Posts Tagged ‘animals in disasters’

A Noble and Winning Cause

Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and a good personal friend and partner of the League, came by on Monday night to talk about his views on animal welfare, the state of our movement, and some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Most, if not all of the observations and convictions Wayne shared are in his new book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, and he read selections from it on the Katrina rescue and his dealings with Michael Vick, who now joins HSUS in speaking out against dog fighting.

According to Wayne—and it’s an opinion that I share and have long held—people have a natural bond with animals. Our lives are, in fact, intertwined with the lives of animals around us, our pets first of all, but also wild animals and others that we may encounter. This bond is especially obvious in children; it may be suppressed or ignored by adults, but it never quite disappears. We would never want it to.

In that bond Wayne finds hope. It provides the foundation for the animal welfare movement, which he sees as a natural development in our country’s ongoing evolution.  The United States, founded on lofty and noble ideals, has spent the past 200 plus years trying to bring its actions up to the standards that those ideals express. With animals, we still have a long way to go.

As his book describes, our relations with animals are a moral paradox. We spend billions on our pets, of which there are more in the US than there are people, while our meat industry legally inflicts horrid cruelty upon billions of animals with the evident consent of the government and the American public. But so strong is the bond with animals that the future still looks bright to Wayne.

“The trajectory of progress is unmistakable and undeniable: by ever-larger majorities, the conscience of America is asserting itself. Animal protection has always been a noble cause.  Now it’s a winning cause too.”

In fact, in his remarks, Wayne upheld the League as evidence of this progress, noting that “WARL is truly one of the outstanding examples of a modern animal shelter that breaks the stereotype of a depressing place with forgotten animals waiting to die and replaces it with a welcoming, uplifting place where animals are loved and well cared for. Its renovation started a wave of re-building among animal shelters in the country based on their model and the idea that the shelters can be places of healing and rest.”

That is what we are trying to create and constantly improve on. A place of healing for animals and their people, and living proof of the strength of that human-animal bond he so eloquently describes.

You can order a copy of Wayne’s book, which I highly recommend, through

Rescue Without Borders

League rescue truck in Alabama

What a year it’s been already. With the many disasters we’ve all become witnesses to, we’re all hyper-aware of the tragedy and suffering our fellow citizens, and their animals, have endured. We’ve had our rescue truck for only a little over 3 months, and already we’ve used it to stage multiple rescue areas and load up transports of animals from more than 1000 miles away. It’s been a busy spring.

And at the end of this week, we’re sending another disaster team to Joplin, Missouri, to help with what’s left of that city’s animal control facility. No rest for the weary.

But we don’t want to rest. Because the rescues are only part of the story. The rest is the successful rehabilitation of disaster survivors and their eventual introduction into new homes. That’s the holy grail of rescue.

And as soon as we can keep our truck local for a few weeks, we’ll be heading out to our own metro neighborhoods with adoption events and attendance at summer festivals and street fairs. Because rescue and rehab are only 2/3 of the story. Getting these puppies and kittens into new homes is the final piece of the puzzle.


So let me introduce you to a few of the animals we’ve brought back from the Midwest, Alabama and Mississippi. They’ve, at so young an age, learned more than we would ever have wanted to teach them about the worst that nature, and sometimes humans, have to offer. Now we want them to know what humans are really capable of—inexhaustible love. And based on the outpouring of that we’ve received  over the past few weeks, I know there’s a lot of love out there. Now we want our animals to know it.

Coccuzi is about the sweetest Weimaraner mix you could ever meet.  She actually got out of her cage on the truck and came up to check on my driving somewhere near Knoxville. Then she curled up next to us and went to sleep. Whoever gets this dog is one lucky person, because she’s one in a million. Or how about Polliwog, a gorgeous black lab we rescued from a horrible hoarding situation in Ohio? Or how about Gardenia, a local pup who had a broken leg when she came to us, then had to survive parvo once she got here? Or one of the five kittens who survived the Alabama tornados by hiding in a storm drain?

Truth is, all of these animals need homes badly. Whether they’re from Alabama or Missouri or right here on Bladensburg Road, the more animals we get into homes, the more room we have to help our local partner shelters here in Washington, Prince George’s County, and Baltimore. Because taking the load off of them is our prime directive. And, as long as we have room (often even when we don’t) and our rescue truck has gas, we’ll be ready for the next disaster, whether it’s natural or our own collective man-made fault.  Please help.  Please adopt.  There’s never been a better time.

Missouri Floods: Day Two

Here’s yesterday’s report from the League’s team in Missouri, where they are caring for animals displaced by the floods.  Again, it is by Jamie Scotto, adoption director at the League.


Stacey treats puppies for fleas

We got an early start this morning, arriving at the soon-to-be relocated temporary shelter at 7:00 a.m.  The morning was spent with basic animal care duties: feeding, cleaning, and moving supplies around.  There was plenty of work to be done. We’re caring for 135 dogs, 30 cats, 1 sheep, and a few chickens and geese.  About 95 percent of the animals have owners, some of whom came by to visit their pets. That made for happy moments for all of us: pets, owners, and shelter care-takers.

But during the day, two more dogs—a black Labrador and a mixed terrier—were surrendered by people who had nowhere to keep them.

Many of the dogs we’re caring for are “farm dogs,” as our colleagues from the Humane Society of Missouri call them, meaning that they live outside.  They’re not used to being confined. We learned that at least some of them are also not familiar with leashes and are not at all pleased to have one put around their necks!  So their stay at our emergency shelter is not easy for them.

A couple of the dogs were really shut down and depressed. We ran out to buy some dog treats and toys to try to make the time go by more pleasantly for them.  One dog, Oreo, a black and white beagle mix, was having a particularly hard time; he seemed terrified and wouldn’t leave his crate, which no one had managed to clean all day. But I discovered, pretty much by simple luck, that Oreo has a weakness for peanut butter.  He and I are now great friends, and things are going better for him.

The first shelter

Most of the cats are from the same home, and many of them are developing upper respiratory infections. Evidently, they’d never been vaccinated until they arrived at our shelter, and the stress of the move and the sudden changes to their lives has led to lots of sneezing and wheezing.  A veterinarian is expected this evening to see what she can do for them.

But the big task this evening is to re-locate all the animals to a larger facility a couple of miles down the road. The majority of the Humane Society of Missouri crew spent the day setting it up, and now we are waiting for 4H volunteers with animal transport trailers to come move our group of refugees to their new quarters.

From the Gala to the Floods

We had a marvelous Rescue Me Gala last Saturday night and raised quite a bit of money for our Disaster Rescue Fund, which helps animals displaced by floods, hurricanes and other natural calamities, as well as victims of large-scale cruelty cases. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to support this extremely important work. It didn’t take long before we were called to put those funds to good use.

At 6:00 a.m. Monday morning, five League employees gathered at the shelter and flew out to Sikeston, Missouri, which is still being deluged with rain. The ASPCA asked for their help in setting up an emergency shelter for animal victims of the floods.  Late last night, I got the following report from one of them, adoptions director Jamie Scotto.

The Humane Society of Missouri is running the disaster response and doing a great job.  They initially thought that the situation wouldn’t be so bad.  They set up an emergency animal shelter in a garage, but that quickly filled up with animals so a second temporary shelter was added in the outdoor stalls on the rodeo grounds. When it started raining again, they moved inside a small building, also at the rodeo grounds.  But a steady stream of homeless animals— dogs, cats, rabbits, geese, chickens and sheep—kept arriving today. Some were turned in by people who were themselves homeless; others were found roaming the streets on their own. And again, the shelter quickly filled up.

We were helping there as best we could, when we heard some ominous news: to save the town of Cairo from the rising waters in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed opening a levee about 30 minutes from here. According to incident commander Brian Williams, the river in that area was at 61′ and was expected to go to 63′—the previous record was 59′. The opening of the levee would flood as many as 130,000 acres here in southeastern Missouri, and it would displace many more animals.

In anticipation, the Humane Society of Missouri is working on acquiring a new location for a bigger shelter about two miles away from the current one. If they are able to get permission to use this building, our crew will be setting up that shelter tomorrow. They hope that 4H volunteers will be available to transport the animals currently under our care.

Since Jamie filed this report, I understand that the Army Corps of Engineers did breach the levee and that the Humane Society of Missouri got permission to use the new building.  I’ll post more information here tomorrow.