featured in the book. Tales like Casey, the diva bear who would only work for KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken – not Extra Crispy– as his treat. The bear had a discriminating palate and nothing but the Colonel’s Original Recipe would do. Or tales like how Crystal the capuchin – referred to as the Angelina Jolie of animal stars – has formed true bonds with her human co-stars, and brought comfort and joy to Robin Williams on his birthday, just a few short weeks before his life was tragically cut short. He called Crystal his favorite leading lady, which is certainly high praise from someone with so many credits to his name.

At every stop we’ve been joined by Hudson, the delightful Golden Retriever you know as Willie Nelson from the 2011 comedy Our Idiot Brother, where he shared the screen with Paul Rudd. Hudson has also been on “Saturday Night Live” several times, including most famously as Mitt Romney’s dog during a skit airing close to the 2012 election. Christina Potter, Hudson’s trainer and mom, has been such a joy to work with. She loves showing off Hudson’s range of tricks to the delight of children and really anyone who meets him.

Not only has Hudson been with us, but we’ve had the chance to be joined by some special Hero Dog winners as well. In Boston on October 22 we had the pleasure of welcoming Stella, the standard poodle winner of the Therapy Dog category at the 2012 Hero Dog Awards. As always, she was dressed in an outfit her mom Marissa had put together, and in Boston it was a lovely green sweater Marissa had knitted herself.

StellaVetWhile there we made friends with a young veteran named Nathan who is going through a rough time since returning home from deployment. He was in the store to buy a chemistry book, but his life may have changed forever after meeting Stella. He ended up spending an hour with us, and not only bought a copy of Animal Stars, but truly bonded with Stella (see picture at right of them). Nathan sent a very touching email to Stella, where he said that bonding with her made him want to look into getting a service dog, so he could learn to live and love again. Nathan’s email is why we are doing this tour. And we wish him the very best.

The Sunday stop at Winston-Salem had several 2014 Hero Dog winners in the house: JJ the Service Dog category winner and Donna Lawrence, whose lovable pit bull mix Susie is the new American Hero Dog. Of course, since JJ is a service dog, she was there with KK, the lovely little girl coping with a very serious condition. JJ is her number one line of defense for sensing when severe reactions are about to occur, and alerts KK’s parents and teachers to administer medicine immediately. I can’t think of a more special, meaningful example of the human-animal bond. Hudson seemed to have huge crush on JJ, rushing over to sniff her at every chance he got.

I’m writing this now as I’m about to board a flight to Las Vegas, site of a tour stop on Tuesday October 28. This will be the first of three stops this week, with Kansas City and Nashville still to come in the next few days. This week we will welcome another animal star to our tour, Bonny the Shih Tzu who you know as the star of the movie Seven Psychopaths. Like many of the animal actors featured in the book, Bonny is a rescue, and was given a second chance at life. From once languishing in a shelter to then co-starring in a movie with Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, and Woody Harrelson, not a bad gig.

I want to thank everyone who has come to our events so far and for everyone planning on coming to the final few stops. But most of all, I want to thank Christina and her husband Taylor, who have driven from their home in New Jersey to every stop so far. They’ve put a lot of miles on their tires and taken off a lot of time, going from Texas to DC to Boston to North Carolina just to be with us. All four of their dogs are along for the ride, including Chester the Berger Picard, and their two Chinese Cresteds, Pepe and Morgan. The Potters are quite the sight when they come into a bookstore or hotel with all four dogs in tow.

We’ll see the Potters once again when they come back down to North Carolina for our stop in Charlotte on November 15.

I hope to see more fans of animal stars in the next few days. Be sure to visit the book’s website for all the dates, times, and locations. Until then, as I say on my radio show, let’s all remember to Be Humane!

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