Announcing the New Pets Alive Blog!

Hey, big news! The Pets Alive Blog is MOVING! We’ll be leaving this up, but it will no longer be updated. Come join us at our new home!

Filed in Uncategorized by John Sibley on May 11, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

Providing A Life Worth Living

By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director at Pets Alive

The definition of sanctuary is “A place where someone is protected or given shelter.”  We take the fact that we are a sanctuary very seriously. Although it would be wonderful if we found every animal a new home within a week or two, that’s not realistic. A big part of what we do is taking in the animals no one else wants, and those animals can come with some baggage. Abuse, poor training, neglect or any number of other situations can cause an animal to need  rehabilitation.  We understand that sometimes the sanctuary we provide for an animal will be long term, and that we have to work hard to make sure that the life animals have here is worth living.

1623727_1045676272114520_7588636880587175513_nIn this business, we call that process “enrichment.” Enrichment can mean a lot of things – special training, special housing, endless amounts of time dedicated to one animal to make sure that they know they are safe, protected and loved. Once they get that far, then we work on training them so they will be successful when they do find a new family. Anyone can keep an animal alive – put a dog or cat in a box and leave them there with appropriate food or water and medical care. It takes skill and planning to give an animal a fulfilling life when a home outside of the Pets Alive campus is something that isn’t immediately on the horizon.

When Pets Alive says we are a no kill sanctuary, we mean it. We do not kill animals. Each and every animal that finds sanctuary with us will be safe for the duration of his or her life. We promise to keep them not only well fed and medically healthy, but to also keep them happy and content. Even when it is difficult. Even when it costs money. Even when it means that we have to dedicate a disproportionate amount of resources to that animal. We would never make a different choice than to do whatever it takes to ensure their happiness. No place that calls itself a sanctuary ever would.

The skill that it takes to keep animals happy and safe means that it’s essential that we invest in our staff. The people that work at Pets Alive have endless hours of experience dealing with complex animals and we understand that an experienced staff is essential to the lives of the animals here.  Each and every Pets Alive team member considers enrichment at the top of their list of priorities, and more importantly, they understand how to develop enrichment plans that will be effective for the animal and safe for the people who work, visit and volunteer here.

jimYour donations pay for some of the best people in the business to be on this team, so that we can ensure that the animals receive the best care that is possible. These team members work very closely with talented volunteers who are extremely committed to our organization. That’s a culture we chose to create and maintain here every day. Pets Alive would never hire a team member that did not have the skill set to keep the animals here safe and happy. There is nothing that makes it worthwhile to compromise the care our animals receive.

Enrichment plans are discussed at length here daily. Sometimes there’s a whole list of requirements just for one dog or cat.

One dog that lives here who can be particularly difficult has a whole slew of provisions in place to keep him happy. He gets assigned special staff members to maintain his housing on a certain schedule. Volunteers to work with him. A whole team dedicated to improving his skills with people. A special apartment shed made just for him. Maria brings him hotdogs every time she visits and introduces him to new people. He’s happy and I love him despite the fact that I can’t even go IN his run. We all love him. That’s why we do this.

We created a whole ROOM for a cat named Bonk-Bonk that has a disorder called Manx Syndrome, so that we could ensure that heBarn orient would stay clean and healthy. We got him a friend, so he would not be alone. It cost more than a thousand dollars to retrofit that room for Bonk-Bonk, but when he is lying on his chair in a sunbeam or playing with his special plastic toys, we know that he is happy to be alive.

Our blind horse, Boo, got an entire pasture constructed just for him with special flexible fencing so that he can frolic and roll without being in danger.

When we tell you, our supporters, that we are a sanctuary, we mean that on the highest level. We want our supporters to feel comfortable when they send their donations to us. The process of providing enrichment to our animals may be complicated, but the principle is very simple. It does not matter how broken an animal that enters our care here is – how sad, how scared, or how angry. We know that things may have happened to them that we will never understand. Our job is to heal. We will, 100% of the time, do everything in our power to do right by that animal. We will keep them safe, healthy and happy for as long as we need to. We promise that to you, and we will ALWAYS keep that promise.

When you are choosing to donate to a rescue organization, it’s important to keep how your money will be spent in mind. Know we are doing everything possible to make sure that the animals we house are happy as well as healthy and safe. Although the image of the sad puppy in a cage on television might make you feel compelled to give a few dollars out of guilt, that should not be the reality of shelter life. When you give to us, you’re not only giving lifesaving. You are also giving a life worth living.


Filed in Why we do this by Audrey Lodato on May 04, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

Sweet, Scared Licorice

About ten days ago my neighbors knocked on my door. I live near a dog park in the South Bronx, and it’s not unusual for dogs to be dumped there. A black lab puppy had been dumped in the park and was acting aggressively towards people who tried to get near him.

IMG_1102I grabbed my slip lead and my treat bag and headed over to find a very frightened young man. I knelt down and gently slipped the lead over his head. He would not take my treats for a long time; he was very suspicious of me and was especially focused on my movements and my hands. My guess is that someone’s hit him.

Slowly he warmed to me. First he allowed a few chin scratches, then some stroking. He started to show some interest in my treats. After fifteen minutes or so he rolled on his back for some scratches, then climbed into my lap and started licking my face over and over. We became fast friends.

I put him in my car and went down to Pets Alive Westchester, where Executive Director Erin Guilshan loved him just as much as I did, and he loved her.

IMG_1119Licorice is a very special puppy – less than a year old, an active and healthy young dog. We don’t believe he will do well in a kennel, so we are looking for a very special foster home for him. Someone, somewhere let him down. Someone didn’t understand that if you move slowly and get to know him, you’ll be friends for life and he will lavish you with his love. Instead of the love he needed and craves, someone treated him poorly and then abandoned him on the streets, leaving him to fend for himself. Right now he needs a place where he can decompress and where everyone is nice, sweet and kind to him and he gets careful, slow introductions to strangers. Licorice is just a frightened puppy, and my heart hurts for what’s been done to him – but I know it can be fixed. He is still a wonderful, affectionate dog and given the right environment, he will learn to trust again.

I believe in him. Can you help us help him? Please email me at – you’ll have my cell phone number; I will be on call for you 24 hours a day. I love Licorice. Please help us save him.


John Sibley
Board President and Chairman
Pets Alive

Filed in Animal Rescue by John Sibley on Apr 28, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

Saving a Kitten in the Middle of the Night

By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director at Pets Alive

Companion animals in trouble don’t have a lot of options. This is especially true for cats. There’s animal control, if you live in a town lucky enough to have animal control for cats. Sometimes a particularly compassionate police officer will step in to help a cat that’s injured. More often what happens is that rescue groups like Pets Alive rescue these animals. We find out about the animals because a Good Samaritan calls the sanctuary, or a friend of a friend knows one of our staff members and passes the message along. Or, in the case of Briar, someone tagged me into a Facebook post about a cat in need of rescue. This all began with someone posting this:

“OK friends… This poor little guy was in my driveway dragging his two back legs… Gave him some food and water and for now he is hiding under the shed… My heart is breaking…” – along with this photo.


This was posted at about 8:00 pm Monday night, April 14, and it went on for a few hundred comments until someone tagged me at about 10:15 pm. I was home with my husband watching TV when I heard my phone ping. I picked it up and saw the post.

I didn’t really think about whether or not I was going. Of COURSE I was going. Any one of the Pets Alive staff would have gone immediately. It’s what we do. We have different titles and job descriptions but there’s only one title that matters to us. It’s “Rescuer.” That’s what we are, and that’s what we do. I went to rescue the kitten.

The kitten was under a bush when I arrived, but quickly realized that I was interested in catching her. She and scrambled back under the shed, dragging her mangled back legs behind her. I didn’t have a choice but to set a Hav-a-heart trap and wait. Many hours later, I finally caught her and headed off to the Animal Emergency Clinic.


X-rays revealed that the kitten, who I named Briar, had a fractured vertebra, and that was causing partial paralysis. She was dragging her hind legs. She needed to be seen by a surgeon, but it was 3:00 am. I took her home, popped up a crate, gave her some food and water and the softest kitty bed I have, and tucked her in for the night.

The next day, Janet, our Veterinary Liaison, took the kitten to see our medical director, Dr. Joe. He confirmed that Briar indeed has a broken back. She can move her back legs a bit so she is not completely paralyzed. She can’t support her weight but she can move around and use her legs. She’s actually pretty fast! She doesn’t seem to be having any trouble using the litter pan. She’s eating and drinking and she’s not in any pain. She also has the advantage of being very young and adaptable. Briar is only four months old.

We’re not sure what caused Briar’s injuries, although they are consistent with the type that cats often get when they crawl under car hoods and onto car engines to get warm. When the car is started, the cat then gets tangled up in the moving parts. These injuries are often fatal.

11071943_1118536778161802_4399998944152781032_nBriar also has some superficial wounds on her back paws that we are treating and is underweight, but otherwise she is doing well, especially considering all that she has gone through. We’ve determined that there may be some surgical options for her that will help her mobility. We are looking into those but this comes with a cost. We will give Briar every chance to have a full and happy life.

At Pets Alive, the word “Rescuer” really matters to us. We save lives every day, but we could not do it without your support. Please consider giving a donation to help us pay for Briar’s extensive care. If you check the small box to the right of the dollar amount, you can make your donation reoccurring, which will help us save even more companion animals like Briar.

Filed in Animal Rescue by Audrey Lodato on Apr 17, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

Saving Julia – And Her Unborn Puppies

nycacc_manhattan_acc_cacc_shelter_poundThere is a tempting human tendency to see things strictly in terms of black and white, of good and evil. Goodness knows I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and it’s an especially tempting trap to fall into in the world of animal sheltering. With emotion amplified by the tincture of death it’s easy to lapse into excess; surrounding nearly any public shelter you will find critics at the edge of this excess who pepper social media with references to murder and Nazis, typically in all-caps.

My own view of New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC or just ACC) has mellowed over the years from the all-caps position. I moved back to my New York City home when the shelter was under the control of people whose actions were nearly completely inexplicable for people who claimed to care for animals, the reins of control firmly held by mayoral administrations that had no care at all. The stench of apathy permeated the buildings, detectable even over the constant animal odor. Still, even then, there were some good people there in a bad place, in a bad situation, people who were doing everything they could to save animals.

Recent developments have been much more encouraging. The most recent administration is the most progressive yet seen there and has been busy enacting a raft of long-awaited changes to increase the number of animals who leave the shelter alive, and the political winds have shifted as well to the benefit of the shelter system and New York City’s animals. Things are not perfect, but they are certainly improving. Even the buildings smell better.

When the current administration really became serious about improvements I observed that one of their challenges would be to infuse the entire organization with their new spirit of lifesaving. The new leaders were believers – one top staffer had told me point-blank that sustaining a save rate of over 90% was a matter of when, not if – but large institutional change, from top to bottom, rarely comes overnight. ACC faces the additional challenge of physical removal, with top managers located offsite in a downtown office building, far from the shelters they control.

juliaWith any transition, with change, there are bumps in the road. This is Julia. Like many of the animals who still die nightly, Julia was almost one of those bumps.

Julia came to the shelter as a stray on March 23. You can read all about her on the Urgent site, which publicizes the shelter’s nightly kill lists (among other things). Her evaluation is stellar, she’s friendly, beautiful, no behavior problems, likes dogs and cats, loved by staff and volunteers. A wonderful dog.

Julia was adopted on March 31. By this time she was quite sick, likely the recipient of one of the shelter’s resident diseases. Her adopter had her for only one day before returning her, concerned that they would not be able to help her get healthy – she was reportedly constantly coughing and gagging continuously, vomiting up food and medication. Around April 5, volunteers noticed that her belly was distended and discovered what several medical exams by ACC had missed: Julia was pregnant.

Julia’s first intake exam on March 23 contained the note “enlarged teats, poss post lactation”. Close, but not quite. Her pregnancy (and pre-lactation) undiscovered, Julia had been prescribed doxycycline to treat her illness. Doxycycline is typically not given to pregnant dogs because it inhibits skeletal growth, endangering the health of her pups.

Julia3On April 6 Julia was kill listed, offered to both the public and to rescues to save. The news of her pregnancy – although known to the shelter – was concealed, not disclosed in her medical notes. If she was not chosen from the list, her unborn pups would die with her. If she was saved, the shelter would do a “spay abort” prior to her release, likely without informing her adopter. Many people who are not intimately familiar with animal sheltering do not realize that within the mainstream world of sheltering and of shelter medicine, spay abort procedures aren’t even controversial; they are done routinely, with complete support of national animal welfare organizations. Many shelters and s/n clinics will do spay aborts extremely, even horrifyingly, late in pregnancy. Spay aborts come with increased surgical risk – and that risk was already high due to illness and impaired breathing.

At ACC, people who had come to love Julia were sneaking her extra food for the health of her babies and looking for a place where she would be able to deliver them, contacting Pets Alive Westchester.

Aware of her pregnancy, Pets Alive Westchester (PAW) tried to claim her from the kill list, but she had already been reserved by a member of the public, her spay abort scheduled at the shelter for Saturday, April 11 – a 5 day wait in order for her health to improve before attempting the risky procedure. PAW tried to appeal for the life of her puppies, guaranteeing to honor Julia’s adoption once they were weaned. They were denied. Appeals to the supervisor of New Hope, the department that interfaces with rescues, went unanswered. Because of the adoption hold placed by a public adopter, Julia would undergo the risky surgery, her pups relegated to the trash bin.

On Friday April 10, PAW escalated, advocating for Julia’s interests, contacting shelter upper management, and preparing for the possibility of a public information campaign as a last ditch effort to save Julia’s puppies – and Julia – from surgery. Near the close of the business day, at the close of the business week, late on the day before her surgery, word finally came back from ACC: she would go to an adopter’s home and have her puppies, who would be fostered by the adopter until they were old enough to come back to the shelter for adoption.

Although this hopefully spares Julia’s puppies, it’s less than ideal. The shelter that missed her pregnancy and gave her medication that can cause birth defects in her puppies will continue to oversee her medical care. Once weaned and ready for adoption, her puppies are likely to be returned to the shelter where their delicate immune systems will be exposed to the environment where their mother caught a respiratory disease severe enough to land her on a list for destruction. PAW had hoped for better for her and for them. But the adopter’s hold must be honored, the outcome information controlled, the course likely to result in the most successful lifesaving outcome not chosen for the purpose of PR.

IMG_4206It is not fair to penalize a person or an organization for mistakes made in good conscience, or to leverage those mistakes for PR – and yes, I’ve been as guilty of that as anyone and I’m trying to evolve. Animals are not potted plants; shelters present ample opportunity for human error, unexpected events, medical mysteries. This past week I accidentally left a bag of medications on my kitchen counter. Attracted to the delicious smell of Heartguard, one of my dogs pulled the bag from the counter and chewed up the assorted bottles, ingesting unknown quantities of powerful medications. I paid dearly for my mistake, both financially and in concern for my dog – I cried with relief when, at 3am in the emergency room, the vet told me that she thought he was going to be all right. I risked his life in what was not an act of good or evil; I made a mistake.

Patterns are a slightly different matter. When an animal is repeatedly seen by medical staff for at least two intake exams and several follow-ups and a detail like pregnancy is missed, only to be pointed out by volunteers a mere four days after an intake exam, that’s a pattern. Patterns like that can be troubling. In April of 2014, one year ago, ACC announced a goal of having every intake exam being done by a vet and I’m not sure that happened here. Patterns of rigidly adhering to policy and procedure when that procedure clearly contradicts what is an ethical imperative are also troubling; 48 hours of internal debate and external maneuvering to accomplish a clear ethical imperative are more than troubling because there should be no debate. When one can choose life, that is what you do, at every level from the janitor to the Chairman of the Board. Rarely should requests to act in what is clearly and unquestionably the best interests of an animal require working their way up to senior management.

Some years ago I interviewed for a position at one of the country’s best municipal open-admission No Kill shelters. I spent the entire day there, meeting and talking to many of the staff at all levels, from kennel cleaners to the Executive Director. I later remarked to the ED how astounded I was that nearly every person I had talked to at some point dropped into the conversation, somehow, saving lives. “I’m here to save lives.” “I like to save lives.” “I’m proud to save lives.” They had distilled their mission to such a simple essence and communicated that so effectively throughout the entire organization, and their employees seemed genuinely empowered to do that at every level – to choose the right thing. I reflect on that experience often. I wonder how there can be success without it.

I like data. Recent data – data that I believe is accurate – show that New York City shelters have improved, greatly. I believe that this is true. But data and statistics do not show the whole story. While some would call it anecdote, what one of my statistic geek friends calls “hand-selected artisanal data” indicates that New York has some distance yet to travel. These are not matters of good and evil necessarily but of problems to be solved, attitudes to change, evolutions to encourage. While we all want things to be perfect overnight, evolution can be messy. As I’ve said, there are always bumps in the road.

I am glad Julia was not one of them, though I remain somewhat disappointed with the outcome. We will work with and ally with and encourage others to cooperate with anyone, to the very best of our abilities, who will commit themselves to saving the Julias, to correcting mistakes, to making every effort to do the right thing, until the day when all the Julias are saved and the kill list is no more. What stands in our way we will fight to the best of our ability with every tool we can. When lives are at stake and there is something that can be done that may save them the ethical imperative is very clear.

One of my rescue mentors taught me something that I’m still trying to absorb completely: that there is value in disagreement, and not to back down on matters of conscience or ethics – to not be quiet when you’re screaming inside; to have the uncomfortable discussions or disagreements or arguments or downright bloody fights (metaphorically speaking) in matters of practice, of legislation, of ethics. But, she counseled, you must never hesitate to lay down your sword and join together with your opponent when there is an opportunity to help an animal. That should be the most important thing of all, and no matter how bloody the fight, how deep the disagreement, that is the one thing we cannot afford to lose sight of – what all this is for.

Join us.

John Sibley
Animal Rescuer
Board President and Chairman, Pets Alive

Filed in NYCACC by John Sibley on Apr 15, 2015.  There are 3 comments.  

Audrey’s Update – April 2015

When I was first  started  in animal rescue many years ago, I watched what was going on at Pets Alive on social media and here on the blog – the mass rescues, the amazing number of adoptions, the advocacy on behalf of the animals that were being mistreated in our area. I often thought “I want to rescue animals like that. I want to work someplace where saving lives is always the priority.” I took what I learned from watching Pets Alive and brought it back in my volunteer work, and then to my position as Shelter Manager at Mid Hudson Animal Aid in Beacon, NY. Before long, MHAA was working with Pets Alive to do those same kinds of rescues I had admired from afar. And from there I learned to manage them on my own – and we did them.

It’s more than fair to say that even though I’m new to the organization, Pets Alive has had a place in my heart for many, many years. When I think about the vision I have for the future of Pets Alive, I think about those times when I admired the work Pets Alive was doing. That’s the organization I want us to continue to be. The one that other groups can look up to, or ask for help, or learn from. I’m so happy to be able to provide my very first official update as your Executive Director.

Since the beginning of 2015, we’ve adopted out 65 cats and 51 dogs. We’ve rescued 56 dogs and 92 cats, — we’ve had a few wanda yuckrescues and adoptions that have been quite notable too. One of my favorite adoptions was Wanda, a 10-year-old senior cat with a cleft palate saved from a high kill shelter. I love this story, not because it’s such an incredible rescue but because it epitomizes what we do every day.  Wanda was a cat with very little chance to make it out alive from a shelter system where 90% of cats are killed.  Wanda’s cleft palate caused her to have some facial disfiguration and to drool. She was an older girl. She looked a little funny. She SOUNDED terrible when she breathed – like something might be very wrong with her. But our Cat Manager, Becky saw her potential when no one else did, and scooped Wanda up from a high kill facility. We took her in, made her safe, got her well and then got her what she deserved the entire time – a home. Doing things like saving Wanda makes Pets Alive what it is – the place that will try when no one else will.

WandaCat adoptions in general are doing amazing this year. The cat team has doubled their goal three months in a row and we’re so proud of them. A lot of this has to do with adding some dedicated cat staff to our team and expanding our payroll in the cat department. We’re definitely saving more cats with these new additions!

On the dog side of things, adoptions have been a little slower. Many of our current dogs have some behavioral issues and it’s taking a little longer to place these dogs in the perfect home. To showcase some of our harder to place dogs, we’ve started “The Pets Alive Daily News” on Facebook. Each night, one of our dogs tells our followers about what’s going on at the sanctuary and they also talk a little about what kind of home they’d like. This program has been very popular. The Pets Alive Daily News gets shared all over the world.


Our first “News Dog” was Peyton, who had come in as a pregnant mom found on the streets in NewPeyton news Jersey. She had her puppies in her foster home, and one by one they got adopted, leaving Peyton behind. Peyton wasn’t getting a lot of attention until we suddenly made her famous. When she got adopted, it was one of the best days in a long time. Finding the perfect home is challenging, but we won’t accept anything else. Our dog adoption team continues to get creative and works hard each day to make matches that will last a lifetime.

We’ve also done a lot of repair work in the past six months. Things that, quite frankly, couldn’t wait any longer.  One major project we did was a renovation of the laundry room. Done almost completely by volunteers and staff and funded by your generous donations  we were able to get the ENTIRE PROJECT done for just 300 dollars more than we raised.  This makes such a huge difference in the quality of life of the animals here. It means that each dog gets to snuggle in a warm blanket on cold nights . Pets Alive cares a lot about the quality of life of the dogs in our care, and although it’s not glamorous, a new laundry room can mean a lot.


We also painted our lobby and got a generous donation of a TV that shows photos and videos of adoptable animals to people who are waiting. It’s a little thing, but it’s made the sanctuary feel much more welcoming.


Financially, things remain difficult as we head further into the new year. As always, we will never compromise on the care we provide our animals and those costs add up. Right now, we’re working to expand our monthly sponsorship program. It’s very easy to sign up and your continued support is what makes saving lives possible for us. You can donate any amount you’re comfortable with and cancel your sponsorship at any time. It’s easy to sign up. Just click HERE.

I’m looking forward to all of the great things coming up for Pets Alive this year. We’ve stacked our calendar full of adoption events and fundraisers and I hope to see you all at some of them. Check out  our events by visiting our website or our Facebook events page. You can also stop by the sanctuary to find out what’s going on.

Don’t forget that volunteer orientation is every Saturday at noon. We can’t do what we do without your help!

Filed in Uncategorized by Audrey Lodato on Apr 13, 2015.  There are 1 comments.  

Pets Alive Seeks Justice for Abused Horses

This is a story about how the legal system failed. This isn’t fiction. This isn’t something that happened somewhere you have never heard of, in some place far away. This happened here, in our back yard. This happened at Pets Alive.  It’s not about someone who made a mistake, or about people who didn’t know better. It’s about willful maliciousness. It’s about someone who was knowingly cruel. It’s about someone who starved animals intentionally. Someone who let horses be crippled and rabbits freeze to death and chickens live with missing limbs. It’s about how the laws that were supposed to protect these animals failed, and about why. It’s about corruption and it’s about money It is also about how whom you know influences what crimes you are capable of getting away with.  This story is about our community.

In early December, 2014, Heather Hallack and Gene Hecht from the Hudson Valley SPCA contacted Pets Alive. They were seeking placement for five horses and a pony about to be seized from Johanna Kloer of Blooming Grove. We knew about Johanna. Pets Alive Farm Manager, Cindy O’Brien, had been to her property before, in 2014 when she was contacted by a Good Samaritan who was attempting to help out some of the animals under Johanna’s care. This Good Samaritan had multiple concerns about the treatment of the animals on the grounds and was seeking help specifically for a pig whose hooves were so overgrown that she could no longer stand. Cindy spoke to Johanna about surrendering the pig to our sanctuary, and when Johanna told Cindy that there was no better place for the pig than under her care and kicked Cindy off of the property, there wasn’t much we could do. We did what we could. The pig disappeared. We can only assume what happened to her. Nothing happened to Johanna. This pattern has repeated itself for many years. People file complaints. Write letters. Make phone calls. Get frustrated. Collect evidence. Take photos. Time and time again it was been proven that the conditions on Johanna’s property were and are horrendous. And nothing would happen to Johanna Kloer. She has gotten away with it over and over again.


002And then finally Cindy got the call out of the blue in December that someone was finally paying attention to all of the allegations that had been brought against Johanna for years, and she was being brought up on cruelty charges. Her animals would be seized. They would be safe. Could we help with placement? Of course we could.  Plans were made for the horses and pony to arrive within days. Cindy, along with  Andrew, our amazing part-time barn worker, threw themselves into their work to get ready for the horses to arrive.  Everyone on the team pitched in. Blankets were bought, hay and feed ordered, vet appointments made. Stalls and barns made ready. Fences reinforced. Meetings held, plans made. Optimism. Faith that a new life would be had for these animals. Pride that we could be a part of it.


When the horses arrived, our hearts broke. One horse, only ten years  old, could barely walk. Another had teeth so rotten he could not eat. Hipbones were visible. Their coats were dull and matted. Their spirits were broken and their eyes were dark. These horses had not known joy in a long, long time. Cindy and Andrew, with help from the rest of the Pets Alive team set about making the horses well. And they got better. They gained weight – over 100 pounds each. They pranced around in the pastures. They knew gentleness and love. They received immediate and constant medical care.  They knew a life without pain for the first time in a long time. They were safe.025

While the horses were busy recovering, the trial began to take shape.  Assistant District Attorney Theresa Cayton was assigned to the case, and that should have been our first indication that Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler wasn’t taking this trial seriously.  Hoovler, who touted “Zero tolerance to animal cruelty in Orange County” as part of his campaign platform, assigned Theresa Cayton to the case. Cayton had never handled an animal cruelty case.

One of the first things that happened was that all but 8 of the counts of cruelty Miss Kloer had been charged with were dropped, with the DA’s office pursuing only the counts against the horses. This was despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty to the rabbits and chickens on the property. This evidence included rabbits living in hutches with no shelter of blockage from the wind. These hutches were filled inches deep with urine and feces, and that was covered with snow. Several of the rabbits were found alive, frozen to the wire bottoms of the cages. Chickens were discovered to have resorted to cannibalism, having been starved for so long that they were eating each other alive. None of this information was presented in court because in New York State, chickens and rabbits don’t have many rights.

006 Our farm manager Cindy was called to testify at the trial and tried her best to assist the ADA, who knew next to nothing about horses. One of the key witnesses in the case was our farrier, who saw the horses on the day of their arrival. He likely would not have been called to testify at all had Cindy not suggested him.

Despite the evidence that was NOT presented in court, Judge Stephen Smith still found the evidence brought against Kloer serious enough to convict her of FOUR counts of cruelty and neglect. Even though this isn’t nearly sufficient, since Miss Kloer is clearly a monster who cares nothing for animals, it was better than nothing and it should have, at the very least, been enough to prevent her from reclaiming the very animals she had neglected, tortured and starved, especially since all of the facilities holding the animals (including ours) had offered to provide safe permanent homes.

Except it wasn’t.

In an unprecedented decision, Judge Stephen Smith decided to return the animals to Miss Kloer with “special circumstances.”

Yes. You heard me right. Judge Smith gave the animals BACK to the woman who starved, neglected and abused them. He imposed four unbelievably lenient and ridiculously useless “special circumstances” on Miss Kloer. These “circumstances” are that Miss Kloer is subject to just four unannounced visits from humane law officers, and that she must record medical care the horses receive for a period of one year. That’s it. Four visits by Humane Law over 365 days.


So it was that on March 8, 2015, David Hoovler’s offices called and let us know that by law, we must allow Miss Kloer onto our property without incident to reclaim her horses. We had no choice.  Judge Smith ordered they be returned immediately EVEN THOUGH MISS KLOER WAS NOT YET SENTENCED.

Our staff stood helplessly by while this monster entered our barn and loaded her horses into a trailer. Solingen was still recovering from lice, which we told Miss Kloer when she arrived.  She shoved her into the trailer alongside the other 4 horses and pony – likely giving ALL of them lice. A trailer that was meant for 5 horses. She pulled off the blankets we had purchased for the horses and threw them aside with no regard to the freezing temperatures, despite the fact that we offered them to her. Apparently her horses don’t need to be warm. She was cruel in even the simplest of tasks.

We were outraged. We were heartbroken. We were ANGRY.  Our options are limited as a holding facility in this case. Since we are not the organization bringing the lawsuit forward, we cannot file an appeal. We cannot ask for a mistrial. What we CAN do is let our community know that this happened. Orange County Humane Law is doing a good job of pursuing justice on their own. We can’t discuss all that is happening, but please know that on their end, they are doing everything they can to make this right. So are we.

Judge Stephen Smith is an elected official. So is District Attorney David Hoovler. Please help us tell them both that this is NOT JUSTICE.  Tell them that we, citizens of Orange County, want Johanna Kloer in jail. We want the horses returned to us. We want JUSTICE.

Let them know that we want officials who TRULY believe in zero tolerance to animal cruelty in our county.

We’ve set up a few simple ways that you can help bring justice to these horses:

1.  Send a FREE photo postcard with a photo of you and your pet on the front to Judge Smith using this simple app from Postcard.

Take a photo of you and your pet, and write a message explaining why you want Johanna Kloer put in jail for animal abuse. We will then use your photo and message to create physical postcards, delivered directly to Judge Smith at the Blooming Grove Town Hall. Your postcard will help Judge Smith to realize the gravity of this situation, and will help return these horses to safer care and conditions. Click HERE to send a postcard.


2.  Sign our online petition to Judge Stephen Smith and let him know that you want Johanna Kloer to go to jail, and never be allowed to have animals again.

3.  And finally, join us at Johanna Kloer’s sentencing hearing on May 7 at the Blooming Grove Courthouse. As soon as we have more information on that, we will post it on our Facebook page. You can like us HERE.

Filed in Call to Action, Legislation, No-kill by Audrey Lodato on Mar 31, 2015.  There are 9 comments.  

From a Legacy of Survival to a Legacy of Love

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Each of the dogs that come through our doors has a story of their own to tell. Quite often we are sure their stories would make us very sad to hear. We don’t need to hear them though, we can see from their body language what some have been through. We can see it when they arrive underweight, with signs of neglect and with fear in their eyes. Once in our care, they learn that they are safe, loved and they are able to begin to heal.

As we help better the lives of the new dogs that come to stay with us, we also focus on a group of dogs we refer to as the Legacy Dogs at Pets Alive Westchester. These are the dogs who spent most, if not all of their lives at the shelter, many of whom are now senior dogs.

And you can help us help them by fostering a Legacy Dog and/or sponsoring one with a monthly donation. Read on to find out more about these dogs and how you can support them.

The Legacy Begins

Five years ago, Pets Alive Westchester took over the shelter that had been in existence for many years. The building was built at the current location in 1995 with the capacity to hold under 200 dogs. When we took over this shelter in 2010, there were 600 dogs living there.

vanillaThey were completely overrun with animals. The majority of these dogs at the time were deemed aggressive and had lived in the shelter almost their entire lives. Some were even born there. They were subjected to living a life that was devastating to their mental health and emotional well-being. Vanilla was one of those dogs. She arrived at the shelter completely emaciated at a year old when her owner was incarcerated and she spent the next 8 years of her life waiting for someone to bring her home.

Over time she had endured much and her trust in people was so damaged that she felt the need to be protective of the people she loved. The volunteers and staff were the only “family” she’d ever had. She has always loved certain people she trusted and those are the ones that helped to give her the best quality of life. The only way she could be adopted into a home was if her adopter fully understood how protective she could be. That person would need to get to know her first before bringing her home. Her chances of leaving the shelter were not looking good for her — but we never give up hope.

Like all of the Legacy Dogs, we have been Vanilla’s family. The staff and volunteers are the ones that spend time and give love to each of these dogs. Like Vanilla, some of the other Legacy Dogs have that protective spirit as well and will need time, dedication and love from a prospective adopter.

One thing we never lose at Pets Alive Westchester is HOPE. We have bared witness to some wonderful moments watching our pets find loving homes after waiting many years for that magical moment. We had one of those moments a few weeks ago when the stars aligned just right for Vanilla and she got a home!

vanilla2Joe, who is now her new dad, has been a volunteer at Pets Alive Westchester for the past couple of years. He immediately fell in love with Vanilla and the feeling was mutual. For 2 years, Joe would come just to see her, spend time with her and to give her as much love as he could. His heart ached each time he said good bye.

Eventually he brought her home on some overnights to see how it would go. After 2 years of loving this girl, Joe was able to give her the home she deserved! Vanilla had a pretty rough start but this is a new beginning to a new life for her. A dream came true for Vanilla, but it also came true for all of us at PAW on the day she went home – a day we had all hoped would happen for this wonderful girl.

There are still 35 Legacy Dogs remaining out of those original 600 that we started off with 5 years ago. For some of them we fear that we may be the only family they will ever know. We want them to have a real family in a real home.

You may be wondering how you can help them. Here’s how:

  • Share this story and others. The more you share the greater their chances are at finding a home.
  • Foster a Legacy Dog for a day, weekend, week, month or forever. Help them enjoy their senior years to the fullest.
  • Sponsor and give support for them to have all they need in their golden years. Your monthly sponsorship pays for food, veterinary care and medications.

Click the image below to check out some of our Legacy Dogs available for Foster!


 Sponsor the Legacy Dogs and Help Save More Lives


Although, part of their legacy speaks about how much they had lived through over the years and how they survived it all, we can also add to that legacy the love that they have in their lives. We provide this to each and every one of them, but we cannot do this without you. YOU are their voice. YOU are their support. YOU are making the legacy of love.


For more information on the Legacy Dogs and Pets Alive Westchester visit









Filed in Animal Rescue, No-kill by Erin Guilshan on Mar 15, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

A Year Later – Evacuation Day

By Erin Guilshan, Executive Director, Pets Alive Westchester 


Today marks the anniversary of a time in our lives we will never forget. It was the hardest day we have had to endure in the history of Pets Alive Westchester. We had to evacuate our building and get every single animal out as soon as possible. We can still remember hearing the words from the engineer telling us, “you need to evacuate as soon as possible” and feeling a wave of disbelief run through us. Later, that wave of disbelief would touch every volunteer and supporter as well. Our world suddenly turned upside down and it suddenly became very ‘real’ how serious the structural issues of our building really were. Until we knew that our building was safe we couldn’t risk having our animals live in it or people entering it every day.


You can read the original blog we wrote: Emergency at Pets Alive Westchester

This is a blog we wrote during the time we were out of our building: Our Greatest Challenge

You Were There When We Needed You Most

The response from the community was overwhelming. Hundreds of people stepped up to help in any way they could. During the worst1932295_620587191344773_1890310929_n time in our history, YOU WERE THERE. You helped us, supported us and lifted us up when we needed it the most. A year later we are still in awe at the wonderful community that surrounds us and we feel incredibly blessed for all of our supporters and volunteers.

Back in Our Building

Now, back in our building and doing better than ever, we can look back at all we went through knowing that we can withstand any challenge that life may throw our way. We picked up where we left off on many projects such as new adoption rooms, a freshly painted lobby, new programs we have put in place such as training sessions for the public and humane education programs for schools. Our adoption rates have skyrocketed and we are better than ever! It seems as if we have this renewed spirit after all we had been through. It’s as if we now know for sure that we can get through any challenge. If we made it through that together we can do anything. The sky is the limit.

What’s Happening with the Building

closet crackingThe cost we endured financially from the evacuation was not something we anticipated or budgeted for – who would have thought something like that could happen? After months of drilling, soil testing and evaluating our property and building, the insurance company let us know that they weren’t going to cover any repairs, but eventually agreed to cover the costs of all the testing that was done.

The repairs need to begin right away now that the winter is over. This week as we mark one year from evacuating our building, we will begin to repair it. The harsh winter didn’t help with the severe freezing that occurred and the loading dock area in particular is getting worse. We are seeing movement happen throughout the building and I will tell you first hand it is nerve rattling to see. We have hired a contractor to make the building safe and they will begin working on the loading dock this week which is where the biggest issue is. We can only afford to do this one phase of repairs right now, but at least we will be able to rest assured that the area will be secure and safe.

This is money we would have used for other things but instead we have no other choice but to use it for repairs. Our needs are always great and we rely on our supporters to IMG_0261help us continue our great work of saving lives, rehabilitating when needed and finding loving homes for the animals in our care.

We rely solely on donations from supporters and do not receive any city or state funding. You are the ones that keep us going and your help is needed.

Thank you to all that help in so many ways.

Filed in Uncategorized by Erin Guilshan on Mar 13, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

An Update on Bennett and Blizzard


benito Bennett, the cat we rescued from the ACC in Brooklyn, continues to be a bit of a medical mystery.  He has gained a little weight, but he continues to weigh less than he should. He spent a week at Oradell animal hospital in Paramus, where they were able to rule out some things like intestinal lymphoma, which is a type of intestinal cancer. Bennett was tentatively diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease, which means that he has a very sensitive digestive tract that is subject to inflammation.  We are continuing food trials and Bennett no longer has any diarrhea. He enjoys climbing around in the medical office and is very affectionate. Bennett would love a foster home. If you are interested in fostering Bennett, please contact Audrey


11041797_1093471640668316_5667987929674747180_nBlizzard is recovering nicely from his multiple bb wounds and his kidney and urinary tract infection. Our medical team has been working diligently to control his discomfort and keep him pain free.  His leg is on its way to healing and he is able to stand and walk well. Blizzard should be available for adoption in the next few weeks. If you are interested in adopting Blizzard, fill out an application at

Filed in Uncategorized by Audrey Lodato on Mar 07, 2015.  There are 1 comments.