The animals' best friend
SUSAN LAYLAND/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Donna Crum poses with Sampson who was rescued from a shelter in Illinois. Crum met the rescue crew in Bloomsburg and drove Sampson to Stroudsburg, where he was met by another crew and continued on to meet his new family on Long Island. Sampson happily arrived in time for Christmas.
Donna Crum said her 3-year-old granddaughter drew a picture in pre-school with a caption that read, "When I grow up I want to help animals."
Crum, who has 20 years of experience rescuing and volunteering with animals, is visibly moved by her granddaughter's statement.
During a recent interview, that was Crum's only weak moment.
When it comes to animals and animal rescue, she takes a no-nonsense approach. Crum punctuates her statements with experience and conviction. She's all about the animal and her actions back up the words.
"I do have a network of very good people and we work together to rescue animals," Crum added, "I am only one of the voices of the animal."
Through the efforts of people like Crum, and organizations such as the County Animal Response Team (CART), animals today are treated in a more humane way than in the past. Many animals are rescued and euthanizing is used only when necessary.
Yet, there are too many situations where animal cruelty still exists. A lot of educating and awareness needs to take place to ensure all animals are properly cared for and animal cruelty ends.
Each county has its own CART team, which is part of the State Animal Response Team (SART). The County Animal Response Team is used for large emergency rescues such as the rescue that took place after the 2009 gas explosion at a kennel in Franklin Township.
CART was also there in March when a horse fell into the Lehigh River. It was so 'spooked,' it wouldn't move, and rescuers took more than 45 minutes to move the mare to dryer ground.
Other situations, however, such as ensuring wounded and hurt animals, receive medical attention and rescuing feral cats can solely rely on the expertise and ability of the Animal Control Officer (ACO).
Recently, Crum applied for the posted position of Animal Control Officer (ACO) in Slatington.
After presenting her qualifications, the council voted 2-3 for Stephanie Pretzman, a stay-at-home mom who "likes animals."
Despite not being appointed, Crum said, "The Slatington Council deserves 'kudos,' for funding an ACO, because most municipalities do not."
In today's society, many good things can come out of having an ACO. Unfortunately, many municipalities and counties consider it as more of a financial burden on their budgets.
Crum's qualifications, which include certifications in criminal justice and private investigation, also include animal first aid, CPR and animal husbandry through Penn State. She holds the title of ACO through the national animal control association, and spends scads of time researching animal laws and ordinances that would improve conditions.
Changing policies, procedures and ordinances in the municipalities is Crum's main focus.
"I'm trying to work with the Carbon County commissioners to try to make a difference," she said. "The police department has been overwhelmed. Some boroughs, such as Lehighton, are sending their officers for training, showing that things are already changing in a positive way."
Crum believes that bringing awareness is one step closer to the goal.
"We learn unfortunately by the horrific things that happen," she said.
Foreclosure rates are adding to the animal problem. Crum cites an instance where nine horses, nine dogs, one goat, 13 chickens and a cat are on a property where the owner was locked out by the bank.
"I disassociate myself with the leasee and the bank. My concerns are with the animals," she explained.
The bank is complying and all of the animals are being taken care of.
On Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Lehighton Borough Park (upper and lower) will be the venue for "'Rockin' Rescue.'" Funds raised will benefit abused animals in Carbon County.
Depending on the weather, there will either be live animals or pictures of animals that are available for rescue.
"We want to educate and make a difference," Crum said. "If people don't know any better they can't change. If they don't know where to call they don't call. If they don't know where to go they do nothing. It's up to humans. Paws cannot dial 911 when they need help."