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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.

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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.

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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.

https://www.change.org/p/justice-stephen-smith-keep-animals-safe-from-convicted-animal-abuser-johanna-kloer

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.  

Know Where Your Money Goes

This week, we had to say goodbye to one of our long time canine residents, Nori.

10929080_1064719200210227_6236007269875716523_nWe lost him to cancer. He was an awesome dog that relied on Pets Alive to be his home. He wasn’t an easily adoptable dog, because he had some issues with aggression. Although the team here did their best to find Nori a home, the reality is that Nori lived almost his entire life at Pets Alive and Pets Alive Westchester as a sanctuary animal.  That’s not to say that his life was sad. He got to experience love and joy just like every pet. He had toys and fun and love. He had his own humans too – us. We became his family. Like any family, we loved Nori and when it was time to say goodbye to him, we wanted him to be comfortable. We opted for local veterinarian Josh Furman to come and do a home euthanasia here at the sanctuary. Nori passed away surrounded by his family – us – and in the comfort of a room he knew well, with his toys, and his blanket.  We cried and talked about Nori and celebrated his life together like any family would do.

10929255_1064719170210230_3917567849437571974_nBeing present at euthanasia is not something that anyone ever looks forward to, and it’s not fun to talk about either.  Being present at a euthanasia is just what we do because it’s what you would do when ANYONE you love is passing.  You are there for them until the end. You support them and love them and send them on their way KNOWING that you did everything you could and that you would have done anything. WE would have done ANYTHING for Nori.

I’m telling you about Nori today and his death because I want to tell you about something else, too. In order for you to fully understand it, I want you to just close your eyes and think for a minute about how we said goodbye to Nori.  All of us in that room together, crying, and loving him. I want you to understand how much it takes out of us for us to say goodbye to ONE animal here at our sanctuary. I want you to think about how hard it was for YOU to read this story.

And now lets talk about PETA. Yup- People for the Ehtical Treatment of Animals.  I know, right? Didn’t expect that? Just stay with me. I recently came across PETA’s 2013 euthanasia numbers. In 2013, PETA took in 2175 dogs and cats at their facility in Virginia…and they euthanized 1792 of them. Yes. That’s right. They took in 2175 dogs and cats and they killed 1792 of them. Yes, I’m serious. They killed 82% of the dogs and cats they took in. Ok I’ll pause and let you think about that for a moment. Don’t believe it?  Here’s the REPORT

PETA kills animals because they say that euthanasia is the best option when an animal is “terminally ill” or “unadoptable.”  You can decide for yourself what you think, but to me, any shelter that has an 82% euthanasia rate isn’t trying very hard to do anything but be a slaughterhouse. There is literally NO shelter where 82% of the intakes are unadoptable. We’ve proved this with our adoption numbers over and over again. We PRIDE ourselves on placing hard to adopt animals. It’s what we DO. We know how because we LEARNED. We TRY.

I would go so far as to say that any shelter that kills 82% of their intakes is not treating animals ETHICALLY.

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Those 2013 numbers really resonated with me. I want to tell you why.

At our combined facilities in 2013, we took in 1158 dogs, 523 cats, 22 rabbits and 7 farm animals. And we adopted out 1167 dogs, 531 cats, 21 rabbits and 8 farm animals. No really. We ADOPTED OUT 99% of the animals we took in. You can see our 2013 Annual Report. We did lose some to terminal illness, but that can happen when you are trying to save the animals that need you the most. Those that are in the worst situations. Those that have no one else.

What does PETA claim? To be a voice for the voiceless?  To advocate? To PROTECT animals? To step in when others will not?

PETA LIES. They have been lying, they will continue to lie, and if you ask them about it they will lie to your face.  They are not ETHICAL. They are not ADVOCATES. They are not RESCUERS. They are MURDERERS.

sleepy kitten And people are paying them to kill animals. People that they have deceived with their expensive ad campaigns that are designed to make you believe that they step in when no one else does.

We could never do that here at Pets Alive. Our hearts would be destroyed.  We go home from each and every euthanasia in mourning. Our hearts break every time we have to say good bye. And they should. If they didn’t we wouldn’t deserve to do this work.  That is the future of animal rescue, and the future of no kill. It’s the future we believe in.

On their 990 in 2013, PETA claimed 34 MILLION dollars in income. Yup-not a typo  34 MILLION DOLLARS see that HERE on Guidestar (you can sign up for a free account).  They got paid nearly $19,000 for every animal they killed. Their payroll is well over 7 MILLION and they spend on average nearly half a million annually on fundraising. Talk about an incredible return on investment. At Pets Alive we struggle for every penny we raise. We constantly have to make really tough decisions on staffing, fundraising, repairs and improvements to our facilities, benefits for our devoted employees. Why? Because we have to save more animals. We have to be their safety net. We have to utilize every resource we have to ensure that we can give them all of the medical, emotional, and behavioral rehabilitation they need. Our employees don’t drive fancy cars or fly around the country spewing status quo rhetoric to the masses of how its better for an animal to be dead then to find them appropriate and loving homes.

smiling pittyOur employees show up to work in an ice storm to make sure their animals are cleaned, fed, medicated and loved every single day. Our employees come in on their days off, volunteer their time in other departments, join groups or committees, they give their time, their hearts, their pride to the animals in our care. They bring their children to help socialize and play with the animals (and yes we do use them to kid test!!) Our employees are the heros in animal rescue yet each one of them would be mortified to see their names in lights.

Just think about what Pets Alive could do with 34 Million dollars. How many animals could we save? How much more do we care? How much harder would we work to achieve a no kill nation? Which group would make the bigger impact? I’m not going to lie- it’s been a tough year at Pets Alive. Even with all of the incredible life saving rescues and happy forever homes we are struggling to continue to pay the bills that are always mounting. We spend about $60,000 a month in animal care and operating expenses. While we continue to work on reducing our budgets there are some things we refuse to put limits on- like veterinary care for our animals. That will never happen here. It just can’t. We are one of the few true NO KILL rescue and sanctuary in the country. Our animals are our family and we promise each one of them to do WHATEVER it takes to give them a second chance. We know you believe in us. We know that you agree. We need you now more than ever.gray kitty

When you look at such a major national organization like PETA and compare them to Pets Alive take a moment and think to yourself- who is more ethical? Who believes that life is precious and that it is our duty to be the voice for the voiceless. To be their protector, their guardians, their friends, their family.

Know where your money goes.

Donate to Pets Alive and YOU WILL SAVE animals.




Filed in Animal Rescue, Call to Action, No-kill by Audrey Lodato on Jan 21, 2015.  There are 2 comments.  

Pets Alive Announces New Media Team!

piasteve2At Pets Alive, we have an ongoing need for well-produced photos and videos.  We use photos and videos for a myriad of things like fundraising, communicating with our followers on social media and helping our animals get adopted. Sometimes, the difference between an animal getting a new home and getting passed over is as simple as a  great profile picture on Petfinder.

We’ve formed a team of volunteers who will focus on creating great photos and videos and we’d love for you to join! You don’t need to be a professional photographer or video editor to join this team. You just need to have an interest in taking photos and video. We’ll help you through the rest and we’ll all have a lot of fun, too.

We’re so happy to announce that long time Pets Alive volunteers Steve and Pia Budnick have agreed to chair this team and oversee the projects. Steve and Pia are the masterminds who created Downton Tabby, The Pets Alive Pop Up Video, the Pets Alive Furball Award Winners video and our Help Cupid video. They have also been instrumental in helping gain increased exposure for so many of the kittens and cats in our care with their fun and sometimes silly photos.

Pets Alive is so incredibly thankful to Steve and Pia for their hard work and dedication. With YOUR help the Pets Alive Media Team can continue to create fun, thoughtful and passionate media that helps bring awareness to our mission and helps each animal find its’ loving and forever home.

 

If you are interested in joining our new Media Team, email MediaTeam@petsalive.com for more information!

Filed in Call to Action by Audrey Lodato on Dec 19, 2014.  There are 2 comments.