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Earth Angels NYC: Dog Rescue
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Emelinda Narvaez, founder of NYC’s Earth Angels

CJ: How could our state government help city shelters?
EM: The top priority should be a more thorough and fair assessment of whether an animal is fit for adoption. You cannot fairly assess a dog who has just been brought in from an abusive situation and is hungry, cold and traumatized. Rescued animals should be allowed to sleep, eat and heal. And then be evaluated. I don’t think money is the answer. I think policy and procedure need to change. The rules are random and arbitrary. That has been my experience (and my opinion).

I also think they should be more proactive in letting people know they can foster an animal. Most people don’t know that’s an option.

The best thing the government has done within the last 10 years for the rights of people and their pets was the law that allowed owners to keep their pets after three months, regardless of what the lease states.

[Section 27-2009.1 of the NYC Housing Maintenance Code essentially says that if the owner of a multiunit rental has a lease prohibiting pets but doesn’t object to the presence of a tenant’s pet within three months, the lease provision is considered to have been waived.]

CJ: Where do Earth Angels’ animals come from?
EM: People know me and know what I do. I work directly with my community. People call me or drop off pets. What about your own life?

I have cancer, which is in remission, and lupus, but I think my work heals me and gives my life meaning and purpose. I truly believe that. And I have a son and a godson whom I adopted and raised. They are both homicide detectives and I am so proud of them. My family of animals and my sons keep me going.

CJ: Do you have one particularly memorable story from your rescue work?
EM: About 20 years ago, my husband and I were caring for and feeding Pit Bulls who were living in the garage of an elderly man who was ill. One night, during a blinding snowstorm, I went to feed them and accidentally locked the door behind me. I was locked in, and I was freezing. The cold was intense. The dogs huddled around me and kept me warm. I kept yelling until someone heard me; I asked them to go the precinct where my son was working and send him to help me. I was stuck in there for hours, but the dogs kept me from freezing.

CJ: What keeps you going?
EM: I love knowing that I saved an animal from a kill shelter or from harm or starving in the street. I love what I do, and I believe it is my gift. I couldn’t do this alone, however; I have foster homes and volunteers who help. For a $200 to $250 adoption fee, my animals receive all their necessary shots and are neutered or spayed; a few vets help by donating their services.

Also, the angels that I have had in my life: my mother, father, sister, brother and husband. I had a strong family. And I could not have done this work without a woman who helps me, Judy Ross. When I am no longer alive, I hope to still be of help; my will states that my house will be given to an animal rescue group working in the Bronx.

CJ: How would you describe the bond between a rescued animal and the person who takes that animal in?
EM: That bond is very strong—a magical connection. They know what you have done, and are grateful. And if you doubt me, rescue an animal and you will see!

Editor's Note: There is going to be an adoption event and fundraiser for Emelinda this Sunday, June 2 from noon to 3 pm at one of NYC's finest dog parks, Stuyvesant Square Park. Her friends and admirers are hoping to raise enough money to buy her a new van to replace the very old one she uses to transport the animals. If you are in NYC, do try to attend. See their flyer for this event.

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PDF: Event Flyer
This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 74: Summer 2013
Catherine Johnson is an art producer and a book editor. Her book Dogs, a collection of her vintage dog photographs was published by Phaidon in 2007. She volunteers in New York City for Social Tees and Animal Haven, both animal rescue organizations.

Photograph by Todd Eberle. Todd Eberle is a photographer at large for Vanity Fair. Acclaimed for his portraits, as well as architectural studies, Eberle’s work has been published in a variety of books and catalogs, and exhibited at the Design Museum, London and Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills.

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