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North Hills Monthly

Animal Relief Fund Gives Abused and Neglected Dogs A Second Chance

May 31, 2016 12:30PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

According to the Humane Society of the United States, animal control agencies nationwide report that animal neglect cases are the most common calls to which they respond. Humane officers deal with animal abuse every day, which involves mistreatment through criminal action, neglect or by people who are mentally ill. The pain of an animal who lingers with untreated illnesses or wounds, or without nourishment or shelter, can be tremendous because their suffering is so prolonged. 

For the abused and neglected animals of Allegheny County, a fund is available to help provide financial care in animal cruelty cases. The Allegheny Abused Animal Relief Fund (AAARF!) was established in 2001 as the brainchild of Assistant District Attorney Deb Jugan, who is known as the ‘Doggy DA’ because she prosecutes dog fighting and animal abuse cases. AAARF! provides funds dedicated solely for the care and recovery of these abused animals with support from Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein, in conjunction with three area nonprofit animal shelters—Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

Lawrence Gerson, VMD, a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic, has been involved with the program almost since its inception. “This is a really unique program because it is a collaborative partnership between not-for-profit shelters and the local government in order to solve some of the problems caused by the public,” he explained. “What people may not realize is that every year, hundreds of animals are rescued from abusive situations and are cared for in these local shelters, putting an estimated $250,000 burden on the resources of these organizations. Having the AAARF! fund allows the shelters to put the money they already have toward other programs including providing low income vaccinations, discounted spay/neutering, feeding and caring for the animals they already have, offering educational programs to the public, and administrative costs associated with running a shelter.”

How It Works

This special charitable fund is managed by the Allegheny County treasurer’s office. Animal shelters and animal caregivers apply for reimbursement of direct patient care expenses for abused, neglected or sick animals. Once a year, the committee meets and reviews the applications, and Dr. Gerson examines each animal’s medical records. From there, the group determines whether or not to provide funding for the pet’s care and treatments. “These animals receive the best medical care that can be given,” said Dr. Gerson.

Since 2001, AAARF! has raised more than $1.5 million through private donations and as a result of donations contributed by owners purchasing annual pet licenses. AAARF! operates the fund with minimal administrative fees. “Every AAARF! dollar you donate will be one more dollar that helps fight animal cruelty—a cruelty that hurts everyone in our area,” said Dr. Gerson.

If you’d like to make a donation to AAARF!, the address is  P.O. Box 1611, Pittsburgh, PA 15230-1611.

You can help stop animal neglect and abuse.

Be aware of the signs of animal neglect—including chained dogs, animal hoarding or abandoned pets—and be willing to make a report to your local animal control agency. If your area does not have a local animal control agency, make a report to the sheriff or other law enforcement agency. You may remain anonymous when filing a report.