Imagine driving down a dark road when you see an injured cat or a lost dog. You want to help but don’t know how. Perhaps it is your pet that’s lost or hurt. Or you have a dire family situation and you have no choice but to re-home your senior pet. Who could you call for help?
We are fortunate in Jefferson County of Northern New York to have active organizations made up of caring people working on behalf of homeless animals. Even so, their services have gaps. They have limited hours, limited ways they help animals in need, and restrictive entry requirements. Except for the SPCA, there is little help for cats. This leaves many animals and their people without the help they need when they need it most. Or should I say, left them without the help they need.
Enter the Ninjas Against Animal Cruelty
Not satisfied with these gaps in service, two animal lovers, Danyon Youngs and Julie Bush, decided to step up and help. They were no strangers to this kind of work.
Both women were active as pit bull and local rescuers for years before starting the Ninjas.They kept crossing paths as they worked for the cause and finally came together over a local pit bull situation. From then on they joined forces and incorporated as a non-profit, the Ninja’s Against Animal Cruelty of Jefferson County, NY, in July 2013.
I interviewed Danyon and Julie at their dog walk fundraiser in August, 2015. The responses are paraphrased from our conversations.
How did you decide on the name, Ninjas Against Animal Cruelty?
One night we were investigating a possible puppy mill situation at a trailer. We were all stealth and ninja-like as we secretly checked things out. We called ourselves ninjas and the name stuck. We liked it because it was fun and light. We have to bring fun into what we do otherwise we’ll cry ourselves to sleep every night.
What is the mission of the Ninjas?
A major goal of the Ninjas is to strengthen the human-animal bond in our community. With the help of the community we work to alleviate animal suffering through rescue, advocacy, education, and rehabilitation. We strive to support animal cruelty laws that are clear, precise, and promote long term solutions.
Current efforts of the Ninja’s include:
- cross-posting for local groups with adoptable pets and help local people with lost and found pets who don’t know what to do. Lost and found pets are posted on our page and thanks to people sharing those posts we’ve had successes reuniting pets and their people.
- taking in animals in need. Currently we have “lots of cats” and three pit bulls in foster. Several of our found pets have been successfully returned to their guardians and others have been adopted to forever homes.
- providing temporary assistance when appropriate so that animals can remain in their homes instead of being surrendered to shelters. One way we do this is by covering the cost of the initial veterinary visit for sick or injured animals if the family cannot afford it. If additional funds are needed we may assist by helping the pet guardian set up a gofundme page. Then we share it from our page.
- investigating reports of animal abuse and neglect.
In the future, we hope to expand this assistance by providing food, supplies, transportation, foster care and support when needed to keep pets and people together. We also plan to educate people about responsible pet ownership, spay/neuter, the inhumanity of puppy mills, spontaneous adopting, and backyard breeding.
Who are the Ninjas?
Officially, the Ninjas currently include three board members. Although we do not yet have an official membership, we have community support and volunteers helping out in various ways.
Several undercover ninjas check out abusive or neglectful situations. For example, there was a case with an individual who was adopting dogs only to turn around and either dump or re-home them. She was found out and reported to other groups as someone blacklisted from adopting.
Other volunteers act as foster parents. All our dogs and cats are in foster homes until their families are found or they are adopted. In the rare instance a suitable foster is not available, a dog may go into boarding.
Other unofficial ninjas help out by cross-posting lost pets and pets for adoption, helping at fundraising events, and donating goods, services, their venue or money. Julie says, “We have people helping out we don’t even know about.”
What is the hardest part about being a Ninja?
“Keeping our mouths shut is the hardest part!” Sometimes people say or post mean things that are spiteful or not true. There are policies other groups have that we don’t agree with. To promote working together it is sometimes necessary to keep the peace and rescue on.
What are your current fundraising goals?
Much of our funds go to veterinary care. Before animals are adopted out they are fully vetted. They receive necessary medical care, vaccines and spay/neuter. In order to pay for these services, and to help pet guardians in need, the Ninja’s host several fundraisers a year with the goal of one per month.
This year’s dog walk at Thompson Park was well attended and people generously donated by purchasing registration bags, raffle tickets, tee shirts, and books. We wanted to give back to the community, too, so we included a free barbecue. The snow cones were a big hit with the little (and big) kids. It was a fun, successful day.
What is your biggest dream for the Ninjas?
We want to have an animal center for our dogs and cats with enough property for a contained acre for feral cats and walking trails. We hope soldiers who can’t have pets right now and other people will come to walk the dogs. We also hope to pull animals from kill shelters and help other counties.
What is your biggest wish from the community?
Julie: “I wish that no one would ignore an animal ever. There’s always something that can be done.” She says, “You have to change the human mindset. You want change to last for animals.”
Danyon: “I wish every dog had a home and I wish every dog was spayed or neutered. Back yard breeding needs to stop.”
Thank you Julie, Danyon and Ninja volunteers!
You show us by example that even with a shoe-string budget, full-time jobs and families (including six dogs each and a bunch of cats and a foster daughter at Danyon’s) it is possible to do much for animals in need. You make life better for others, human and non-human, and that makes you not only ninjas, but our heroes.