Cruelty has no bounds, it seems.
Two dogs were abandoned at a Newark, New Jersey, shelter Friday morning in zero-degree temperatures, with one tied to a pole and one left for dead in a crate.
“Something like this makes me question humanity and where we are headed as a society with the senseless acts that I see on a daily basis,” Scott Crawford, the assistant director for the Associated Humane Societies in New Jersey, tells PEOPLE. “It’s god-awful, really.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Kim DePaola, a longtime advocate against animal cruelty, alerted PEOPLE to the story.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful,” she says. “There are so many shelters where you can drop animals off if you are unable to care for them. Yet people still leave them out in the freezing cold to suffer. Animals are helpless. They need our help. But to do something like this? There are no words for it.”
Crawford found the dogs when he got to work at the AHS’s Newark shelter at 7:30 a.m. on Friday.
“When I pulled up, there was a dog tied up to a street pole, and next to the dog there was a wire crate with a blanket in it,” he says. “I didn’t see any movement in the crate and figured the person who left the dog didn’t need the crate anymore. When I got up to the crate, sure enough when I moved the blanket, there was a second dog there, dead upon arrival, unfortunately.”
The dog that he found alive was wearing a “dirty, ripped-up shirt,” he says. The Shih Tzu mix that died “was covered in filth,” he says. “My vet seems to think it might have perished the day before or the night before. They may have left it out on their own property before dropping it off to us. We are waiting for blood tests to come back.”
Crawford says closed-circuit cameras videotaped someone leaving the animals near the shelter at 6:30 a.m. “The temperature at that time of day in our area was about negative 2 degrees with the wind chill,” he says.
“This person, who we believe to be male, parked his vehicle about 20 yards off of range of my cameras, so we weren’t able to get a license plate number,” he says.
The AHS is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person involved in the cruel abandonment. The AHS has continued to have an open-door policy, eliminating the need to leave an animal out under such dangerous conditions.
The other dog Crawford found, which staffers now call Elsa, “is awesome,” he says. “She is super friendly. Right when I walked up, she was standing on her hind legs and was waving both paws at me and wanted to be in my arms and wanted to get right into the building. We set her up with blankets right away.”
Crawford says he believes the man who abandoned the dogs purposely left them outside of the shelter before it opened. “We don’t open there until 9 a.m.,” he says.
“People often do this to avoid a surrender fee, which we waive a lot if people don’t have the money. Some people think they are going to get charged if they haven’t provided the animals with proper vet care. We have always left it as, if you have come as far as making it into the facility, we don’t want to charge you. We just want to take the animal in and give it the care it needs.”
Crawford says he sees this kind of inhumane treatment all the time. “In August, I had 42 cats dumped in front of my facility in five carriers that were made for one to two cats, max,” he says. “They were all crammed in the five carriers, and it was about 90 degrees easily – in the morning. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the person who did this.”
“It’s horrendous what happens to animals on a regular basis,” he says.
How to Help
The shelters he runs and shelters nationwide depend on Good Samaritans to do the right thing to help animals who are in dire situations, he says. “Anytime you see any type of animal-cruelty situation, definitely call your local humane society,” he says. “We will definitely get involved. We have the resources to deal with these things.”
He adds: “If you catch anyone in the act, take down a license plate and call us. We’re here to help. All people have to do is reach out to us.”
A Home for Elsa
The good news is that Elsa may have already found a home, he says. “We talked to two people who are interested in adopting her,” he says.
But there are many more animals like Elsa who need homes, he says. “Society as a whole needs more exposure to matters like this so that they are aware that sadly animal cruelty is a common everyday occurrence in a wide range of communities,” he says. “Maybe then we can really start to bring forth necessary changes to protect all of God’s creatures.”
For years, DePaola has held drives at her store, Posche Boutique in Wayne, New Jersey, to collect dog and cat food, litter, toys, blankets, and other items that she donates to local rescuers including New Jersey’s All Humane Rescue, Inc. She plans to hold a drive at Posche Boutique from March 10-12 to collect goods to donate to rescuers and to AHS.
To make a contribution to the AHS’s Res-Q Fund, which helps them care for the many animals who arrive at the shelter, please visit: www.ahscares.org