Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

HSUS and Katrina

The following is something that came over a mailing list I'm on.  I don't know the source (it was forwarded to the list without any attribution) and I can't say if it's true, but if it is even half true people should hear it.  All I want to say to preface this is that HSUS -- the Humane Society of the United States -- is a fairly extreme animal rights group, not at all related to (and certainly not to be confused with) either the ASPCA or your local humane society.
I was a volunteer rescuer, at the Hattiesburg, Mississippi Katrina 
rescue site, between 9/13/05 and 9/17/05.  I was accompanied by a veterinarian.

This rescue site was run by HSUS. There was an HSUS banner hanging 
across the main barn, where all the supplies were kept. HSUS crew 
wore blue shirts, labeled HSUS. Volunteers wore yellow shirts. I 
state this to clarify which organization's workers made the decisions 
that I believe caused suffering and death to the animals at the site. 
Whether the decisions were made by individual workers at this site, 
or were policies set at the national level, I do not know, but the 
national office of HSUS must address these matters immediately.

I returned home, in tears, not just because of the suffering and 
death caused to the animals by the hurricane and by the people who 
abandoned them, but also because of the policies of HSUS, which ran 
the rescue site at which I volunteered.

There were dozens of wonderful and caring folks, who had traveled from all
over the country, ready and willing to work hard and cry hard.  More 
importantly, they came with the ability to take animals back home 
with them, having previously arranged for these dogs and cats to go 
directly into either foster homes, permanent homes, or to 
veterinarians' offices for treatment.

Arriving after 17 hours of travel (from Virginia), one of the first 
things I was told was that there had been vets, techs, and rescuers 
there, previously, who had "walked" off with dogs and cats when they 
were scheduled to leave. I soon found out why.

I was assigned to work in one of the rows, in one of the barns, in 
which some of the dogs were being housed.  I was assigned to care for 
100 dogs with one other volunteer, Terry. One of us walked the dogs, 
while the other cleaned the cages and put fresh food and water in the cages.

I thought this system was simple, made sense, and we were anxious to begin.
We were, however, required to attend a 1 1/2 hour meeting, in the morning,
to discuss such questions (depending on who the barn manager for the
day was) as whether to walk or feed the dogs first.

Terry and I left the meeting and started taking care of the dogs 
assigned to us. Many of the dogs were laying in their feces and urine.

As Terry has problems walking, we decided that she would clean the 
cages and I would walk the dogs.

When I came back from the walks, we used a hose to try to clean and 
cool off the dogs. Unfortunately, we had to return them to their 
cages.  We were a good team and worked efficiently until we got 
chastised by HSUS staff for walking the dogs in the morning. HSUS 
insisted that the dogs be fed first, even if they were standing in 
urine that was burning their open sores.

I was also told by HSUS that they did not care if the dogs were 
walked only once per day. Most of these dogs were large dogs, 
confined in very small crates.  With only one walk per day, the dogs 
were forced to lay in urine and feces for up to 24 hours. The cages 
were too small to permit them to move away from their waste. One 
skinny dog had urine burns on his legs.

Most of the dogs ate very little, due to the extreme heat. The HSUS 
feeding policy, therefore, did not maximize eating and weight gain 
for these emaciated animals.

When I inquired why HSUS wanted the feeding done this way, I found 
out it was nothing more then "an old shelter trick" that makes it 
easier to keep the cages cleaner, but makes it more uncomfortable for 
the animals.

I refused to do this and kept doing things as I had been. I was 
yelled at and yelled at, but I just ignored them.  Other volunteers 
from other barns left to go home because of the additional stress of 
being yelled at.

Everyday I saw more and more people crying, both from great sadness 
for these babies, but also greatly due to the fact that HSUS was 
preventing groups from removing animals.

One woman whom I met, came with a group from Orlando Florida, with 4 
large horse trailers and the ability to take 100 animals with 
them.  They filled out all the required paperwork, as many, many 
groups did.  The person who was supposed to be processing this 
paperwork was never around. We were told that HSUS was going through 
these applications between 12am and 4am, but I saw no applications 
getting approved.

Each day the pile of applications was larger. No one received 
approval to take animals, so rescuers went home without the animals 
whose lives they had committed to saving.

Just the small group of folks I had met had the ability to remove 250 
dogs and cats.

People were literally on their hands and knees begging HSUS to 
PLEASE, PLEASE let them remove some of the animals, especially the 
ones who were old, weak, and sick.  Rescuers were crying, crying, 
crying, while hugging and kissing these precious babies.

A  Saint Bernard mix was labeled "VICIOUS, WILL BITE," though he 
never seemed to move much or come out of the cage. My rescue partner, 
Terry, opened his cage and we both sat down with him. He seemed very 
confused, at which point, we realized that he was BLIND and could not 
walk well.  He was not vicious and not a biter - he was extremely frightened.

Terry and I worked on gaining his trust and he came out of his cage. 
He could not walk well, and neither could Terry; they were a match 
made in heaven.  This handsome boy was the only dog Terry could walk 
and they looked like they had been together, forever.  He was her dog 
and she wanted to take him home.

The vet with whom I had traveled from home deemed his paperwork a 
medical priority, due to his age, blindness, and lameness and she 
said that he must be released to a home.  Terry was so excited to 
take her new boy home.

* HSUS denied Terry's adoption application.

I found Terry collapsed on the ground, holding onto this dog.  Her 
arms were around him and he was wet from her tears.  I dropped on the 
ground with her and we cried together, holding this precious 
boy.  Terry had to leave the next morning without him.

A rescuer in his mid-twenties, Brandon, was working in the same barn 
(but one row over) as I was. He showed me a cage holding 2 little 
girl beagle babies who came in together.   The little girls were 
sleeping with their legs all entwined; it was adorable.  Brandon said 
that he was going to request these little girls and he thought his 
chances were good.  His father was a veterinarian and they lived on 12 acres.

* HSUS denied Brandon's adoption application.

I next saw him with the 2 little angels in his lap and he was 
crying.  I sat with him and we cried together.

I met a group of volunteers from Richmond VA. One of the group, 
Randy, had been given $25,000 to donate to HSUS, by an elderly 
neighbor who had recently lost his little Bichon.  The elderly man 
had only asked Randy that if there was a small white dog available, 
that he bring this dog home to him.

I told Randy that there was a little white dog in stall #1 - possibly 
a Maltese. The little dog was happy and had a great disposition She 
needed only a good bath and grooming (and, of course, a home). She 
seemed perfect.  The little dog had hope in her eyes and wanted to go 
home with Randy.

* HSUS kept the money and the dog.

HSUS insisted that the dogs be reunited with their owners, rather 
then going to safe and loving homes. All of the dogs were 
micro-chipped as they came in, and there were representatives from 
Petfinder present, taking photos of these micro chipped dogs to put 
on their site. Everyone wanting to adopt/foster an animal was willing 
to sign a form, agreeing to foster and hold all dogs 30 days from the 
day they left, and should the owner come forward, relinquish the 
dogs.  The dogs were easily traceable throughtheir microchips, but 
HSUS would not let volunteers or rescue groups leave
with dogs.

During this time, and at this rescue site, HSUS was making a movie 
about reuniting owners with their dogs - one or two reuniting 
incidents had occurred.  A misting tent had been set up to provide a 
cool, comfortable environment for HSUS staff involved in making this movie.

The only ones using the tent were HSUS staff  (who were not doing the 
hands-on grunt work the volunteers were doing). This tent was not for 
the volunteers, many of whom were passing out from the heat, nor was 
it for the dogs, who were dying from the heat. One dog's temperature 
soared to 107.  The tent was to keep the HSUS folks cool and clean.

I (smelly and sweaty) took one of the overheated, stitched up, 
intact, male pit bulls, Scarface, into the mist tent, to demonstrate 
"the real part" of what was going on down there. HSUS staff looked 
like they would faint at the site of me. I gave them a puzzled look 
and asked, "Isn't this really what you should be filming?"

Scarface and I were asked to leave - but not before Scarface lifted 
his leg and urinated all over one of the tent's nice chairs - chairs 
off-limits to the volunteers, who might have gotten them 
dirty.  There was no place for the volunteers to sit, should we have 
5 minutes to do so. There was a cube of hay, approximately 2' x 4' 
foot in size, on which we all alternated sitting.

Anyone coming to this site to claim their animals needed to be able 
to thoroughly describe them - some mark or a word or anything that 
only they would know. HSUS let a group of people in that did not even 
know the dogs' NAMES.  These folks came down my lane and pointed to 
male and female Chihuahuas and said, "Oh there they are!" The dogs 
did not even react to these people; the dogs reacted more positively 
to the volunteers (who saw these people lurking around the dogs, a lot).

The women said the female Chihuaha's name was "Sassy maybe 
Mandy." I told her (to be frank, I told her rudely) to leave.  I 
reported them to the staff, but they had taken pictures.  I believe 
that they gave the photos to another person who later came back to 
claim the dogs. Fortunately, the dogs were not given to this person.

Almost none of the dogs were spayed or neutered.  These 2 dogs looked 
like breeding machines.

All of the male pit bulls were intact and many were covered in scars; 
some had wounds that had been stitched or stapled together.

We were told BY HSUS that they were not accepting any more donations 
of cat or dog food, as  they had too much. I noticed that a lot of 
the food was prescription food from veterinarian's offices, such as 
I/D, A/D, etc.  HSUS, however, fed the dogs (almost all of whom had 
either vomiting and/or diarrhea) the cheapest food available.

I spoke to my vet friend and she said to give all the dogs the I/D, 
as they needed high quality food.  I again got into trouble with 
HSUS. I was told that that this was special diet food. I told them 
that that was why I was using it on these dogs, suffering from 
diarrhea and vomiting.  I told them that the veterinarian with me had 
recommended this. The HSUS representative said that since the vet was 
not an HSUS vet, her (the vet's) recommendations did not matter.  I 
asked why, since they had so much extra food, they were not feeding 
the dogs the good food?  Her response was a sneer.  I continued to 
feed the dogs the better food.

I also noticed that in the supply barn there were thousands of new 
pet beds, blankets, and rope chews, however no dogs had a bed, a 
blanket, a towel, a toy or chewie in their cages.  Once again, I inquired.

I was told that the dogs pee on the beds and blankets and the dogs 
chew up the toys, and that there is no place to wash the bedding. I 
replied that the dirty bedding could be discarded, as there was such 
a large supply on hand.

Wouldn't it be nice to at least give them a night or two of 
comfort?  I received another sneer. I took some of the beds and gave 
them to the dogs in my area. If nothing else, one night of sleeping 
in comfort might have helped them feel better.

I still have no idea what HSUS planned to do with this stuff if they 
did not intend for it to go to the animals.

I also took rope toys and gave them to all of the pit bulls and the 
baby German Shepard brothers who needed to chew - something small to 
help with the solitude.

The site that this area was in was also home to the refugees.  It is 
an unsecured area and we had to be guarded by the National Guard. We 
were surrounded by gangs of men who were constantly trying to get a 
look at the pitbulls.

There were gangs of men wandering around, looking at these specific 
dogs.  Most of the pit bulls had had their ears cut, a sure sign that 
they are used in fighting.  Pit bulls were stolen the night before our arrival.

My assigned area had approximately 25 pitbulls.

HSUS told me that if I saw anyone who did not belong there to escort 
them out.  I caught 3 men using their cell phones to transmit 
pictures of some of the pitbulls. I could not get them to leave.

I found a National Guardsman and he got them out.  Due to the danger 
these men posed to the dogs, the pitbulls needed to be kept in the 
barn, with the stalls chained shut, preventing air circulation for 
the dogs. The dogs did not even have a fan.

These dogs were dangerously overheated.

The refugees stole bedding, and anything that was not tied down, from 
the volunteers. HSUS was already giving the refugees toilet paper, 
paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc., which has been 
donated/purchased for the animals.

Due to the presence of the refugees, the women rescuers were told to 
never go to the bathroom, or anywhere else, alone. Someone was 
assaulted the night before we arrived.  There were armed National 
Guards stationed both outside the port-o-potties and the showers.  I 
needed an escort, at night, to use the toilet.  When some of the 
volunteers passed out from the heat, and were taken to the tents to 
lay down a bit, they had guards stationed nearby.

Every morning between 4am and 4:30am, a group of HSUS workers got up 
and left the tent.  Although, I did not witness and cannot verify 
this, I was told that they got up to remove any dead dogs and cats 
who had died during the night. I CAN verify that, indeed, when we 
started out for the day, there were empty cages.  When I inquired 
about the empty cages, I was told that they probably moved some of 
the dogs here or there.  I walked around, but never again saw any of 
the dogs missing from my area.

The only good thing was that since I was with a vet, we were able to 
take 2 small dogs, who were in urgent need of medical care, out of 
there. The vet had labeled 4 dogs in need of urgent care, but when 
HSUS looked at the 4, they said no to 2 of them.

We were able to leave with an 18 year old Yorkie who had no teeth, 
was not neutered, had a hernia, mange, and fleas - but was so sweet. 
The other little baby was depressed and not eating.  HSUS dismissed 
our concerns about this latter dog, by saying that all of the dogs 
were depressed and not eating.

This little baby NEVER ate or drank, threw up constantly, and had 
bloody diarrhea. On the trip home, she sat in my lap, received lots of kisses
and hugs, and I sang songs to her.  We needed to stop many times, as her
vomiting and diarrhea became more severe in the car.  We gave her 
fluids, and other meds, trying desperately to keep her alive until we 
could get her back to the veterinary hospital in Virginia.

She made it through Sunday and Monday, at the veterinary hospital. My 
sweet little angel baby, whom I named Katie, and planned to adopt, 
died on Tuesday.  She could not fight the Parvo raging in her due to 
so much prior stress. Her little body could not fight it. I sat with 
this precious baby and looked into her soulful brown eyes - her light 
had gone out. I will never forget her, ever, and have yet to stop 
crying. Had she been left there, her death would have been agony.

I think that what I will remember the most, and what will always 
remain imprinted in my mind, is the sparkle in the dogs' eyes that, 
as each day came and went, died out a little more each day.

Tags: animal rights
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