Fuzzy Friends Rescue: An Evaluation
Fuzzy Friends: Combating Animal Cruelty, One Shelter at a Time
The thought that someone would want to inflict harm on one of her animals never passed through the mind of Alison Gianatto’s friend. In 2001, someone had stolen the family’s beloved cat. Instead of stealing to keep as a pet, they stole the cat, took it 15 miles away, and set her on fire. How could someone want to hurt an innocent little animal? Feelings of horror and sadness overtook normal emotions, would justice, or better yet, could justice every be sought for the perpetrator? Many wonder how people could harm such fuzzy, warm, and friendly creatures, but the unimaginable crime to some, has increased in America. One underestimated crime in America involves the most unlikely of victims, animals. In response to the startling statistics of these crimes, many animal shelters and organizations have established themselves. According to the ASPCA, “Approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized” (ASPCA).
Fuzzy Friends Rescue of Waco, Texas is one of the many shelters trying to combat the problem of animal cruelty, using a no-kill approach. They believe that,"animals are entitled to a quality life, respect and compassion.” In the Waco area, the amount of stray animals on the streets is increasing, many people simply do not have the outlets to provide proper care for them. Fuzzy Friends steps in, helping these stray animals get off of the streets, and into safe, caring homes. Shelters, like Fuzzy Friends Rescue, are placed all over America in hopes of bringing in what could be adoptable animals, and providing the help they need to regain their lives. Through its affiliations with the ASPCA, and Humane Society of the United States, Fuzzy Friends is helping combat the unimaginable crime of animal cruelty and abandonment. Whether or not everyone believes it, animals have a voice too. With the help of shelters and animal advocacy programs, the US is on their way to decreasing the amount of animal abuse cases.
ANIMAL CRUELTY PROBLEM OVERVIEW
Cruelty towards animals can be categorized in two ways: passive and active. The most common of the two categories is passive, or neglect. People simply do not provide the proper and adequate care for the animals in their charge. Many animals can go without food, water, shelter, or proper veterinary care. Sometimes this is out of ignorance of the owner, but other times it is because owners cannot afford the animal. On the other hand, many animals are purchased but forgotten. These animals are left on their own, and slowly die from various factors. Many say it is more painful towards the animal if they are neglected rather than physically abused. Many adopt animals not carefully considering the needs and their ability to take proper care of them. There are many forms of animal neglect: starvation, parasite infections, dehydration, and failure to find proper care when the animal is in need of medical attention.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have deliberate cruelty, or active cruelty. These malicious acts are sometimes signs that someone has serious psychological issues. 71% of domestic violence victims said that their animal was also targeted. Some people dealing with emotional problems may beat, stab, shoot, or set their animals on fire (HSUS). These are the methods abusers use so they do not see the misery of pure neglect. Many abusers have sociopathic tendencies; some may kill animals to lure others into sexual abuse, others use animals to threaten those to keep silent about previous or current abuse, and some use animal torture to psychologically mess with the victim (Pet-Abuse). Some people must think, in the heat of aggression, that instead of hurting a person, they can hurt an animal because they do not believe that they could face prosecution for such a “minor” crime, simply using animals as scapegoats.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “64.5% of all animal cruelty cases involve dogs, 18% involved cats, and 25% involved some other animal.” Horse neglect is also on the rise since the US ordered closure of all horse slaughter plants. In addition to these facts, around 1 million animals a year are either killed or abused in connection with homes dealing with domestic violence. The downfall to helping lessen the problem is that there is not database, like the sex offender registry, for abusers to be put on (HSUS). This problem has been advocated for years, and is slowly coming to find a solution.
TEXAS ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS
The State of Texas has both criminal and civil laws regarding animal cruelty, to domestic and wild animals. The criminal law regarding animal cruelty is somewhat narrow and applies to only “domesticated living creatures or any wild living creatures previously captured.” In Waco, Texas, a monumental turn in Texas law occurred after a homeless cat was beaten and killed with a baseball bat. The cat was not protected under law. Even though the cat had an owner, since it was out in the streets it was deemed wild.
On the other end of the spectrum in criminal law, intentional and knowingly inflicting cruelty upon an animal is against the law. Texas law defines cruel as “intentional actions and failure to act.” On the civil side of things, one can sue for the loss of an animal, or one can use civil actions to seize an animal. Civil law has a broader scope, however, “ ‘Cruel treatment’ in the civil context includes: torturing an animal; seriously overworking an animal; unreasonably depriving an animal of necessary food, care, or shelter; cruelly confining an animal; and causing an animal to fight with another animal.” This narrows the scope of prosecution (Ravenscroft). Many abusers go on to family or individual counseling, to help battle their violent ways, hoping to decrease the relation between animal abuse and domestic violence. In the end, animal cruelty, specifically neglect, is more prevalent now than ever. People are simply taking out their anger on living creatures, by putting them in danger, and misery.
THE VOICE OF THE ANIMALS: ASPCA & HSUS
Animals that are abused or neglected don’t have help. They can be taken away from their uncaring owners, but who wants them? ASPCA and Human Society of the United States, HSUS, are the two leading organizations that speak for the animals of America. They help combat animal cruelty by providing resources and funds for private animal shelters around the country. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in 1866 by Henry Bergh. He believed that they have the right to be treated with respect. The ASPCA became the first humane society in North America. There are ASPCA shelters around the US, in different major cities. Now, it is one of the largest societies in the world. The ASPCA has three key goals: care for pet parents and pets, providing at-risk animals positive outcomes, and helping victims of animal cruelty. Sponsored by various partners, the ASPCA also accepts donations from the American public. Many may recognize the very emotionally appealing ASPCA commercials seen on television. This organization believes that the whole US is a humane community that should treat its animals with kindness. In addition to their goals of improving the lives of animals, there are many policies that they abide to that they also advocate for. They have policies for: companion animals, livestock animals, research animals, educational animals, and wild animals.
THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES
The Humane Society, founded in 1954, is essentially the ASPCA on a much larger scale.11 million people back this organization. Compared to the ASPCA, the HSUS has a broader mission: to create a human and sustainable world that will benefit animals and humans. The HSUS, provides evaluations to help local shelters, as well as standards to help them run effectively. Unlike the ASPCA, HSUS seeks to fix the problem at a national level, seeking reforms for industries. They go to Congress to address problems and have had much success. This is the largest animal protection organization. They support the work of local human societies, but those are still independent organizations. They protect animals through “legislation, litigation, investigation, education, science, advocacy, and field work.” In addition to animal cruelty, they also hit on environmental dangers to animals. With funds around $160 million, the HSUS is slowly on its way to creating a more humane society (HSUS).
Both of these organizations, though supported well, would not function without the help and efforts of local shelters in cities across the United States. This is where Fuzzy Friends Rescue (FFR) comes into play. Shelters and rescue centers help the ASPCA and HSUS localize their goals. The problem of animal cruelty is being solved by these shelters and organizations, but it is a slow process. The rates in cruelty have gone down as a result of the American public and these advocacy programs.
WHAT SETS FUZZY FRIENDS APART?
Stepping into the doors of Fuzzy Friends Rescue of Waco, Texas, you are taken aback at how hospitable the conditions are. You don’t see the typical “humane society” look, however, you are greeted by warm staff, and furry friends walking freely around the facility. This is what founders Betsy Robinson and Kathie Robnett had just in mind when creating their idea of an animal shelter. The belief of Fuzzy Friends is that, “animals as living creatures are entitled to a quality life, respect, and compassion.” The goal is that in future years, FFR will be able to provide even more effective and efficient care for the animals they take in. They want to carry on their legacy of care to those animals that have yet to be born. Many animals that come into FFR are taken from the Humane society, Robinson saw that many animals in the humane society could be very adoptable given a second chance. They serve about 500 animals a year that have been mistreated, through cruel acts, or neglect. Some abused animals may be seen as “damaged goods,” and this is where FFR steps in, giving them help, and proper attention.
In 1990, Kathie Robinson, local Waco resident, would frequent the groomer with her two poodles. When she was picking up her dogs one day, she saw a cute little toy poodle being groomed. She asked where it was from, and was surprised when the groomer told her it had come from the Central Texas Humane Society. Robinson, like many of us, always thought the animals at humane societies were second rate. As she kept seeing more animals from the shelter at the dog groomer’s, she decided she would volunteer. She went to the humane society, and learned that many animals are euthanized, simply because vaccinations could not be kept updated due to costs. Robinson knew she could help out, she told the society she could get them the $3,000 they needed to help pay for the vaccinations. In the two weeks following, she raised over $10,000 for the society. She raised $65,000 in the next two weeks, and volunteered three days a week. She could see that many of the animals were very adoptable with a little love and care. After five years of going to the shelter, she saw so many animals with huge adoption potential, and figure if only they had a place where they could be kept forever, until the right person came along for them...
In 1997, Robinson and Robnett, created a nonprofit organization dedicated to long-term care for animals in-need, Fuzzy Friends Rescue. The animals they take in, stay until they go on a leash with their new owner, however long that takes. Fuzzy Friends is a no-kill shelter. In 1999, they were faced with a publicized court proceeding, under the view that the housing of their animals wasn’t adequate, and a sign of mistreatment. Robinson feared that this would be the end of Fuzzy Friends, but the judge had the animals returned. On the other hand, Clifton Robinson knew this wouldn’t be the end to Fuzzy Friends, just a new beginning. He new that from this setback, a new and improved Fuzzy Friends would form.
THE BUILDING OF A NEW FUZZY FRIENDS
Clifton Robinson purchased a 10,000 square foot building on 8.5 acres of land near Lake Waco. Ed Robnett, Kathie’s husband, built the main kennel, with 38 dog runs. Inside the building, work started on the “Kitty Corral,” a place where cats could freely roam in an open environment. The building, in addition to the kennels and corral, contains a medical examining room and grooming facility. With all of these aspects, Fuzzy Friends is able to make sure the needs of the 1000+ animals it takes in a year are met.
One of the interesting programs that Fuzzy Friends provides is “Fuzzy Fosters.” This program helps those animals in quarantine that may be either: infant, young, sick, injured, in recovery, aging, terminally ill, or in-need of special attention. These foster families are vital in the development of young animals, and also to those animals in recovery from injury or illness. In order to become a “Fuzzy Foster,” the fostered animal must be up-to-date on all vaccinations. When it is time for shots, the fosters are to bring their animal to the rescue center. All in all, the fosters are very beneficial in house training the animals and acclimating the animal with society.
The volunteer program at FFR is one that will always keep one busy. FFR believes that the more an animal is around human interaction, the more socialized and adoptable they become. Volunteer work comes in all capacities. Kennel work encompasses cleaning the cages, doing laundry, and general housekeeping maintenance. All the dogs have to be walked at least three times a day, so Dog Walkers are needed daily. Many people work in the cat room, cleaning litter boxes, cages, and brushing the cats. Then, you have the brave people who give the animals baths and groom them. In addition, there are also front desk volunteers who greet you upon walking in. These specific volunteers help escort you through the facility. The only requirements to volunteer are: you must be 18 years old, and you must wear closed-toed shoes. Moreover, in order to keep the reputation FFR upholds, you must have a good attitude and genuine love for all animals, both cats and dogs.
As a non-profit, funding is primarily received through sponsorships and donations. It takes $850 a day to cover various medical treatments, utilities, salaries, food, insurance, and shelter. Therefore, FFR needs to find outlets in which they can find money to carry out their operations. Many people participate in donating dog beds so animals have a nice, comfortable place to sleep. They have programs to help foster animals, as well as fund animals that are severely injured or sick. Many people in the Waco community support the efforts of FFR, and they want to see that animals be taken off the streets, and out of neglect, and put into good homes. The “Angel Heart Fund,” was established in 1999 to help very sick and injured animals taken in. Many dogs that come in test heart-worm positive, and without the proper vaccinations, this could be potentially fatal to them. The “Angel Heart Fund” receives donations in all amounts, and helps animals recover and become adoptable. Another program for donation is “Sponsor A Cage” where, for $300-$500, you can sponsor a cat condo or dog kennel. These sponsorships are annual, and you will receive a plaque on the cage you decide to sponsor. FFR, also has an alumni club, made up of people who have adopted animals from the rescue center. This club requires an annual fee for membership, and members get many benefits, including up-to-date news on Fuzzy Friends events. Also, there are many things that Fuzzy Friends needs donated, from animal food to office supplies, they accept donations on a daily basis.
Fuzzy Friends can readily see success in the amount of animals they are able to take in and adopt out per month, or year. The hospitality of the shelter makes many that adopt from it come back and visit from time to time, with their animal in tow. FFR also has a very strict adoption process in order to ensure proper care of their animals. They make sure to check up monthly on recently adopted animals, making sure that they are being taken care of and treated the way they deserve to. If one cannot take care of a recently adopted animal, they take it back to the rescue center. FFR has seen cases like this, but they are very rare.
The shelter takes in well over 500 animals a year, adopting out more than half of them. Some animals will stay in the shelter for years until they are finally discovered by the right owner. One dog, Edgar, had been in the shelter for 14 years before a Catholic priest came along and adopted him. Now, Edgar comes back on a weekly basis to visit the center and staff that gave him a second chance, a new life.
FUZZY FRIENDS: THE EVALUATION
Sometimes getting involved with organizations can be a lengthy process. Integrating myself within FFR was so simple, you fill out one sheet of information, and then get to work. In order to be with the animals, you must fill out the information for liability purposes. On the first day, contrary to my expectations, Fuzzy Friends Rescue turned out to be a very happy place. When many think of “animal rescue center,” their minds automatically flash back to the infamous ASPCA commercials, with the song, “In the Arms of an Angel” playing the background as you walk in. In contrast to the Central Texas Humane Society, also located in Waco, the conditions in which the animals live is drastically different. Robinson and Robnett knew that animals become more friendly, and adoptable, if they live in warm, and comfortable conditions. FFR doesn’t have the typical “humane society look.” It boasts a vast amount of open cages for animals to run free and become acquainted with potential adopters; in addition, it has full cat living center where the cats are able to actually roam free, and not be cramped in tiny cages. In addition to the outdoor dog play areas, there is also a huge open room indoors, for the animals to get acquainted with an “inside environment.” On the other end of the spectrum from FFR, the Central Texas Humane Society, has a very dark and dilapidated look, which is why many of the animals seem to be more hostile towards humans. It is as if they believe that humans are only there to walk them and clean up after them, and not just want to love and play with them.
FFR has a highly acclaimed volunteer program, each staff member, and volunteer worker make visiting the facility very enjoyable. The volunteers, as a whole, have a deep connection with each animal that comes through the shelter. They WANT to be there and see animals have a second chance at life, the humane society volunteers seemed, to me, a little stand-offish. The volunteers at FFR are there also to help the animals become more open to different people, making them more adoptable and loving. Many animal shelters lack genuinely caring volunteers, and that serves as a disadvantage to the animals.
Success determines the overall appeal of certain organization. FFR takes in over 500 animals year, with over half getting adopted before the year ends. The difference in their success, in comparison with the Humane Society, is that FFR is a no-kill shelter. They do not turn away any animal, and they ensure that they have the staff that is needed to help animals find the right fit. The Fuzzy Friends website states, “The national average indicated that only one in ten animals remains with its adoptive family for life.” Fuzzy Friends has a return policy where, if the animal isn’t working out, you have the ability to take it back to FFR, and find another animal to adopt. This procedure helps keep a once-adopted animal from running loose on the streets after a family realizes they cannot keep adequate care of the animal. On the rescue center’s website, there are many adoption stories that are evident examples that FFR is doing their job right. From visits, I have seen different families adopting different animals; the process is thorough and it is imperative the staff see how well the animal sets with his new owner.
Success come from results, but success is made possible through monies and different outlets of funding. FFR is a non-profit shelter, therefore the amount of money they need to operate is determined through donations, and sponsorships. Upon visiting, I was handed many different brochures of different ways to get involved with FFR, and half of the pamphlets were ways in which to donate. FFR readily needs many daily items such as: food, cleaning, and office supplies. From the looks of it, they are receiving donations of these items on a daily basis. Animals cost money, and it is shown that mistreated animals need a substantial amount more than regular animals. There are many effective ways in which FFR goes about funding themselves. They find much success in their annual “Barkin’ Ball,” a dog show, sponsored by local businesses in and around Waco. There is also the “Angel Heart Fund,” which many adopters take part in to help other animals recover and become adoptable. These methods, are just some of the examples of funding that work to ensure that each animal is given the care they are needed. FFR, from the outside in, seems to be a very active, and efficient non-profit organization.
Gianatto’s friend never thought there were people in this world who could mistreat an animal so much as to burn them alive. Believe it or not, there are. Remember that many acts of animal cruelty are non-violent, and simply stem from neglect. Fuzzy Friends Rescue is one of the many animal rescue centers in America trying to keep animals safe, loved, and protected. Giving dignity to the animals, FFR is helping the Waco community to change their preconceived notions on “shelter” animals. Even thought there are tons of animal abusers in society, there are also many animal lovers. These people are the ones helping out the animals at FFR, and giving them a second chance. I also support the efforts of stopping animal cruelty, and believe wholeheartedly in the efforts of this rescue center. Shelters like FFR have a long-lasting impact on animals, giving them a whole new life and a loving owner. Upon the many visits I take to the center, I am never saddened as I leave. I leave with a feeling of content, knowing the animals will never be put down. The main benefit of the no-kill policy is that volunteers can allow themselves to become really close to every animal that comes in, and is adopted out. All animals need in a shelter environment are people that will give them the quality time and attention they need. The numerous comparisons to the Central Texas Humane Society show that Fuzzy Friends Rescue is in league of its own, full of happy animals, looking forward to their new lives.