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About a month ago, a baby swan was attacked by an off-the-leash dog by the Bayside Marina. The incident took place 20 minutes prior to my arrival. By the time I got to the scene, at least 30 people were attempting to call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for help.
Unfortunately, it was 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening and no one was available. There was no option to “stay on the line” to reach someone. Sadly, the baby swan died less than half an hour later.
This led me to wonder why there is no 24/7 option for immediate assistance for animal emergencies at the ASPCA. We have 911 for emergencies. We even have all night 7-Eleven stores, 24-hour pharmacies and bowling alleys and movie theaters that never close.
Why have animal rescue groups been slow to initiate a 911 emergency number — especially the ASPCA, which is the most well-known rescue organization in New York?
Granted, the baby swan may have been too badly injured to be saved, but other animals could be helped if there were immediate rescue services available. Had anyone known a number to call to reach someone immediately, then the swan might have gotten help faster. Possibly it would have lived.
I am a longtime supporter of the ASPCA and I decided to contact it to find out if it was planning to implement any such service in the near future. My inquiry was responded to within a day by Bret Hopman, manager of media and communications for the ASPCA. My e-mails with Hopman resulted in Steve Froehlich, vice president of direct response for the ASPCA, to offer the below statement:
“The ASPCA is committed to providing the highest level of customer service for all animal-related inquiries. To that end, we offer three call centers that operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: our Animal Poison Control Center hotline for animal poison-related emergencies (1-888-426-4435), a hotline for non-emergency public information and member support (1-800-628-0028) and a hotline for donation inquiries (1-888-365-2772).
“The ASPCA continually evaluates the response channels it has in place to ensure that individuals who contact the organization looking for assistance receive timely and accurate information. We want our members’ experience on our various channels — whether that be via phone, online or in print — to be as robust, informative and impactful as possible.”
I was grateful for the timely responses I received from the staff at the ASPCA, although I will continue to push for the implementation of a hotline for all emergencies, not just poison control. I think it is crucial to always seek ways to improve systems and continuously better processes.
Adding a 24/7 help option to animal rescue centers would earn the ASPCA more respect and make its services more effective. It is certainly something worth considering, especially when noting that lives — no matter how small — could be saved due to such innovations.
Meehan is a Bayside resident.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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