When it comes to animal lovers, there are two kinds of people: those who turn the channel at the first sign of an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercial starring Sarah McLachlan or Willie Nelson, and those who stay tuned, eyes locked on the harrowing footage of abused and neglected cats and dogs.
Rebecca Eaves is the latter, but, discontent with standing on the sidelines, the Louisville resident is on the frontlines witnessing what many of us can’t stomach as president and founder of The Arrow Fund, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that targets animal cruelty in and around Kentuckiana.
“I’ve always been drawn to it because these are our forgotten angels,” Eaves says. “They’re the underdog — no pun intended. There’s no one to fight for these animals. That’s who we help. These are the cases — whether through abuse, neglect or torture — The Arrow Fund helps them. We try to repair these animals, physically and mentally, and give them love.”
The rescue process begins whenever Eaves gets a call, which can come any time of day or night. She quickly determines whether the animal has been a victim of extreme torture, abuse and/or neglect, which is part of the criteria. Then, volunteers (including Eaves) transport the animal to one of several veterinary clinics, most often BluePearl Veterinary Partners and All Pets Veterinary Center. Medical expenses are paid by The Arrow Fund, which operates solely on donations. Eventually, the rescued dog or cat is placed up for adoption.
Ask Eaves about the animals — most of whom are given a name upon rescue — she remembers most, and she’ll look at you like you’ve asked the impossible. “Well, all of them are,” she says. “They really are. You don’t forget them.”
Rainbow, who is thriving, was a 4-week-old puppy who was dumped in rural Kentucky with a bag of food before being discovered hours from death.
Blessing is a dog who was beaten with a baseball bat almost beyond repair.
Karma is a 3.2-pound maltese “who was tied up and cast away like garbage” in a white plastic bag found by a good samaritan on the side of the road in downtown Louisville.
Simon is a long-hair cat who was thrown from a second-story hotel balcony.
Aiden is a black lab who was shot with a bow and arrow from no more than 10 feet away. “It was touch-and-go for the first week, but now he’s the craziest, wildest, sweetest, most loved dog,” Eaves says.
Frodo, who is making an incredible recovery, is a pit bull who was found tied to a fence in West Louisville in July, his muzzle bound with duct tape. The severity of his injuries necessitated surgery to reattach his jaw and amputate his left leg. Evidence showed he had been used as a “bait dog” in a dog-fighting ring, which compelled the Humane Society of the United States to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible. Thus far, no arrests have been made.
“I’ve been saying all along we have a serious dog-fighting problem in our area,” Eaves says. “Finally, people are listening.” In fact, the ASPCA recently held a class in Louisville to teach law enforcement officials how to investigate blood sports after determining the issue is growing.
Since 2009, The Arrow Fund has rescued at least 239 animals. On occasion, that means providing respite and relief before death.
Mabel was an elderly beagle who was emaciated “with oozing tumors full of parasites and, tests showed, ridden with cancer,” Eaves recalls. “She looked like she’d never had a happy moment in her life.”
Euthanasia was the eventual answer, but for one week, The Arrow Fund made Mabel feel like she was loved. “The doctors sent us home with medicine, and we made her comfortable. I laid with her for hours. She ate, she rooted up blankets to make beds, she wagged her tail, and she even tried to fetch,” Eaves says, tears in her eyes as she laughs. “I was asked, ‘Why would you waste your money on that old beagle?’ The answer was simple: Why wouldn’t we? Mabel left knowing what love was.”
In addition to providing care for abused and neglected animals, Eaves and her volunteer staff focus on doing whatever they can to hold the abuser(s) accountable for his or her actions as dictated by law. “One of the main reasons we do this is to bring abuse to light and to prosecute the individuals responsible,” she says. “If these people are doing this to animals, they’ll do this to our kids, to our elderly. We need stronger laws to protect these animals in this state. It’s an embarrassment to be ranked one of the worst states for laws that protect animals.”
The Arrow Fund is always in need of assistance and could use individuals capable of fostering animals with special needs and volunteers who want to assist with educating the public.
“We cannot turn our heads to abuse,” Eaves stresses. “If you see it, report it. If nothing is done about it, report it again. We have so many animals who would just make your heart smile. We can’t stop.”
For more information about The Arrow Fund, check out thearrowfund.org.