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A Crusader for Good: Denise Lauffer Rescues the Abandoned & Lost

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Denise Lauffer has a heart of old, rescuing cats, dogs, and other animals, like these adorable kittens, from Highbridge Park.

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Denise Lauffer is the very definition of selflessness and it seems to have come naturally, by all accounts.  Life With Dogs took the opportunity to speak about her efforts with the animals that are discarded, lost, and stray that she has been fighting to protect, many that are dumped unceremoniously in Highbridge Park in the Washington Heights area of New York City.

LIFE WITH DOGS:     When did you find yourself having a love of animals? Was if from childhood? Because of a certain experience? Something else?

DENISE LAUFFER:     My love of animals is from when I was a child. My connection is definitely natural, like a calling.

This is Misty, a Russian Blue seeking a forever home.

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LWD:     What inspired you to begin helping the animals you found in the park?

DL:         When I moved here, I realized Highbridge Park as a notorious animal dump sight. They seemed to be in a desperate state and no one was doing anything about it. I had to help them. I unfortunately have had to bury several of them due to attacking loose dogs. I will fight for that to never happen again.

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LWD:     Have you ever found a lost pet and then able to get it back to the owner? And, if so, was it a positive or negative experience?

DL:         I have found quite a few lost pets that I was able to return to their owners. It’s the best feeling in world to return someone’s family member. Extremely emotional. The previous Commander of the 34th precinct and I had an unwritten rule that whenever his officers found any animal, no matter the time, they could call me. I would hold the animal, post on neighborhood sights, wait for flyers to go up, and, hopefully, get them home. If no one claimed the animal, we get them a new home. It was a great setup. We could work together, get the animals home. Avoid sending animals to the ACC (Animal Care Centers), and it was great morale and a huge connection between the community and the police. The new Commander of the 34th precinct doesn’t communicate with me at all, but some of the officers that care, still call me when they find animals.

Chihuahua dumped in the Highbridge dog run last month. Now lives in a penthouse apt in Chelsea.

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LWD:     How many animals, dogs and cats, have you rescued since starting your one woman crusade?

DL:         How many?? WOW! I’ve been doing this so long I couldn’t even begin to count. Its in the hundreds for sure.

Frenchie, so named for her French Manicured toes. She is looking for a home.

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LWD:     And have you rescued other animals?

DL:         I’ve taken dogs, cats, birds (2 chickens) bunnies, a baby raccoon. That’s all can remember. LOL.

This sweet boy, Pumpkin, is looking for someone to bring him to a forever home.

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LWD:     How many animals are you presently caring for? And then, for those you are fostering, how do you get the word out about adoptions when animals are ready for a forever home?

DL:         Currently I have 3 cats of my own from Highbridge. There are 4 adults rescued from Highbridge.  A Russian blue named Misty, Pumpkin who is an Orange tabby, 2 black cats with hints of white, Lady and Frenchie (because she looks like she has a French Manicure) and now 5 beautiful kittens, all looking for homes.  I board as well, so I occasionally have visitors.

Outside I have approximately 25 or 30 cats I care for. I feed, periodically deworm, and give flea/tick treatments to whoever will sit still long enough to be treated.

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LWD:     Any great stories you would like to share?

DL:         I have tons of rescue stories.  Most notably was building a dog house, taking the blankets off my bed and sleeping outside, in -20° weather with a feral older dog in Highbridge last year.

When I was a kid in Englewood, NJ, I took 2 dogs abandoned in the backyard of a home that was destroyed by fire, only to later find out one of the dogs was a wolf and the other was pregnant. My vet was not amused. LOL.

Highbridge Charlie is the name of the senior pup from Highbridge Park. I also raised almost $20,000 for his medical expenses. I knew he wasn’t well and sleeping outside with him was the only way I could get him to trust me and not have people interfere with what I was trying to do. Charlie had Lyme disease, testicular cancer, every parasite know to man, plus a mouth full of rotten teeth. The Lyme disease was treated, the testicular cancer removed when his was neutered, 11 of his teeth were pulled. Other than arthritis, he is now a happy healthy senior. There are a ton of my videos on you tube documenting our journey.

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LWD:     What are your current needs?

DL:         My current needs…. first and most important is some new protocol or policy needs to be enacted by NYC. Doing what I do I have had to fight the NYC Parks Department. Also , The New York Restoration Project fights me every step of the way. They’ve destroyed dozens of shelters (the average cost of one shelter is over $100) and feeding stations. I was told by a NYRP supervisor to “just let them all die out there” He was referring to Highbridge Charlie but has said it about the cats as well. I’ve even seen them turn leaf blowers on the cats. I think I’m doing a good thing and I really hoped they would work with me instead of harassing me. Just an unnecessary fight.

I would love to have the same cooperation with the NYPD that I had last year, as well.

Pepper's Surgery (Pepper)

This is Pepper, one of the many cats Denise is helping. Currently money is being raised for Pepper on YouCaring.com.

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LWD:     How can someone support your good work?

DL:         The best way to support me? Of course, contributions are always the best way. I don’t typically take money, but food donations are always welcome. If someone wanted to help financially, I would ask them to donate to Pepper. She is an 8 month old kitty I rescued last month. She was hit by a car.  One of her hind legs was crushed and the other hind foot was also damaged. Even with both legs injured, she still came out to eat and was affectionate. Pepper is one of the most amazing cats I’ve ever rescued. The Give Me Shelter Project heard about Pepper and took her to the Great Neck Animal Hospital on Long Island. They had to amputate one of her legs, but they saved the other. Her surgery costs were over $5,000. There is a fund set up to help her at YouCaring.com.

Pepper’s xray.

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LWD:     Anything additional you would like to share?
DL:         I get the word out for rescues needing forever homes via social media and word of mouth. I don’t belong to any rescue organization, therefore I am unable to join any adoption events. But, the more people that are aware of what I do, the quicker they get homes and the more I can rescue.

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 Visit Niecyspets on YouTube to view more videos and Denise’s Facebook page to find out about her current rescues and to learn how you can adopt or help.

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