EXCLUSIVE: Video Shows Cat Being Slammed Against Wall At Miami-Area PetSmart

A Broward animal welfare organization is under fire after shocking video of one of its volunteers being rough with a cat emerged.

In the video, a unidentified volunteer for Cat Crusade is seen using a broom to forcefully push “Mocha”, a cat, against a wall divider.

The volunteer uses profanity and becomes visibly angry while shoving the broom at the cat.

“Get the fuck out!,” the woman says on video. “Go! Go! Come on! Move! Out! Out! Out Mocha!”

The video was taken by Nadia Sazonova yesterday at a Hollywood PetSmart.

She then sent it to RISE NEWS.

In a phone interview, Sazonova said that the incident occurred at the cat adoption section of the PetSmart.

She said that there were a number of cats in that area at the time of the incident.

She was at the store to pick up a leash for her dog when her attention was drawn to the cat adoption section.

“When I was passing by she was cursing,” Sazonova said. “When I came closer, I saw she had a broom and was hitting the cat, so I started to record.”

“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of pets in our care,” PetSmart said in a statement to RISE NEWS. “As soon as we were alerted to to the incident with Mocha, we took immediate action to ensure that Mocha was unharmed. Additionally, the volunteer of our partner organization, Cat Crusaders, that committed the act was immediately removed from the store and will not be allowed to return.”

A PetSmart spokesperson told RISE NEWS that the pet chain works with over 4,000 different animal welfare organizations across the country, and even supplies space for their operations in its stores.

However, the spokesperson said that it is up to the individual partner animal welfare organizations to vet the volunteers who work out of space at PetSmart.

“It’s a unfornature incident that occurred with a volunteer,” the spokesperson said.

But for Sazonova, that response isn’t enough.

“I would like this woman not to work with pets anymore or for her to be charged with animal cruelty,” Sazonova said.

According to its website, Cat Crusade provides care for 50-80 stray cays per month in Broward County.

PetSmart said that they brought Mocha the cat to a veterinarian immediately after learning of the incident and that the cat is doing fine.

Cat Crusaders did not immediately  respond to requests for comment. We will update this story if they do.

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Meet Miami’s Queen Bee And Her Backyard Revolution

What’s News In This Story?

-Bianca Pratorius has helped usher in a backyard beekeeper movement in South Florida by training a clutch of local amateurs in the art of the bee.

-She has turned part of her northeast Miami-Dade backyard and her roof into a beekeeping paradise. (And her neighbors are totally cool with it too.)

-While Bianca only views beekeeping as a hobby, she is able to generate enough honey to sell at local farmers markets. 

-Bianca has mentored Danielle Bender in how to be a beekeeper. Danielle took that knowledge and won a grant from the Miami Foundation for a project called Public Hives. 

-Public Hives places beehives in public spaces in order to increase the local bee population. They also train local residents on how to tend to bees. 

Watch Another Story: Miami’s Church Of Trump Resistance

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Welcome To The Florida Keys, Where The Chickens Sleep In Trees (That Rhymes)

After Hurricane Irma carved a large swath of destruction across the natural landscape of the Florida Keys, there are signs that life is starting to return to normal there.

On Sugarloaf Key for example, the chickens have returned to their perches in trees.

This may be a strange sight for many in South Florida, but according to Keys resident Rodney Richardson- this is pretty normal.

And that’s a good thing.

Take a look at the funny scene in a video Richardson sent to RISE NEWS:

Have you ever seen this type of thing in your neighborhood?

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How A Phone Call Changed The Life Of A Miami Dog Groomer (And Thousands Of Animals) Forever

By Ana Cedeno

We live in a time where altruism can be seen as somewhat subjective. You can’t be nice to strangers, because they could rob you, some would negatively say.

Trusting people, or rather being naive about it can make you seem stupid in the eyes of many, if not an easy target, and no good deed goes unrewarded has turned into no good deed goes unpunished.

But Regina Nicole Vlasek has decided to live her life in a more hopeful manner.

Vlasek is the president and founding partner of the Saving Sage Rescue organization.

A no kill animal shelter located in the northern Miami suburb of Miami Shores, Saving Sage’s story began from a single act of kindness.

The story began with a phone call in 2012.

At the time, Vlazek was working as an animal groomer and while she and her friends often rescued animals who were abandoned at her salon, they were far from a legit non-profit.

But then, the call came.

“A client Judy Sanchez reached out to me about the dog sighting situation” Vlasek said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “A bunch of dogs were picked up by animal rescue and a little dog was left behind.”

Vlasek and Sanchez raced to where the dog had been sighted intending to make sure he was safe and to find a place for him.

“We made a big scene. We stopped traffic to get the dog,” Vlasek recalled.

Regina Nicole Vlasek, the founder of Saving Sage. Photo Credit: Facebook.

Regina Nicole Vlasek, the founder of Saving Sage. Photo Credit: Facebook.

Despite their best efforts they couldn’t plan or prevent what would happen next.

The dog was startled by some nearby children.

Skittish and still not used to people, the dog ran from under the house she was hiding in and into a car.

“The dog had very bad injuries,” Vlasek said. “There were pictures of this dog being picked up on the stretcher. Channel 7 [WSVN] picked up the story and it was on the news.”

It was while they had the dog-who they later named Sage on the stretcher that they noticed she was lactating.

They sent Sanchez’s child to check under the house and they found seven puppies.

In her efforts to help Sage and her puppies Vlasek and Sanchez contacted Karina Goldenberg who was at the time affiliated with another animal rescue organization named A Way For Strays.

Vlasek also contacted Dr. Michael Zender, a veterinarian she knew from her days as a groomer.

Both Goldenberg and Zender donated money and medical supplies respectively to ensure that Sage and her puppies made it through.

It was that tight-knit group that started Saving Sage.

“It grew from there,” Vlasek said as she explained how Saving Sage went on to become much more than just saving Sage and her puppies. “We went from being girls who just kind of liked helping to meeting this girl who was part of the organization and it grew from there.”

Saving Sage took off as a full-fledged animal rescue and in their first year alone rescued 198 animals.

In their second year they went over double that number.

Sage and her puppies also found a good home.

The organization doesn’t limit itself to just dogs.

As Vlasek explained, on any given day dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and snakes all could drop by the office.

They’ve also started a program called The All About Animals Class, in which they teach children the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, as well as the often forgotten lesson that a pet is not a toy.

“We can’t just condemn people for not knowing any better,” Vlasek said. “We have to teach them and make a difference. People can go on and on to say that this is wrong but does anyone try to understand? It’s having patience and teaching children from an early age.”

Although they are branching out into educating the public, Vlasek says the purpose of Saving Sage remains as always, to save animals that are out in the streets.

“Even with animal control and the humane organization, the number of stray animals is so overwhelming, any one organization would have a hard time,” Vlasek said.

It isn’t a placid life to be sure and not one, Vlasek ever saw herself having when she answered that fateful phone call in 2012.

“I never dreamed that it would turn into something like this,” Vlasek said. “Sometimes I want my old life back when the phone doesn’t ring all the time, but it’s something I can some day look back and be proud of.”

While it isn’t always easy, Vlasek said that it is rewarding.

“We’ve saved dogs that were days away from being put to sleep and we get pictures,” Vlasek said. “[We] develop friendships from the people who adopt them. It will inspire people to get involved and it spreads and I think it feels awesome to be able to express this. Everyone has their own battle, this is the one that I choose.”
Saving Sage is located at 212 NE 98th St in Miami Shores, FL, 33138.

for information on volunteering, fostering, or adopting, visit their webpage at

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Saving Sage Animal Rescue

The Cincinnati Zoo Does Not Think Your Harambe Memes Are Dank At All

This past May following an unfortunate incident involving a young boy falling into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo a 17-year-old gorilla, named Harambe, was shot and killed.

And, as usual, the world only took the death of the late gorilla seriously for about a minute before forever immortalizing him online by turning him into a widely popular internet joke, or otherwise referred to as a “meme.”

Many examples of Harambe memes can be found on the popular website Reddit, which has an entire feed dedicated to Harambe.

At first the zoo appeared to be at least trying to ignore these jokes, hoping they would die down over time.

But as more and more Facebook posts, tweets, vines, and websites were made to joke about Harambe, the zoo has finally had enough.

“We are not amused by the memes, petitions, and signs about Harambe,” Cincinnati Zoo director, Thane Maynard told the Associated Press in an email early this week. “Our family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward difficult for us.”

But that won’t stop people online from being vicious.

This past weekend Maynard’s personal twitter account was hacked.

A variety of Harambe jokes were posted from Maynard’s account, most of which included hashtags such as #AnimalRights #JusticeForHarambe and the infamous #*****OutForHarambe.

He has since gotten control back over his account and removed the offending tweets.

And Maynard isn’t the only one getting slammed on twitter.

On nearly every tweet recently put out on the official Cincinnati Zoo account there are dozens of vicious and sarcastic responses condemning the zoo for their actions that resulted in Harambe’s death.

The online harassment towards the zoo got so bad that they officially deactivated their twitter account last night.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.


This Touching Story Of How A Paralyzed Chimp Learned To Walk Again Teaches Us Something Important About Euthanasia

Lola Gayle, STEAM Register When a 24-year-old chimpanzee named Reo became paralyzed from the neck down in 2006, Kyoto University researchers leapt into action in order to save him from euthanasia. This is Reo sitting up by grasping ropes after lying on his back for 14 months following the onset of acute tetraparesis. Primate Research Institute,… Read More

“Chupacabra”? Miami Suburb Falls In Love With Mysterious Animal

A small white animal that some think resembles a fox has become something like an urban legend in Miami Shores.

The animal probably is a fox but it has no tail and is stark white, giving credence to the idea that it could be some sort of hybrid animal.

It has been spotted for months in different parts of the northern Miami suburb and is suspected by some residents to live on the local golf course.

There are a number of red foxes that live in the neighborhood but none of them come close to the unique appearance of this one.

Bengy Cid, a Shores resident posted this picture of the animal on the Miami Shores Village People Facebook page:


What could it be? Photo Credit: Bengy Cid/ Facebook

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a fox,” Miami Shores resident Jorge Diaz said on the neighborhood Facebook group. “…we see him almost every evening by our house… Looks like the poor little guy lost his tail and a portion of his ear…. He seems gentle although he never gets too close.”

However at least one Miami Shores resident joked on the online forum that the animal was a “Chupacabra“, the mythical creature thought to attack animals and people.

We’re going to send the link to this piece to Zoo Miami guru Ron Magill to get an expert opinion. We’ll update this piece if we hear back from him.

In the meantime, what do you think it is?

What Is This Animal?

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RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Bengy Cid‎/Facebook

This Turtle Wanted To Ride A Manatee So He Rode A Freakin Manatee

This is one of the cutest things you’ll see on the Internet today.

A little turtle riding on the back of a manatee as a large group of sea cows swim through the El Portal neighborhood of Miami.

You seriously can’t make this stuff up.

I mean you could, but this is totally real.

JPEGScreen Shot 2016-03-01 at 6.51.14 PM

The photo was taken back on Feb 21 by José Ángel Gonzalo. He then posted them to the neighborhood social media site

Manatees are not an uncommon sight in South Florida waters and are often in the news as many of them are killed each year by boaters who run over them with propellors.

So far this year, already four manatees have been killed in Miami-Dade County.


“I just wanted to share with all of you these beautiful pictures,” Gonzalo wrote in a social media post. “I saw like 20 manatees in our Little River. Pls, lets take care of them and protect their environment. Btw, have a look at the little turtle!!!”


For the record, that turtle is now our spirit animal.

You can read more about this story [in Spanish] on

Have you seen something fun or interesting in your community? Send us a story tip via email to [email protected].

This Cop Just Adopted A Pitbull Found Abandoned In Freezing Weather

PARSIPPANY, NJ — “Romeo,” the pitbull who was tied to the fence outside the Parsippany animal shelter in freezing weather last month, now has a new home with a police officer. Nicholas Grawehr, an officer with the Morris Plains Police Department, brought “Romeo” home Wednesday. Grawehr is a friend of Parsippany Patrol Officer J. Williams, who rescued… Read More

This Jail Dog Training Program Helps Homeless Dogs And At-Risk Prisoners Build New Lives For Themselves

By Bernard Lima Chavez

Prison dog training programs are becoming quite popular throughout the United States.

Through these programs, supporters say that prisoners help homeless shelter dogs learn basic obedience skills who in turn help prisoners learn a marketable trade that can lead to employment upon release. Backers of such efforts believe it to be a symbiotic relationship that gives a second chance to at-risk offenders, both human and canine.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2.2 million people were incarcerated in 2011. Today, that number is estimated to be over 2.4 million. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 3.9 million dogs enter shelters every year, of which 1.2 million are euthanized. By pairing prisoners with shelter dogs, two at-risk populations are given a life-changing opportunity.

Miami-Dade County has its own new and little-known jail dog program, the Second Chance Dog Training Program.

The Second Chance program has two simple goals: teach non-violent inmates a marketable job skill they can use upon release and provide behaviorally-challenged homeless animals from Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS), a second chance at life, free from the threat of euthanasia, through an intensive eight-week basic obedience training program.

The Second Chance program, which kicked off in September 2014, is a collaborative effort between MDAS, Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Services and Applause Your Paws, a dog training and boarding company based in South Miami.


“Second Chance Dog Training Program is a win-win for all,” District 4 County Commissioner Sally A. Heyman said in a press release. “The people in custody and dogs are better socialized and trained for adoption.”

MDAS built a special 2000 sq. foot dog shelter at the Corrections Department Treatment and Training Center and provide all veterinary care, food, bedding and supplies during the 8-week program along with monthly inspections of the facility and care of the dogs.

Participating inmates must express interest in the program, have no history of violence and a minimum of 60 days left on their sentence. The Corrections Department staff selects and supervises all inmate participants.

Dee Hoult, owner and lead trainer of Applause Your Paws, is the Training Director for Second Chance.

Hoult selects candidates from MDAS based on the behavioral history or training needs of each individual dog. To keep the inmate handler, staff, trainers and other dogs safe, any dog with a history of aggression is ineligible for participation.

Once at the Training and Treatment Center, the dogs are assigned to an individual inmate who is responsible for all daily care of his dog, including feeding, walking, bathing and daily cleaning of the dog’s kennel.

Each inmate has four supervised sessions with their dog each day; morning feeding, cleaning and exercise, late morning playtime and training, afternoon playtime and exercise and an evening feeding, training and exercise session.

Hoult conducts weekly training sessions at the jail, teaching the inmates proper dog handling techniques and training skills. The dogs are exposed to a formalized training plan designed to meet all requirements of the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test.

At the end of the 60 days, dogs are eligible to take their CGC exam and earn their title.

In the program’s first eight months, 6 inmates have participated in the program. Of these, one asked to be removed from the program, two were replaced by Hoult and one continues to participate. His dog graduated last week and earned his CGC title.


Two additional inmates successfully participated in the Second Chance program, served their remaining sentences and have been released. Since their release, both men have found employment working with animals. One is an animal daily care supervisor while the other is a kennel worker. In both cases, Hoult assisted with job placement in the industry. Neither one was available to speak with RISE NEWS.

Of the six dogs who have completed the program, each one has earned his or her obedience title, though not always on the first attempt.

Hoult said that the biggest challenge to successfully earning the CGC title in a jail environment is a lack of human and canine distractions during training sessions and progress evaluations. As a result, some dogs don’t perform well during testing when other dogs or new people are brought in to function as a distraction, a key component of the CGC test.

Two dogs did not pass the CGC test during their final week in the program. In both cases, the dogs were given supplemental training at Hoult’s facility with a special emphasis on working in a distracting environment. Both earned their title within two weeks.

Upon completion of the training program, each graduating dog is placed up for adoption. The dogs are housed at Applause Your Paws training and boarding facility, where Hoult facilitates all adoptions on behalf of MDAS and in accordance with their adoption process and criteria.

All six have been adopted, though two were returned shortly after adoption. They were subsequently adopted again. Based on this experience, Hoult now offers all adopters two complimentary training classes to provide the adopters important information to help ensure the adoptions stick.

“Follow up training is a critical step in creating long term success because the humans need coaching in order to understand how to maintain the training their dogs received for the life of the dog,” Hoult said. “Dog training is a lifelong process and a two-way street. It is a dance between two partners who must be equally committed to each other.”

With the recent graduation of the third group of dogs, new dogs and new inmates will soon start working again, continuing the cycle of dog and man helping each other, a relationship that has been ongoing for thousands of years.

This story was originally published on

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