A last chance for cats and dogs

For nearly 30 years, Last Chance for Animals has been rescuing dogs, cats and other critters from dire straits, while going the extra mile to end animal abuse and neglect.

Dogs and cats stuck in breeding mills seem doomed to lives of misery. Those that fall into the hands of lab animal dealers, or get lost or abandoned during natural disasters, may have little chance of a happy ending. Fortunately, there’s an organization called Last Chance for Animals that truly lives up to its name. During its three decades of dedicated rescue work, investigations and campaigns, the Los Angeles-based group has saved thousands of animals from seemingly hopeless situations, while striving to prevent the exploitation and abuse of dogs, cats and other animals.

Last Chance for Animals was founded in 1984 by Chris DeRose, a former Hard Copy correspondent. Chris originally wanted a Hollywood career, but instead of going into acting, he moved into other areas of the business and melded his talents with a crusade against animal abuse. He did 150 animal-related stories for Hard Copy, and when the show left the air in 1999, he brought Hollywood Animal Crusaders to the fledgling Animal Planet cable network. This early animal reality show, the first of its kind to be aimed at a general audience, paved the way for the genre’s popularity and the wave of current television series, from Animal Cops to Pit Boss, designed to bring awareness to animal abuse and rescue work.

At home and abroad

To this day, Chris’s main focus with Last Chance for Animals is to continue helping dogs, cats and other animals of virtually any species, wherever and however that help is needed. “Last Chance for Animals is made up of a small paid staff and numerous wonderful, dedicated, conscientious volunteers,” says senior investigator Bryan Monell. The organization runs on donations and online merchandise sales.

Last Chance for Animals members often travel long distances to aid animals in need — one of their most recent efforts was helping animals in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that devastated Japan last March.

“Our rescue mission resulted in over 100 dogs and cats being rescued,” says Bryan. “In addition, we went into the nuclear zone and fed several cows and horses. Our rescuers had to sneak past the cops to get in, as they had forbidden everyone to go there. Last Chance for Animals will do whatever it takes to save the animals. Our rescuers risked arrest and their own health by being exposed to increased levels of radiation.”

The rescue of Chuppy, an Shiba Inu dog left behind in the nuclear zone, was one of the most memorable stories to come out of the crisis, says Bryan. “Two of our lead rescuers found her tangled up in a fishing net next to an abandoned home,” he explains. “She was lethargic and probably within a day or so of dying. Our rescuers were able to cut her free and give her food. We have no idea how long she had been trapped, but it was apparent she had been there quite some time.

“She waited patiently as we cut her free and then gave us a kiss with her tongue as we carried her to the SUV for some water, Brian adds. “She had a collar on with a number, and we were able to contact her people and reunite her with her family, who thought she was lost forever. Tears were flowing all around. It was a wonderful moment that none of us will ever forget.”

Puppy mills and Class B dealers

Last Chance for Animals is also active in the battle against puppy mills. “I have been to over 100 puppy mills,” Bryan says. “We’ve done investigations in New Jersey, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana.” The organization has also been instrumental in getting many stores that sell mill-bred animals to devote adoption space to shelter dogs and cats, and in convincing them to halt animal sales altogether in favor of exclusively promoting adoptions. Many towns are even banning the retail sale of dogs and cats, says Bryan – several communities in California, including Hermosa Beach, South Lake Tahoe, West Hollywood, Glendale and Irvine now have laws against such sales.

In addition, Last Chance for Animals crusades against Class B dealers who supply animals to research laboratories. These dealers operate as middlemen, getting their dogs and cats from the street, shelters, through “free to good home” ads, and even by stealing family animals. Many do not treat their “merchandise” humanely.

One of the group’s biggest successes was getting longtime dealer C. C. Baird charged with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2004. Last Chance for Animals placed an undercover investigator into Baird’s Arkansas kennel for six months to document dog abuse. The investigator’s findings and video footage eventually led to the revocation of Baird’s Class B license along with stiff civil fines. Baird also had his property seized and was placed on probation to settle federal charges stemming from the sale of dogs and cats that were criminally obtained. This particular story was the basis for the HBO America Undercover documentary “Dealing Dogs”, which first aired in 2006.

Last Chance for Animals has successfully pursued other dealers and aims to end the trade altogether. “When we started, there were over 100 Class B dealers selling to research labs,” Bryan says. “Now there are fewer than ten, and they will be a thing of the past in the relatively near future. They are a moral stain on our society and our history. Our descendants will look back and wonder how we could have ever let this abomination occur in the first place.”

The organization also works against other types of abuse, such as animal hoarding, a problem that’s getting a lot of attention thanks to shows like Animal Planet’s Animal Hoarders. In one dramatic rescue, Last Chance for Animals worked for two months to rescue over 230 dogs and 25 cats in a hoarding situation in California’s Mojave desert.

The diverse nature of all this rescue work is an integral part of Last Chance for Animals’s goals. “Our main mission with regard to cats and dogs is to alleviate their pain and suffering in all situations,” says Bryan. “It is that simple and that complex. Last Chance for Animals will not stop fighting until every last puppy mill and cat.