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August 10, 2010

On Call for Victims of Animal Cruelty

Every day, The HSUS gets calls from concerned community members about cases of animal cruelty in their area. Emaciated horses, dogs chained with no shelter, and cats being abused are the most common reports coming in. In the last six months, our staff have responded to more than 1,000 such complaints and worked with the callers and law enforcement to help these animals in need.

Callers often tell us that no other group helped them until they came to us—and that is in good part due to the relentless work of Ashley Mauceri, The HSUS’s deputy manager of animal cruelty issues. I thought you’d be interested to hear about Ashley’s work, so I asked her to prepare this guest blog. 

If you suspect illegal animal cruelty in your neighborhood, contact your local animal control or law enforcement agency. If the agency needs assistance, you can contact Ashley at [email protected].


When I began working at The HSUS a few years ago, I knew that animal cruelty was a big problem in the United States. My first day, however, I was completely overwhelmed by the massive amount (and types) of cruelty cases that flooded in from across the country. I quickly learned that I would never have an “average day.” The wide range of calls that The HSUS receives varies from starving dogs tied in backyards, to goats without shelter, to horses physically abused at a rodeo. Our team handles a seemingly endless list of the atrocities that humans dole out to our fellow creatures.

Ashley Mauceri, The HSUS’s deputy manager of animal cruelty issues
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Ashley, with one of many animals she's aided.

Often it is a daunting task to ensure law enforcement take cases of animal cruelty seriously, particularly when the animal is not one considered a “pet.” Not everyone believes that pigs or cows deserve the same protection as dogs or cats. Worse still, there are many areas in the country that lack any form of animal control or humane society.

My job is to advocate for animals who are suffering, even in the face of such obstacles. I instruct callers how to collect and document the information that would be most helpful to law enforcement, and motivate them to act. I also work with law enforcement agencies, encouraging them to pursue cases that might otherwise slip under the radar.

People often ask me how I do what I do: listening to horrific stories of cruelty and neglect, day after day. I would be lying if I said I don’t get sad and dismayed sometimes. It is painful to hear about the awful things that humans do to the animals who trust in them. However, one of the most truly rewarding experiences is receiving a call from a concerned citizen who says that as a result of our efforts, an animal is no longer in misery.

One of the recent cases that will forever hold a place in my heart began when I received a phone call from an HSUS member in Oregon. His neighbor owned three horses and their condition had been deteriorating for years: they were very thin, living in a pen that was drastically too small, and were standing in their own feces. The caller watched, year after year, as the horses suffered, and he was never able to get an enforcement agency to act on their behalf.

After some persistence, I was able to convince the sheriff’s office that this situation could not go on any longer. The owner was ordered to improve conditions or action would be taken, and as a result, the horses were adopted by a loving family. The concerned member watched from his window as the horses were released from the pen for the first time. He described in vivid detail how wonderful it was to watch the stallion, elated to be free, prancing through the field before being loaded onto the trailer bound for his new life. The image of those happy horses devouring the green grass moved me to tears.

Every day I am inspired by all of the people who contact me, outraged by the suffering of animals in their communities and eager to make a difference. Those people, along with my colleagues who work tirelessly to protect the animals, inspire me to be better, to work harder, and remind me that I am not alone in my mission to ensure that animal cruelty does not go unnoticed.

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