Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rescuing dogs from 'Corridor of Cruelty'

By Leslie Askew, CNN
July 16, 2010 7:37 a.m. EDT

In the scorching summer heat, Deborah Hoffman can be found patrolling a section of Houston, Texas, that she's dubbed "The Corridor of Cruelty."

"It's basically a dumping ground for live and dead animals," said Hoffman.

The corridor -- an area more than a mile wide where abused dogs are abandoned -- is located in northeast Houston near the Little York exit off U.S. 59 (Eastex Freeway).

"One of the saddest cases is when I come across one in a large green Hefty [trash] bag," said Hoffman. "Some of the dogs that we find in the bags ... [have] some serious wounds ... most likely from dog fighting."

Hoffman, 52, started the nonprofit Corridor Rescue, and for nearly two years, she and her team of volunteers have been rescuing dogs from this area and shedding light on the neglect of these animals.

In Texas, it is a criminal offense to abandon dogs, according to Assistant District Attorney Belinda Smith. As a result of Hoffman's efforts, Smith says her office has filed criminal cases against people who have dumped their dogs.

"Deborah not only brought the problem to our attention, but she takes it a step further -- she tries to find homes for animals that have been dumped," said Smith.

Separately, in November 2008, Houston executed the largest dog fighting sting in the country to date, said Smith. As a result, 60 people were convicted and 168 dogs were seized.

Hoffman has been involved in animal welfare for years and first came in contact with the corridor as a volunteer for a rescue group in 2006. Within a couple of months she rescued six dogs from the area. A return visit in August 2008 moved her to rally her community for help.

On a tip from a friend, she went back to the area to search for a pregnant dog in need of rescue. She saw the place still teeming with emaciated and scared dogs fighting for food, shelter and their lives.

"I took my 12-year-old daughter with me, and we spent the afternoon driving this neighborhood," said Hoffman. "[We] both literally were in tears by the end of our journey."

Soon after, those tears turned to action. Hoffman sent out a mass e-mail to fellow animal lovers begging for help.

"[I] said ... 'We have an absolute atrocity going on day-in and day-out. And I'm calling this place The Corridor of Cruelty. There [are] animals scrounging around for food constantly. They're running in ditches with broken legs, broken bodies, pregnant. People, come out and help.' "

Many heeded the call, and Hoffman and her "active army," as she calls it, started waging war on the corridor.

In addition to the district attorney's office, Hoffman's efforts have gotten the ear of city council members, mayoral candidates and the police department, which set up cameras in the corridor to try to capture people dumping animals. The group also educates community members about anti-cruelty laws and spaying and neutering their to complete article

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