South Fayette commissioner helps dog fostering efforts
Seven months ago, sleep became a commodity for Jessica Cardillo after welcoming a pit-mix into her Morgan home in South Fayette Township.
While the task was simple on the surface for Cardillo, to give the animal love it had never received, it was a daunting challenge for 4-year-old Buddha, whose only sense of serenity came from time spent in a bloody, bent cage in which he was recovered from in McKeesport.
Cardillo, serving in her fourth year as a township commissioner, is making sure to give time for those who don’t have a voice by volunteering at Hospaws and Rally for Animals to give a loving home for animals as a foster.
“It’s about working on issues they come to you with,” Cardillo said of the 10 to 12 dogs she’s brought into her home for various durations of time. “It’s about giving them love, care, attention and acclimating many of them into a home environment.”
Whether it is animals mostly trained through Hospaws, a Greensburg-based nonprofit organization that helps care for pets during medical treatments, to Rally for Animals, which turns its local efforts to minimizing dogfighting in urban areas where it’s most prevalent, it’s a matter of having enough volunteers for these animals.
When Buddha barked continuously throughout the night, Cardillo gabe him something he never experienced in his past life: comfort.
When Buddha wouldn’t eat dog food, Cardillo cooked meat and rice and joined him on the floor to hold his bowl while he ate.
“It’s overcoming a lot of demons these dogs have,” Cardillo said. “Every situation is different depending on what happened to them. I’ve gone into a few (rescue efforts) and it destroys you inside because you cannot imagine what they’ve gone through.”
What they’ve gone – and continue going through – is a fight Cardillo and many animal advocates across Pennsylvania refuse to let go silent, continuing to fight the legislative battle of the state’s antiquated laws that rank near the bottom of the United States.
“Animal cruelty – even if it results in death – is a summary offense,” Cardillo said. “It’s basically a traffic ticket. It is real. It does happen around here. People fail to realize that. How can you hurt someone or something that’s completely defenseless, that just wants love and attention?”
As Pennsylvania animal advocates push for stricter animal abuse laws throughout the commonwealth, they watched Angel’s Law die on the House floor recently. The law would have had the ability to punish offenders with a felony and possible jail time rather than the misdemeanors currently issued.
For Cardillo, it’s a simple fact of making sure the issues are being blamed on the right side of the leash and gathering enough volunteers to help.
“We do our best to not turn anybody away, but sometimes we just don’t have enough people,” she said of choosing fostering over being a dog owner. “We don’t have enough room in our houses. I love fostering because it makes space to just help another one. You get to watch them go into a home they will stay in forever. It’s not a lifetime commitment but a commitment to save their life. That’s what keeps you motivated to want to help. It’s what keeps you going.”