Last year, The Humane Society of the United States assisted local police in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire with the rescue of 84 Great Danes from a hoarding situation. The horror of animal hoarding is sadly nothing new to The HSUS, but this case was unique: Great Danes are not even close to being small dogs, which are more commonly found in these cases, and the filthy conditions they were living in were inside a 13,000 square foot mansion on a 53 acre estate.
Last month, a female tabby cat in Mansfield, Ohio was rescued after being found badly injured due to the cruel-beyond-words insertion of a lit firecracker into her backside by an individual the police are still searching for. Katy P., affectionately named after Katy Perry's pop hit "Firework", endured amputation of her tail but thankfully is recovering well internally.
The Humane Society of Richland County took over Katy P's care after her veterinary stay and launched their own investigation into the person or people responsible for her abuse. A reward of over $20,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and thousands of dollars in donations have been contributed to help with the cost of her care.
Both of these stories made national headlines and gained international attention online. Photos and videos posted about the dogs on The HSUS's social media pages, and about Katy P. on The Humane Society of Richland County's Facebook page were flooded with hundreds of thousands of comments from people expressing their anger, sadness, and frustration with lacking legislation.
Many of these people also persistently inquired about adoption. Well before a veterinarian or behaviorist evaluated the dogs, and long before Katy P. had even begun her recovery, the adoption questions were rolling in from people all over the country, including people who may not have otherwise been considering adopting a pet or were completely unprepared for the responsibility that a 100lb+ canine companion requires.
Meanwhile, in the towns of each of these people, thousands of fully vetted, friendly, lovable cats and dogs, each with a sad story of their own, sat awaiting adoption in animal shelters across the nation. Pets who wanted nothing more than just one person to be as enthusiastic and eager to welcome them into their home as hundreds of people were for the briefly famous Great Danes and Katy P's of the world.
At the SPCA Albrecht Center alone, well over 1,000 cats and dogs have made their way into the shelter this year alone, seeking veterinary care, food, a safe space, and eventually, a home of their own. Each of them has a sad story of their own, but for most of them those stories will never be known. What matters more than their past though, is their future, and it takes just one person with the passion of a typical social media commenter, to make their future far better than their past.
Please don't misunderstand me. I was thrilled to see the attention both the Great Danes and Katy P. received after the hell they endured. The coverage of their stories resulted in not only getting them the help they needed, but also helped make people aware that these disturbing crimes still happen, and we all have to continue to keep a watchful eye and be voices and advocates for the animals.
My point is that if you are capable of being moved by these sad stories, to the point that you would open your home to a neglected pet with a viral social media story, or open your wallet to help with medical care or to find an abuser, why wait?
There are pets that need someone like you right now, right in your own home town, perhaps right down the street; and there are shelters and rescues counting on your donations.
Start your own story, viral or not: Adopt, Donate, or Volunteer! Visit an animal shelter near you or start online by typing “animal shelter near me” into your internet browser. Not every pet’s story is headline worthy, but every pet deserves a chance.
Sarah Neikam is the Operations Manager for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the Albrecht Center since 2012. Sarah's family includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA Albrecht Center.