Volunteer Tail: Sean Casey Animal Rescue Helps All Unwanted Animals
Photo by Lavanya Sunkara
As soon as the call came—a small Poodle was spotted curled up near the Prospect Expressway—Sean Casey of Sean Casey Animal Rescue (SCAR) was on his way. Thankfully, help came before the dog was hit by any cars. When I arrived to interview Sean for this article, he was at the vet getting the dog checked. During the hour I spent with Casey, the animal’s owner was located and the vet was notified. This was all in a morning’s work for Sean—a hero for lost, abandoned and abused animals. His rescue work and two no-kill shelters located in Brooklyn, NY help well over 2,000 animals each year and there is no stopping him from helping countless more.
Sean Casey has been helping animals for most of his life. He grew up in Brooklyn with animals and his passion for assisting them started with his mother, who had him help feral cats with trap-neuter-return (TNR) work on his block in the '80s. In his teens, Sean moved on to helping reptiles. In his 20s, he decided to open up his own shelter. He briefly entertained the idea of becoming a cop like his dad and brother, but he always came back to rescuing animals. “I realized that animal rescue is the only thing I am good at and decided to do it,” he said.
In 2006, Casey opened a small shelter in the cargo area of JFK airport. At first, he spent his time rescuing and adopting out exotic animals since he felt there were more groups in the NY area helping domestic pets. But when he came across a black pit bull at Animal Care and Control that was being taken to be euthanized, he couldn’t resist helping him. He named him Jack Daniels, and the dog was adopted within a few weeks. Thus began Sean's journey to save more animals like Jack, and in 2007 he opened a shelter at 153 East 3rd St. in Brooklyn to make the animals more accessible. “We have to bring the animals to the people,” he said.
Dedication to Animal Rescue
“Rescue is all I ever wanted to do, I don’t know if I can stop,” said Sean, who recently opened his second facility at 551 39th St. near Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Sean has been working non-stop to save animals for years, working seven days a week. His typical day starts at 11 AM, but doesn’t end until much later in the night. He is either out there rescuing animals or tracking feral dogs in the hopes of rescuing them.
During the time I was at the shelter, Sean’s phone rang every 15 minutes. He is almost as busy as the CEO of a big company, except he is in the business of saving lives. He did not have a formal education; all he had was ambition. He helps as many animals as he can, and works with other organizations to help the animals he can’t. “The one that’s in front of you is what matters,” he said when asked how he manages all the calls for help.
Going Where No Other Rescue Goes
“Part of the reason we are so successful is that we are not jaded," Casey says. "I find a lot of anger in some people, and they end up hating people. We can’t hate people. We need them."
Sean also stands apart from other animal rescuers due to his innate ability to communicate with even the most dangerous dogs and deal with critical situations. When other organizations back away from helping a troubled dog, Sean comes to the rescue. Whether it is going into a crack house or a dog fighting house, if there are animals to be saved, he is there. “If I get emotional, I am not going to be able to help the animals,” he said.
Last April, Sean trapped and caught one of two feral dogs that were terrorizing animals in Midwood. With dedicated SCAR volunteers, he spent months trying to understand the animals’ behavior and routine, sometimes even sleeping near the tracks in his effort to eventually capture one of them.
Similarly, Casey had tracked the famous "ghost dog" of Prospect Park for four years before finally capturing him last year and bringing him to the vet when he needed medical assistance. The Cane Corso was known for appearing and disappearing into the woods of the park, which earned him the "ghost' moniker. Many park-goers were feeding the dog and keeping tabs on him. Since he presented no harm, he was left to roam the woods until medical issues made Sean take action.
Casey also stands out in the world of animal rescue because he personally trains the most difficult rescued dogs. “I have a more primitive connection to the dogs," he said. "I understand them on a different level."
When a rescue gets a lot of media attention, like the "ghost dog" in Prospect Park, he sorts through the adoption applications himself. Even though Sean had mixed feelings about bringing in a dog that seemed happy on his own in the park, he feels confident that the "ghost dog" will be “happier when he is at his forever home.”
Helping Not Just Cats and Dogs
SCAR also specializes in the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of reptiles, amphibians and exotic birds. I saw parrots, turtles and even fish during my visit.
Gayle and Barry Schwartz of Feathered Friends Parrot Adoption Services in Queens said, “Sean Casey Animal Rescue is the only other rescue in NYC that also handles parrots, and we recommend [it] to people when we are full to capacity. We ourselves have adopted two wonderful parrots from him.”
A Friendly Place
“We treat people the same way we treat animals,” said Sean. At the two shelters, both open seven days a week, a dozen staff members and 100 volunteers work to keep the dogs properly exercised, the cats entertained, and care for all the animals. Currently SCAR has 100 dogs, 25 cats, two rabbits, 10 birds, a dozen turtles and fish. More than 200 cats and dogs are adopted each month.
In the past 10 years, Sean said he hasn’t noticed a decrease in abuse, but said he sees less animals euthanized. At SCAR, Sean said, “We appreciate as many happy stories as we do the sad stories. We call the adoptees graduates. You have to have that balance.”
Petside is donating $500 to Sean Casey Animal Rescue as a big THANKS for their dedication to saving animal lives.