Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Animals get second chance at happy life

By Kevin Morley

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.—For about three years now, Ben Sokolovsky, has gone to

the Plattsburgh City Beach every Sunday, weather permitting, to play catch with his

dog Rocky. The dynamic between the dog and his owner is simple: Sokolovsky

throws and Rocky chases.

As the rope that, Sokolovsky crafted himself for specific soaring purposes

flies through the air, Rocky instinctively tracks down the object in stride. However,

there is something peculiar about the stride of Rocky. His front left leg buckles with

every step. This is a result of the neglect Rocky suffered prior to having Sokolovsky

as his owner. Although the catches between the owner and his dog are lively, they

have become shorter and shorter in recent weeks.

The American Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recognizes

April as the Month for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in order to raise

awareness of the issue. According to, dogs are the more common

victims to animal cruelty, where 64.5 percent of cases involved canines. 25 percent

of those dogs were identified as pit bulls, just like Rocky.

Local shelters such as Elmore SPCA, located in Peru, deal with animals that

have been subjected to neglect and abandonment. According to their website, they

are currently holding 313 dogs alone, 243 cats and six birds. Although the entire

population of this shelter has not been affected by neglect, shelter manager, Rebecca

Burdo has witnessed the effects of the issue.

“Some people are just nasty,” Burdo said. “However, most of the cases we see

are due to a lack of care for the animal rather than abuse.”

In many cases, the neglect is a result of hoarding by the owner. This means

that the owner of the animal has taken on the responsibility of more pets than he or

she can handle. As a result, the animals are malnourished which often leads to

emaciation, where the animal enters a state of being abnormally thin.

This was the case for Rocky. The buckle in his front left leg is a result of

muscle loss from malnourishment. Unfortunately, no veterinarian was able to fully

rehabilitate the leg of the now eight-year- old pit bull. Although Sokolovsky is

saddened by how Rocky was treated before adopting him, it does not stop him from

having a positive outlook on the situation.

“He’s a fighter anyways,” Sokolovsky said. “That’s why I named him Rocky.”

For dogs under similar circumstances as Rocky, the journey from being taken

into the shelter to being released to a home can be a long and tedious one.

According to Article 26 of the Agriculture and Markets Law relating to Cruelty to

Animals, if an animal is subjected to neglect or cruelty, a law officer must bring them

in. At this point, they are considered evidence and must go through the court

system before they can be touched or seen by anyone besides a veterinarian.

According to Burdo, this can sometimes take months.

After the court date passes, the animal is then eligible to be place in a home.

The time this process takes usually depends on the temperament as well as the

breed, when it comes to dogs specifically.

Although dogs may be the most common victims to animal cruelty, wildlife

animals are also struggling, but in different ways. Donna Fletcher, one of the

rehabilitator’s at Elmore, specializes in fawns. For years, Fletcher has been helping

injured fawns return to the wild by easing them into the wilderness. She does so by

putting them in a preliminary enclosure prior to actually entering the forest to

assimilate. Fletcher marks the deer with an ear tag, so she can later see which ones

went on to raise families and fend for themselves.

The fawns are not being physically harmed by anyone in particular or

necessarily neglected in this case, however, new regulations that are being

negotiated by the Department of Environmental Conservation could put the young

deer at risk. The proposal if passed, will make it a law that rehabilitators like

Fletcher will no longer be able to accept wildlife further than 20 miles from her


“It’ll be a shame if the DEC passes that,” Fletcher said. “There are going to be

a lot of fawns that aren’t going to have a safe place to go anymore.”

Fletcher will no longer work with fawns this year as most of her land has

been taken over by poachers.

The SPCA’s mission is, “To provide shelter and comfort to animals in need

that are on their path to finding loving lifetime homes.” Their care is not limited

strictly to neglected dogs like Rocky; it is shared equally from fawns and foxes to

domestic dogs and cats. Every animal deserves a safe place to call home.

As we leave April behind us this calendar year, it is important to remember

the importance of putting a stop to animal cruelty. Mike O’Donnell a student at SUNY

Plattsburgh recognizes this important issue weekly as he volunteers his time to

walk dogs at the Elmore shelter over this past year.

“You know you’re doing something good because some of those dogs were

either abandoned or mistreated,” O’Donnell said. “It’s nice that they can come to a

place like this to feel love. It’s a privilege to walk them.”

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