The cat, named Mittens, was trapped by two teenage boys in a milk crate, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire last January.
She managed to escape from the crate, extinguish the flames and return to what she had been doing — nursing her newborn kittens.
Mittens was rescued by police and animal control officers and, along with her kittens, brought to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), where she slowly recovered from the loss of her ears as well as third and fourth-degree burns covering 70 percent of her body.
Despite her injuries, Mittens continued to care for her kittens during recovery. Her story resulted in extensive media coverage and helped lead to stronger animal welfare laws in Maryland. Named the ASPCA’s Cat of the Year, she now resides in the home of Cindy Wright.
After a pit bull named Phoenix was doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore in 2009, Griffin, who previously had a private law practice, devoted her life to advocating for changes in Baltimore’s policies and procedures to better protect animals and prosecute their abusers. She was appointed by then-mayor Sheila Dixon to chair a new Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which went on to become a permanent standing Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission, the first of its kind in the country.
Griffin’s work heightened media and public awareness of animal abuse, and let to increased coordination and cooperation between agencies and individuals concerned about the problem.
“Through Caroline’s unrelenting work, the Commission has not only helped Baltimore become a more humane community, but also serves as a model for other cities across the country,” the ASPCA said in a press release.
Griffin is one of two recipients of the ASPCA Presidential Service Award. Also receiving the honor is Subaru of America, Inc. for its unprecedented commitment to animal welfare. Through the Subaru “Love a Pet” Adoption Drive program, the ASPCA works with Subaru dealers across the country to team them up with local shelters to host co-branded ‘Love a Pet’ adoption events.
“The ASPCA is humbled by the commitment and compassion displayed by this year’s Humane Awards winners,” ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres said. “The distinguished achievements of these advocates are prime examples of the ASPCA’s mission of preventing cruelty to animals. This year’s event will be a celebration of all that has been done to bring us closer to our goal while reminding us that there is still much work ahead.”
The ASPCA’s Annual Humane Awards Luncheon — sponsored by the Hartville Group, Inc., provider of ASPCA Pet Health Insurance — will be held on Thursday, Nov. 17, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
Others to be honored are:
– Ricochet, the surfing golden retriever who raises money and helps the disabled. Rejected as a service dog, Ricochet and her owner, Judy Fridono, took another route to helping people. Ricochet is now a ‘SURFice’ dog for disabled surfers. On top of that, Ricochet has helped raise more than $125,000 for more than 150 human and animal causes, including childhood special needs, arthritis, breast cancer, canine cancer and animal rescue. Ricochet will be honored as the ASPCA Dog of the Year.
– Stevie Nelson, a five-year-old boy who raised more than $28,000 for the Northeast Nebraska Humane Society. After his family’s two black Labs went missing, Stevie, upon seeing an ASPCA commercial on television, decided he wanted to help needy animals find homes. He set out to raise $6,000 for the humane society’s campaign to build a new shelter, but to date has raised more than four times that. Stevie will receive the ASPCA’s Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year award — named after a nine year old boy who died trying to save his dog from a house fire in 2007.
– Sgt. David Hunt of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio. Hunt has served as a leader in uncovering the link between animal cruelty and other serious crimes such as drug dealing, gambling and racketeering. Since 2002, Sgt. Hunt has executed 51 search warrants resulting in 67 felony dogfighting arrests. He has trained law enforcement officers in 28 states, and helped make dogfighting a crime law enforcement and lawmakers take more seriously. Hunt is receiving the ASPCA Public Service Award.
– Green Chimneys, a New York organization that helps children with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges. A leader in animal-assisted activities, Green Chimneys operates an innovative special education school and residential treatment facility with programs to strengthen the emotional health and well being of children by promoting a harmonious relationship with animals and the environment. Green Chimneys is receiving the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award.
(Photo of Mittens, courtesy of BARCS; photo of Caroline Griffin by Mary Swift)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, anti-animal abuse task force, aspca, attention, awards, awareness, baltimore, barcs, caroline griffin, cat, cats, columbus, cruelty to animals, david hunt, dog, dogfighting, dogs, environment, green chimneys, honors, humane awards, judy fridono, law enforcement, lawyer, luncheon, mittens, nebraska, ohio, pets, phoenix, protect, ricochet, service dogs, set on fire, shelters, stevie nelson, surf, surfing, therapy dogs
BARCS said the cat, who they’ve named Marilyn, has a broken back leg and is still being evaluated.
BARCS officials say they have filed a police report about the incident.
The witness to the abuse chased the two boys. Unable to catch them, he returned to the cat and transported her to the shelter, according to a BARCS press release.
“The cat’s leg was very limp, completely broken,” Darlene Harris of BARCS told WBAL-TV.
BARCS said the beating of Marilyn is the second animal abuse case to come to their attention so far this year.
In January, Mittens, who had recently given birth to a litter of kittens, was reportedly doused with lighter fluid while trapped in a milk crate and set on fire by teenagers. Both Mittens and her kittens were taken to BARCS, and the two juveniles were charged with animal cruelty.
Marilyn’s medical bills, like those of Mittens, are being paid for through BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinary bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.
Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website at, or in person at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, beaten, bills, broken leg, burned, cat, cruelty to animals, fells point, fire, franky fund, investigation, juveniles, marilyn, medical, mittens, police, sticks, teenagers, torture, treatment, veterinary, youths
The Baltimore bookstore will feature not only me, signing my new book, but a storewide used book sale. Ace will be there, and your dog is welcome, too. (The Book Escape, located at 805 Light St., is dog-friendly.)
And to top it all off, we’ll be donating 20 percent of the store’s Saturday sales of “DOG, INC.” to the Franky Fund, which helps provide care for sick and injured animals at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter.
The signing will be Saturday (Feb. 5) from 1 to 3 p.m.
The Book Escape has made “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” its featured selection for the month — giving it prominent display not just on its website, but in its storefront window.
Ace and I, temporarily living in a friend’s empty house as we continue, for now, our roaming ways, are located right around the corner. So we pass the window often, sometimes pausing as I point out to him my book … look … right there … in front of Tom Wolfe’s. It fails to impress him.
In addition to the signing, The Book Escape will be holding a big sale this weekend, according to owner Andrew Stonebarger.
All used books will be 50 percent off for “book pass” members, and 25 percent off for everyone else. Book passes cost $50, but those who buy them get $50 in store credit at regular prices, on top of reduced prices everytime they present the card.
Stonebarger says that means a person who bought two copies of “DOG, INC.” – one for themself and one for a present, he suggested (and who am I to argue with that idea?) – would “get a free book pass and get big discounts for the whole year.”
In light of this week’s disturbing revelation of another pet set on fire in Baltimore — a cat named Mittens who, thanks to the Franky Fund, is recovering — we (meaning The Book Escape and me) will be donating 20 percent of each sale of “DOG, INC.” on Saturday to the special BARCS fund.
It’s not the first time I’ve worked with BARCS (where Ace came from), or raised money for the fund, which I’m a fan of because it gives a chance to abused and neglected dogs and cats that, because of serious injuries, might otherwise not have one. In addition to passing along all profits last spring from my photo exhibit, ”Hey,That’s My Dog,” I’ve done a couple of stints as Santa Claus, for ”pet photos with Santa” fundraisers.
Saturday’s book signing seemed a good opportunity to raise a little more for the Franky Fund — without having to dress up in a funny suit, freeze, or swallow wisps of polyester beard hair.
Ace and I hope to see you there.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, ace, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, avery, baltimore, barcs, book, book signing, books, bookstore, cloned, clones, cloning, cruelty to animals, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, federal hill, franky fund, fundraiser, help, hey that's my dog, injured, john woestendiek, meet, mittens, neglect, non-fiction, ohmidog!, penguin, pet, pets, phoenix, pit bull, publishing, santa claus, sick, the book escape, the uncanny inside story of cloning man's best friend, treatment
Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.
How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.
A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.
Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me – Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.
Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.
Karma Dogs developed the ”Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.
The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”
After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.
Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.
They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.
I cautioned them against approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.
Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.
The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.
That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.
You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.
(Photos by Marite Edwards)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animals, approach, baltimore, certificate, children, city, compassion, curriculum, dog, dogs, hand, karma dogs, kids, kind to animals, kindergarten, lakewood elementary, marite edwards, mittens, oath of kindness, pets, phoenix, pre-k, safety, schools, sniff, teacher, therapy dog, violence, volunteers
Baltimore police said Monday that two 17-year-old boys have been charged with multiple accounts of animal cruelty in connection with using lighter fluid to set a cat named Mittens on fire in Baltimore’s Central Park Heights neighborhood.
The owner of the cat, who lives on the 3300 block of St. Ambrose Ave., told police that the animal had been set on fire by her grandson and a friend.
A witness told police that the suspects brought the cat onto a rear, second-floor deck three weeks ago and and put a milk crate on top of the pet. They then poured lighter fluid through the openings in the crate and dropped a book of lit matches into the crate, police said.
Police said the cat howled, knocked the milk crate over and leapt from the balcony, running in circles until the flames went out.
Mittens recently had three kittens, and continues to nurse them in her new surroundings — at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), where she is expected to survive her injuries.
Mittens’ ears were damaged as a result of the burns. She also sustained third- and fourth-degree burns on her back and side, according to BARCS.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, arrests, baltimore, boys, burned, cat, charges, condition, cruelty to animals, doused, fire, injuries, kittens, lighter fluid, milk crate, mittens, set on fire, teenagers, torture
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading ”Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: ”Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
To see all the comments on this post, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth
The cat, and the kittens she recently gave birth to, were taken to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) after police responded to a call in the 3300 block Saint Ambrose Street.
The cat, who has been nicknamed Mittens at the shelter, is suffering from burns on most of her body.
Witnesses told police that, earlier this month, a juvenile placed the cat in a milk crate on the back porch, doused the milk crate and the cat with lighter fluid and then struck a match and threw it in the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned home and hid under a table.
Police have not reported whether any arrests were made at the residence, which they said still smelled of singed skin when they arrived.
The cat and her kittens are residing in “Critter Care” at BARCS. Mittens has third and fourth degree burns. She is expected to survive, but will need long term treatment. It will be months before she is healed and her fur may not grow back
“This is another horrible case of animal abuse in Baltimore City, ” said Jennifer Brause, BARCS’ Executive Director. “Mittens is a wonderful cat, who despite her injuries is still caring for her kittens and is very affectionate to the staff.”
Mittens’ medical bills will be covered by BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinarian and medical bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.
Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website, or at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).
Posted by jwoestendiek January 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, bills, burns, care, cat, cruelty to animals, degree, donations, doused, fire, fourth, franky fuknd, fur, juvenile, kittens, lighter fluid, mittens, mittens the cat, police, set on fire, skin, third, torture, veterinarian, veterinary, youth
I want Muttens.
A friend sent me the link to the website for Muttens, which are basically retractable gloves that allow you to pop your fingers out and do what you need to do with them — pick up poop, tie your shoe, answer the cell phone — then recloak them in warmth when you’re done.
But they’re made primarily for dog walking – developed in Chicago (necessity is the mother of invention), by Jim Devers, who got tired of freezing his hands off everytime he had to scoop up the poop of his Pomeranian, Bailey. You know the drill — you take off your mittens or gloves, or at least one of them, pick up the poop, tie the bag, toss it in the trash can, then realize you have only one glove left.
With Muttens — sort of the convertible version of mittens — you can free your hands for all those tasks that require some nimbleness — like hooking and unhooking the leash, poop disposal, getting your key out of your pocket. You can even hold the leash — even a retractable one — inside the mitten.
The cleverly named hand warmers run $19.95 a pair, or six pair for $60.
(Photo courtesy of Muttens.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: chicago, clothing, cold weather, dog, dog walking, dogs, dogwalking, fingers, gloves, hands, jim devers, mittens, muttens, poop, products, retractable, scoop, tasks, warm, winter, winter wear