September 22, 2005

Forgive me for the typos I am exhausted from the weeks that followed this tragedy Dawn, I would like to clarify a few points, and forgive me if I don't cover everything, but there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding contained in these e-mails that I feel obligated to address as many as possible.

First, if anyone has "dropped the ball," it would be the Federal, State and Local Governments, which despite the fact that they have the resources to help in the rescue effort, have decided against issuing a formal policy that mandates animal rescue assistance. It would also be the officials who didn't allow people to take their pets when they tried to flee impending doom. The organizations that are assisting in the rescue effort are doing so because no one else is taking responsibility for the animals in this catastrophe. Your anger should be directed at those who REFUSE to help, NOT those who have been in the relief effort since DAY ONE.

The relief effort would be much more effective if those who are in a position to lend assistance would only do so. While we are continually touched by the compassion shown by individual Army, Navy and National Guard officers, we need for the government to step up to the plate and offer the resources that are necessary to handle the thousands of animals that have been rescued, and especially those who remain in dire need of rescuing. All of the animal groups in the country are not enough to completely address this overwhelming situation. It is estimated that there may be 55,000 animals that were left behind to fend for themselves. The ramifications of attempting to rescue and care for the 6,000 that have been saved are proving to be beyond anyone's expectations.

WE NEED THE GOVERNMENT TO DO ITS PART. Additionally, HSUS has hired and continues to hire local paid staff to assist in the care of the animals at Lamar-Dixon. This has been in place for quite some time (I thought I had mentioned this to you previously). We currently advertise for these positions through temp agencies, local media in the New Orleans area as well as working with state animal care and control associations and national professional associations such as SAWA.

As for volunteering, you told me that you arrived at the Hattiesburg, MS shelter and volunteered for approximately one-half day. At no point did you express that you were "treated like dirt," at least not in conversations with me, other than to say that you felt certain volunteers treated you rudely. We are truly sorry if anyone treats another person badly. The only explanation I can offer is that these folks have been living on the compound areas for anywhere from one to three weeks in primitive conditions. They put in 12- to 14-hour days because they choose to do so for the animals, not because anyone forces them to. The weather is dangerously hot. Particularly at the Lamar-Dixon facility, allowances for personal hygiene are spartan.

These factors are beyond anyone's control, although we have worked non-stop to get agencies such as FEMA to either provide accommodations such as showers and more toilets, or allow us to do what we have to so that it gets DONE. The staging area in Lamar-Dixon is not our property. Any changes, additions, etc. must be cleared by the proper authorities.

As I told you during one of our many conversations, we will be the first to admit that conditions in Hattiesburg are quite different than in Gonzales. In fact, I told you I was glad that you only went Hattiesburg, and not Gonzales, if you had such a negative experience after going to Hattiesburg.

There are far fewer animals, many more accommodations for volunteers, and a different atmosphere with regard to state and federal officials present at the Hattiesburg location. We continue to urge people to volunteer as they are able. Our volunteers have truly been the backbone of the rescue effort. Incidentally, here is the perspective of another volunteer, which offers quite a different view. It was accompanied by a photograph entitled "Goodbye," which showed her kissing a small calico kitten that she had nursed back to health:

--Original Message-----

September 21, 2005

I'm in Barn 1 at Lamar Dixon Hi!

I was already at LSU (they called me in 2 weeks ago) and got an email from you guys to come to Lamar Dixon, and I've been there as well since Sunday. Since I am living out of my car it's easy to do time at both facilities. I work with the cats in Barn 1 during the graveyard shift (not many volunteers here at that time!).

One emaciated kitten had been rescued by 82nd Airborne, and she was crashing. Her body temp had dropped below 97 degrees, and she had been vomiting all day. I held her for 3 hours in a quiet area, and got some Rebound in her that she managed to keep down. She actually got some much needed rest, too (had been fighting sleep). I left after the morning crew vets arrived and had given her subcutaneous fluids and other meds. Her body temp was up to 99 by then.

She improved significantly in the next two days, and would reach out to me when I came to visit. Lots of TLC really made a difference in her life and outcome. A truck came 2 days early, though, to take a load of cats to Florida and she was part of that group. I am going to miss my first real disaster rescue terribly. I'll never forget her, kitty LA2466. She better go to a WONDERFUL home (I wish I could have taken her).
 ~Melissa Smith

The statement that "millions have come in but nothing or next to nothing has gone out" is grossly false. The financial responsibility in undertaking a relief effort of this magnitude is continually met through providing for day-to-day needs for the rescue and care of the animals (from rescue equipment to medical care, from transport costs to move animals out to reimbursement for volunteers for certain expenditures, from generators to communications equipment, from providing meals for volunteers to securing refrigerated trucks, from providing security to erecting a security fence around the LA compound), financial grants to help displaced pets and owners reunite, grants to help devastated shelters rebuild, grants for other LA temporary facilities, such as LSU to help them continue their important relief work, and many, many other areas too numerous to list.

I can tell you that whatever needs have been expressed are being met in the most expeditious way possible. And this is only possible through the generosity of donors who have given to the many organizations that are helping, because the cost of rescuing and caring for these animals certainly isn't being provided by LA or MS officials. As I've said many times before, restrictions put on animals in LA and MS are solely at the discretion of the state veterinarians. This includes spay/neuter, holding times, conditions on releasing animals and the maximum number of animals housed at the facilities. HSUS and others have met with state officials on a continual basis to try to come to agreements on many of these issues. We have made progress in certain areas, namely in making it possible for hundreds of animals to leave the facilities daily, as hundreds more come in. Regarding a "power struggle, " please let me clarify: HSUS works WITH the ASPCA. The LA SPCA is the lead agency, despite the misinformation contained in the e-mail below. I don't know why this person feels this way, as the agencies mentioned do not. Further, there is no "government grant" or "contract" to be had. This is misinformation. We have implored the government to take action and have a role in assisting with the effort, to no avail. Dawn, you and I have had conversations at all hours of the day or night. You have my personal cell phone number and any time that you have had questions, I have answered them honestly and forthright. Why you did not contact me to address these most recent concerns, I do not know. To say that anyone involved in this effort is greedy is beyond my comprehension. I think it's terribly unfair. I understand the raw emotions experienced by all--I have them myself. But anger and frustration are being directed at the wrong targets. We are quite familiar with all of the various criticism (HSUS just wants to be in charge, HSUS isn't in charge and should be, HSUS isn't doing enough, too many press releases, not enough press releases, etc.) and differences of opinions on who should be doing what. My response to that is this: we are doing everything that we can possibly do to not only save as many animals as we can, but also to provide proper care for them. We are working closely with other agencies, despite the rumors and gossip to the contrary. With the enormous task at hand, it is not in anyone's best interest to distribute misleading information. The information changes daily, and we urge anyone who is interested to check our Web site where we try to keep as many updates posted as we can. Thank you for listening.

 ------------- -----Original Message-----

September 22, 2005

I have not slept much since this tragedy and worry myself until I have literally become sick over the thought of animals dying in this way. This is what my nightmares are made of. I have been on the phone or working to participate in some form or the other to help these animals. I could have had this professionally written and proof read but feel what is most important is sharing the way I feel about this matter and I have no time to wait to express this.
United States Animal Protection
Dawn Taylor Bechtold
Atlanta GA 888 710 4184
404 849 5202 AnimalShelterReform



 I know what is written by rescuers below to be a fact I have seen it with my own eyes. I have stood up for these large organizations, all along as you all know but know I must speak out, and I do not care who it makes angry. There are other organizations working in the same manner that are taking in millions and not using it to the best of their abilities, i.e.; hired employees to care for animals and mass rescue trucks just to name a few. I have seen this with my own eyes. I know for a fact these volunteers are working 14 hours a day, until they literally drop, which I have been told first hand by volunteers and or employees. The first thing I was told was "hydrate yourself people are dropping like flies from exhaustion and dehydration. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

These wonderful people, are treated like dirt I being one that experienced it first hand. I would never make the statements I am making unless they were fact. I do not speak out unless what I speak about IS FACT. You who know me know I must always speak my mind and now it is time that I do. I am here for one reason and one reason only, TO PROTECT AND RESCUE ANIMALS.

 There is not a reason in the world why hired employees should not be brought on to assist. There is no reason multi million dollar organizations should be "begging for help". There is no reason to expect volunteers to work 14 hour a days so as to prove themselves to others. I can expect some volunteers but when its clear and evident there are not enough then HIRE SOME DAMN EMPLOYEES.

This is not a real toughy to figure out!! MILLIONS have come in NOTHING or next to NOTHING has gone out. There are people in this area with no jobs or means to get a job that would work for next to nothing and this would help these people as well as animals. There is not enough help. You all have seen the letters begging for help.

I am angry.

I know what I have seen and what I say you can count on as being a fact. There is not enough help for these animals and the conditions I consider fair at best. It is so hot in these barns you can barely breath, so you can imagine how hot it would be if you were an animal in fur.

People are rude and unappreciative with higher than the all mighty attitudes, employees and volunteers, it is not isolated to only the volunteers. Who the hell do these people think they are, treating others in this manner?! These women and men have driven from all over America to be here to help. We are broken hearted and this has only made it worse. No money from any of these organizations will go to rescue or shelters. Stray animals will die in shelters while Katrina animals take up space. Extra space needs to be made at these shelters that will take animals in. Wings need to be put on these building to house the extra animals coming in. This would cost no more than about 20,000 to 40,000 dollars.

Animals have been left in the streets and in homes. There should have been rescue vans from these organizations coming in, in droves. These animals will now most certainly drowned if hurricane Rita hits. What is going on here is WRONG and greedy. I as well as most Americans as well as one of our members who is an undercover reporter/investigator with a major news is also I know, very angry and this can be expected to make national news. This is about the animals to me to these organizations it has been made clear and obvious to the casual observer it is about the money.

Yes animals have been saved and its said there are 3000 at this one facility but I believe there are thousands still left and expect many could have been saved. How many are coming in a day is a question I would like to know as well as why are these animals not being spayed and neutered upon release. Nothing is even said to these owners as they leave with unaltered animals. I thought these organizations were based on educating the public.

Something must change now and for the better or it will not be pretty. What is wrong is wrong and must be made right. This is about one thing the animals. This has turned into a money making venture for these large organizations. THAT IS IT, IT IS OVER FOR THESE THAT HAVE DROPPED THE BALL ON THESE DEFENSELESS ANIAMNLS. THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN PAID AND PAID DEARLY WHERE ARE THEY WHEN THEY NEED THEM? DOING PRESS RELEASES?

 This is not good enough and money that has been donated is sitting idle. I AM PISSED! THESE ANIMALS ARE DYING AND THESE ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN THEM OUT.

 There should have been trucks provided by these organizations for as far as the eyes could see. I know there are areas where free lance rescuers are begging for help for weeks. I want to note I am speaking of the multi million dollar organizations not the small orgs out there killing themselves to do this rescue. -----------------These organizations are no better than FEMA.

They have dropped the ball and now its over for them. Animals are dying where the hell are the rescue trucks. WHERE! and WHY have these animals been left to die? We all don't have these resources but are willing to put up the money let me know what you need and how much it will cost. I will do everything, EVERYTHING in my power to provide for all of you rescuers and the animals out there.

If I ran this organization there would be trucks as far as you could see and paid employees to love and care for these animals. I am very angry, and very heartbroken. For all of those I came down that were speaking out against these groups I apologize. You were right and I was wrong. I will be the first to admit it now. Forgive me. For those I have worked with in these organizations that I have come to respect, I am sorry but I am not one to be quiet, its not my personality and its not the right thing to do. I must say it like it is. What is going on in these facilities is wrong.

How the money is being held is wrong. You know who you are out there I suggest you make it right. There are millions of animal activist out there that feel just as I do. We are not happy that these animals are not being cared for properly, animals are dying, suffering and waiting in purgatory.

Rescuers are being treated horribly. I love two things in this world, animals and rescuers and I WILL NOT TOLERATE either being treated like this. I want all to come forward that have been to these facilities to feel free to post your experiences. If you have seen letters written from other rescuers post them here. ITS TIME TO LET THE WORLD KNOW THE TRUTH. It is time these organizations buck up or bow out. THIS IS ABOUT THE ANIMALS NOT MONEY!

United States Animal Protection

 Dawn Taylor Bechtold

Atlanta GA 888 710 4184
404 849 5202 AnimalShelterReform

From a New Haven Vol/Worker

It sounds pretty bad and sad.......
Hi All, I got home late last night from Louisiana. I'm still trying to process everything I've seen and done, not to mention trying to get the stench out of my clothes! We went to the LSU temporary shelter, which is well run and organized. They really have their act together and it's a great place to volunteer. Next stop was the Lamar Dixon Expo Center (aka Gonzales), the large "clearing house" facility.

 LA SPCA, HSUS, ASPCA, and VMAT are in a power struggle over who is in charge. It is total chaos. They don't have anywhere near enough people to care for the 2000 animals (average) and are turning away rescue groups bringing more animals in after sitting in line for hours. This place is HUGE, and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Dogs and cats sit for days waiting for vet care even if illness is obvious. Many do not get out of their crates for 2+ days. There is no leadership, no system, and the animals are suffering. Vet care is obtained when they get the chance, and only after a request is put in the "inbox", which happens to be a bucket. Volunteers are so burnt out they are in tears. There are some very sick animals who are put in makeshift "wards" in the barns. No bleach bucket outside for shoes, and no where near any acceptable level of sanitation. "Triage" doesn't happened regularly, not enough vets & vet techs. The Parvo stalls are in the middle of everything......people in & out of them constantly, and going directly in stalls w/"healthy" dogs.

All dogs & cats are kept in crates of all kinds. We got yelled at by VMAT for moving a puppy into a wire crate instead of a veri-kennel after being told to do so by HSUS. Don't know if it was because she was a pit pup and therefore most likely not going to make it out of that hellhole after all she'd been thru- she was air-vacced off the 610 bridge- or what. There are huge buses, vans, RV's, tents everywhere, representives of different states for each large group. Animal Planet had their bus there, and PETA was driving in as we were leaving. That's all well & good, but the "negotiations" for control is disgusting.

 Whoever gets the gov't "grant" (aka "Contract") runs the show, and makes some nice $$. There are pallets of food, water, crates, etc from Walmart, Petco, Petsmart, and a bunch of others. They just don't have enough people to clean & walk all these dogs, let alone feed, water, and med. They DESPERATELY need more people to do the basic stuff. We hooked up w/Pasado Animal Rescue & did door to door searches for animal survivors in New Orleans. It is mind-blowing how many pets are still alive, though many are going down hill fast. Wednesday we did water rescue in an area that was still flooded, and pulled over a dozen dogs out of houses where they were trapped. We found animals alive in homes that were boarded up & barricaded, having to break in using any means necessary to get to them. The stench is unreal, and most homes are booby-traps- furniture and appliances thrown everywhere by the flood waters, the mold, sludge and god knows what makes walking in very dangerous. You DO NOT want to fall and get that stuff on you. The situation changes hour by hour, let alone day by day. They are beginning to release animals to rescues at least. From what I saw, at least 50% of the dog population is Pitbull/Pit-mixes, approx 25% Rotties & Chows, and the remaining 25% every breed you can imagine. Some of the rescues are taking Pits & Rotties, tho Lamar Dixon may not be allowing them out, Pasado & LSU are. I know there are other groups as well. Save A Dog is still there and flying in volunteers. They are also doing door to door rescue in the city now. IF ANYONE CAN GO PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

 Hotels are not an option. If you go, plan on sleeping in a tent (bring your own), or your vehicle. Personally, I recommend the vehicle.....Fire Ants are everywhere, and from personal experience, they will find you. I spent 2 nights sleeping in a horse stall before they realized I was there (the ants), but once they did, it was all over. Their bite is EXTREMELY painful and leaves blisters that turn into something resembling a pimple. Nothing seems to kill them. Showers are a luxury, if you can get one. Bring your own food & water, medical supplies, Rubbing Alcohol, bleach, etc to decontaminate yourself after handling the animals, who are still covered with dry toxic sewage. This effort will be going on for months, and people will be needed all the way thru. Right now, the dogs & cats (and every other creature you can imagine) are critical. Many are dehydrated and starving, and it is a VERY ugly scene. I hope things will improve. If anyone goes now, be prepared to separate your personal feelings from what needs to be done just to get these animals some help. Hopefully it will improve over the next few weeks/months, and someone will be in charge and get things somewhat organized. For those who can't turn off their feelings and just do the job as best they can, don't go now. Wait until it gets better. If you have a strong stomach, and can stay focused on just taking care of one at a time, you are needed now. Feral dog packs and cat colonies were well established in New Orleans prior to the they are feeding off each other, and whatever they can find. It is truly horrible. The animal population problem is beyond belief. Out of some 300 dogs Pasado Rescue pulled, only TWO males were neutered, and I think ONE female. There are dogs who were severely neglected prior to the hurricane, mange is very prevalent, and god only knows what else. Most of the Pits have had there ears cropped back to their heads...."Home Jobs" done with scissors or knives. The whole thing is just surreal. I did not dream at all while I was down there, probably due to exhaustion- we were up at 6 am and lucky to get to bed by 3 or 4 am. The nightmares are starting now, and I can't get the images out of my mind. I try to focus on the ones we've saved, and pray they get into homes. Enough for now, this is too long as it is, and I'm starting to cry again. Megan

 Hurricane Katrina is the pits!

 INFO ON VOLUNTEERING IN LA FROM JANE GARRISON: --------------------------------------- Subject: I am begging the animal community Dear Friends: I have been at the hurricane scene in New Orleans for over two weeks. In this time I have organized search and rescue teams and food and water teams (for the animals on the streets). I have personally pulled hundreds of animals from roof tops, attics and houses. It has been amazing to me that these animals are still alive. I got a dog off a roof a few days ago who should have weighed 90 pounds but was down to 40 pounds from being stuck on that roof with no food and water. These animals want to live and are showing us this everyday. Here is the problem. We still have 3,000 addresses of homes where animals are trapped. These are addresses where people have called either HSUS or LASPCA and asked for us to rescue their animals. I know that there are thousands of other homes where animals are trapped that no one called about. I know this b/c I have rescued hundreds of animals from homes after hearing barking that were not on our lists. CONSIDER THIS: Amazingly we are finding that half of the homes we get into have animals still alive. With a MINIMUM of 3,000 addresses that is at least 1500 animals who are waiting behind closed doors for a loving hand to rescue them. With the current teams we have now we can only get into approximately 300 homes each day. The animals will NEVER be alive if we continue at this rate. I am begging each and everyone of you to get to New Orleans to help. It does not take a "certified disaster rescuer" to break into a house and at last provide fresh food and water (to sustain that animal until someone qualified can get them out). We only have a week at most to save some of these desperate animals. Please do your part...we are all the animals have. Jane Garrison (END OF JANE'S NOTE)