In my year of writing stories for Lowcountry Dog, I’ve told you about all kinds of rescues - from Coonhounds and greyhounds to Labs and sweet senior dogs. Through various paths, these animals found their way into safe, loving places with people dedicated to finding them the best homes. In this issue, you will see that the path to rescue gets a little gnarly and dark but there is someone willing to go down it - Michelle Reid and Valiant Animal Rescue + Relief.
Valiant is a non-profit rescue group that focuses on investigating and shutting down animal cruelty and neglect all over the Carolinas. They have three main areas of focus: emergency animal disaster relief, providing support services during animal cruelty seizes, and rehabilitation and re-homing of abused and neglected animals. This means that they can be found anywhere from ground zero after a natural disaster to the courtroom making sure criminals are held accountable for their heinous acts of cruelty. Executive Director Michelle Reid is at the helm of this group. She has a background in animal cruelty investigation and has been a key participant in numerous efforts to end abuse to animals and to hold accountable those responsible for such atrocities. Michelle works closely with state and federal law enforcement as an animal cruelty consultant and does animal forensic work for such agencies. “I had been doing animal rescue work for many years, but grew tired of seeing people get away with treating animals poorly or cruelly.” And she knew that the overworked and underfunded local governments and public agencies were not enough to stop this from happening. “Animals often fall down on the priority list and through the cracks in local law enforcement. I decided that my calling was to provide the go-to, specialized expertise and resources that law enforcement could trust to assist them and their communities with tackling the really difficult cases of animal neglect and abuse.”
Michelle has been a part of some of the largest animal cruelty and neglect cases in the Carolinas. She said one of her most memorable cases was Brick the pit bull puppy. “[Brick’s] owner cut his ears off with household scissors and bragged about it on Facebook. We worked with law enforcement to find Brick’s location and did the forensic work to prove what was done to Brick and who did it.” Thanks in part to Valiant’s efforts, Scotty Bruce Tyler was charged with the felony “Ill Treatment of Animals” and was sentenced to the maximum punishment allowable under South Carolina law. He received 366 days in prison, 4 years probation, 40 hours of community service and is not allowed to live with or own an animal during his probation. Brick’s ordeal had a happy ending. Michelle told me, “[He] has now fully recovered and will soon be going through intensive training in hopes of becoming a service dog. He has an amazing personality considering what he went through, is really intelligent and is certainly special to us and his big fan base!”
A mission as big as Valiant’s isn’t fulfilled without lots of help. They have an extensive network of volunteers and advisors - veterinarians, animal behaviorists and psychologists, among others - who lend their considerable experience. They even have a private forensic lab here in the low country that is solely used to process and store animal crime scene evidence to assist law enforcement in building cases against offenders. All of this expertise and skill is a wonderful asset to the rescue...but it doesn’t come cheap. Michelle told me that their greatest need as a rescue is people who can fundraise on their behalf. “One of the most challenging aspects of our work is sustaining it financially. It requires an enormous amount of resources and care for the hundreds of animals we seize each year as part of our cruelty investigations across the state, and most of the animals require some degree of emergency medical care or rehabilitation.” Planning and hosting events, marketing and fundraising are important parts of running a rescue, but Michelle says that they would rather remain focused on their field work and spend their charitable dollars on things like case expenses, forensic testing and animal supplies. This is where YOU come in! According to Michelle, “People underestimate the power of their own networks to make a real difference for causes like ours.” If you are interested in raising money for Valiant Animal Rescue & Relief, through your personal or professional network, please visit their website at http://valiantanimalrescue.org/contact/ for contact details.
You can find lots of other information on Valiant’s excellent website. They perform traditional rehabilitation and re-homing services for animals acquired during abuse and neglect cases and you can check that out here: http://valiantanimalrescue.org/adoptions/ There is also a donation page, as well as a page where you can read past rescue case files. Once I started reading the first story about Loney Garret, I couldn’t stop. Warning…..it was some heavy reading. I kept thinking about how easy it’s been for me to go about my daily life, getting coffee, going to work, playing with my dogs, hanging out with my friends, and not know anything about the abuse and neglect of animals happening every single day around me. Sadly, Valiant knows all too well the commonality of its occurrence. Rest assured, though, that they will use every resource at their disposal and continue to fight against it!
To close our interview, I asked Michelle what the biggest thing the general public could do to help Valiant further their mission. She said it’s as simple as reporting animal neglect and abuse. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of neglect and abuse that continues to go unreported across our state and in our communities. There is too much animal suffering. Most people - even if they don’t fully understand our animal laws - have some innate understanding of when an animal is being cared for properly or when it is being neglected, and can spot situations of abuse even more easily. We have to stop turning a blind eye to these situations and instead choose to protect the defenseless.” While she says that she knows how tough it could be to report your neighbors, friends or even family members, she says that we have a responsibility to protect animals and elevate awareness about animal welfare in our communities. “Animal suffering is an injustice that goes against the grain of what we know to be right and we cannot continue to tolerate it in today’s world.”
If you suspect animal abuse or neglect is happening around you, please contact the animal control and/or sheriff’s department in your municipal jurisdiction.
Charleston Co. Sheriff: http://www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/sheriff/index.php
Charleston Co. Animal Services: http://www.charleston-sc.gov/index.aspx?nid=316
Valiant’s Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Justiceswag