Just days before the ASPCA’s free vaccine clinic in Lincoln Terrace Park in Brooklyn, as three team members taped flyers to windows and knocked on doors, they ran into Jessica Velez and her very skinny 4-month-old pit bull puppy, Nevesa.
Jessica told the ASPCA team that the pup was from a litter born to her dog Maddie, and she was now “stuck” with three puppies. Not only that, but Nevesa, though eating well, remained underweight and thin.
“Right then and there, we had a discussion about de-worming and the importance of vaccinations,” says Maria Hertneck, Public Outreach Coordinator for ASPCA CARES (which stands for community, advocacy, resources, enrichment and service). Maria and her team visited Jessica at her home a few days later, armed with de-wormer and puppy care information, then followed up a week later.
“All three puppies were housed in a small crate,” Maria remembers. “Jessica told us she couldn’t house train them and found it difficult to constantly clean up after them. By this time, Maddie was also fed up with the pups so they had to be separated, especially during feeding times.”
Maria’s team provided a larger dog crate and a giant bag of food. “We talked again about the dogs getting their first round of shots and invited Jessica to our upcoming vaccine clinic,” says Maria. “Jessica said she would definitely come. And she did.”
After her dogs were vaccinated, Jessica signed Maddie up for spay surgery. Maria expressed relief and excitement.
“It took the leg work of all our advocates to get Jessica there, but we did it,” says the ASPCA’s Richard Encarnación, who is now helping Jessica re-home the pups in order to keep them out of the shelter system. He’ll also arrange to have them neutered. In the meantime, Maddie won’t have another litter—another sigh of relief.
This is the crux of the ASPCA CARES team’s work: To spay and neuter every pet, especially large breed dogs and cats. It’s what keeps them motivated, inspires them to do more, fuels reward and pride. The team stays in constant contact with clients to ensure that they have the resources and services they need: food, toys, leashes, collars, ID tags, even a free ride to the mobile clinic. They also work cross functionally with the ASPCA Animal Hospital and Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) staffs and frequently host “tabling” events in underserved neighborhoods to promote their work and book spay/neuter appointments on the ASPCA’s mobile spay/neuter clinics.
On the day of the Lincoln Terrace vaccine event—one of 12 the ASPCA will host in 2014—153 vaccines were administered, and fully subsidized spay/neuter appointments were made for 33 cats and dogs the next day.
Latesha Coleman and her brother Davon, along with their neighbor, Marlene Forde, brought Doodles, a sparkly-eyed dilute calico, for vaccines. “If they hadn’t knocked on my door, I wouldn’t be here,” said Latesha of the ASPCA CARES team.
Jacqueline Pinto and her 9-year-old daughter, Karissa, who learned about the clinic through the ASPCA team’s grassroots outreach, brought Brownie and Sophie, a pair of Chihuahuas. “They’re my babies,” says Jacqueline, who gave Brownie a big kiss after his inoculation.
In the coming weeks, Richard, Maria along with team member Isadora Peraza-Martinez will personally visit clients who attended the vaccine event to assess if their pets have other needs.
“We want to make a difference and offer solutions,” says Maria. Then she adds, with a dose of optimism and pride, “It may take awhile, but we’ll get there.”