On February 5, 2023, New York City Police Department (NYPD) Officer Chris Tansey, animal liaison for the 48th Precinct in the Bronx, alerted the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement team about a pet owner involved in a domestic violence situation who wanted to relinquish two puppies from her residence because she feared for their safety.
“The owner had these puppies and realized they might not be in the best environment,” says Paul Mayr, Law Enforcement Liaison for the ASPCA. “But she wanted assurance they’d get a chance at a good home, lasik surgery so Chris contacted me to see if we could help.”
A precinct officer who works with Officer Tansey told the pups’ owner about the ASPCA’s partnership with the NYPD. She agreed to surrender the male (later named Dill) and female (later named Pickle), who were both a month-and-a-half old.
“It was important for us to get the dogs out of what could have been a potentially dangerous situation,” says Officer Tansey. “The link between domestic violence and animal abuse is well documented. Giving these pups a chance at a new, stable home was the right choice.”
The Link Between Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence
A 2020 study by the National Institutes of Health found that “violence towards animals and violence towards people are often interconnected problems, and violence towards animals is a strong predictor that the abuser may inflict violence on people.”
Other sources have shown that up to 71 percent of battered women said their partners harmed, killed or threatened pets.
In 2013, the ASPCA partnered with the Urban Resource Institute’s People and Animals Living Safely Program (URI-PALS) to develop ways to help domestic violence survivors and their pets stay together, instead of leaving pets at home or relinquishing them to a shelter.
The partnership between the ASPCA and URI is imperative to the work
of our Humane Law Enforcement team, which has received 155 domestic violence case referrals since 2015, helping the same number of survivors and 267 of their pets through June 30, 2023.
Fostering the Pups
Chaquita Smith and her husband, Tauron Warren—both employed by the ASPCA for nearly 10 years—decided to foster the pair of pups. Chaquita says they were motivated to foster after their family’s 15-year-old pit bull, Tazz, died last New Year’s Eve.
“We’ve never fostered or adopted from the ASPCA, but we wanted to bring some joy back into our home,” says Chaquita, an Integrated Care Assistant who looks after animals in the ASPCA Adoption Center.
Tauron first noticed Dill and Pickle during his rounds on the overnight shift.
“Pickle caught my eye first,” says Tauron, Senior Custodian. “She would sit at the door of her kennel like she was waiting for me.”
Chaquita says she didn’t want to separate the pups because they were well-behaved and got along well together.
“We fostered them for a week before deciding to adopt them,” says Chaquita. “My son and nephew, both 20, live with us, and fell in love with the pups immediately.”
The dogs adjusted quickly to their new home.
“When we brought the dogs home, it was as if they knew they were supposed to be here,” says Chaquita. “Right away, they made themselves comfortable on the couch.”
Prospering in Their New Pad
Pickle and Dill were renamed Winnie and Pooh. Winnie the Pooh is one of Chaquita’s favorite cartoon characters, and she has a tattoo of him on her wrist. It’s also Tauron’s nickname.
“They are thriving and have taken over the entire house,” Chaquita says. “I no longer have a husband, because Winnie has stolen his heart.”
Meanwhile, Pooh is quite attached to Chaquita.
“He loves to watch TV with me and enjoys sweet potatoes and peanut butter,” she says. “They both have amazing appetites; Pooh is 52 lb. now and Winnie is 47.”
At home, Winnie is the feistier of the two.
“She bullies her brother out of his toys and is the first one to get into mischief,” Chaquita says. “Pooh is a Mama’s boy and follows me wherever I go. He’s very laid back in the house.”
But when they get outside, their personalities change.
“Pooh is more confident and wants to interact with every dog he sees,” says Chaquita. “Winnie hesitates, then follows her brother’s lead.”
“Exactly What We Needed”
Tauron, who gets home from work around 9 AM, handles morning feedings and takes the dogs for their walk in a local park. Chaquita’s son, Torrian, and nephew, Fajawn, also pitch in. Chaquita gets home from work at 6 PM.
“There is no time to relax because they’re excited to see me,” she says. “We enjoy playtime with some enrichment and keep them busy until we go out for their last walk, usually around 8 PM.”
Both pups are housetrained, know how to sit and understand “outside,” which is their favorite word.
“We cannot express the happiness Winnie and Pooh have brought to our family,” Chaquita says. “These two little ones were exactly what we needed.”
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