Monday, September 01, 2008

Who gets left behind? Storm dogs at risk.

We're watching the hurricane rescue efforts with nervous interest. Should we go? Stay home? In preparation for what could* be a very damaging storm, hundreds of helpers are pouring into the gulf coast to help animal victims at four rescue stations. Well done, animal orgs. But an announcement that went out on the SAWA member message board (where BR is a member) gave us whiplash: The SPCA of Texas, which has positioned itself to "serve as a hub," offered transport and logistical assistance to any adoptable shelter dog on the gulf coast. Pit bulls, however, are being excluded from these efforts.

While non-pits are being welcomed into waiting shelters farther north, the pit bulls have been shuffled to other locations to wait out the storms along with the unadoptables, the strays and the very sick dogs. Sorry pit bulls. Once again, you get the back of the bus.
"Our goal is to serve as a hub since the path of the hurricane could affect both states. In order to continue to help animals from the coast of Louisiana and Texas, I am asking for assistance from SAWA members in moving these animals further north. All of the animals are considered adoptable. There are 90 dogs total. Most are medium size and approximately 15 are large dogs. None of the dogs are Pitbulls." - VP of Operations, SPCA of Texas

The storms are bringing back bad memories for everyone, but this post gave us our worst memory yet. Back in 2005-06, thousands - yes, thousands - of unclaimed Katrina pit bulls were eventually destroyed in shelters that, for a variety of reasons, chose not to adopt them out. When you don't see their faces, it's easier to take. Anonymity is always easier on the heart. But so we don't forget, here are some of the dogs who might not have made it, had it not been for our supporters who made sure we could get to them.

Pearl graced our Katrina survivor calendar because she represented so many of the dogs of NOLA: Overbred, scarred, heartworm positive, bad crop. She lived out the rest of her natural life as a cherished pet in San Diego. Going to the beach was one of her favorite activities.

After the storms, Bailey detoured through the HSUS-sponsored Dixon Correctional Institute shelter before coming to CA. She later found a vocation as a classroom mascot for kids with autism.

Monte survived the storms and went on to earn his CGC award, Therapy Dog title, ATTS title, and is now serving as a reading assistant to children in public libraries.

Storm Rider Ru was not able to reunite with his displaced owner (who loved him dearly), but went on to become a therapy dog thanks to his motivated foster mom. He's now serving as a helper to autistic children in his new home in Northern CA.

Handsome Jake was able to be reunited with his family in New Orleans, thanks to an identifying tattoo on his ear. Shortly after returning home, he went on to earn ribbons in ADBA show events with his child handler, Bill.

This gentleman sweetheart came home with our crew and went on to live with former staffer Justin Phillips of SPCA Monterey County. During the time his owner worked at the shelter, he served as a popular demo/education dog for the shelter's outreach programs.

Found running loose in a deserted NOLA ghetto after Katrina, Hemi did a detour through HSUS DCI shelter, met BR reps in 2006, and went on to become a celebrated LawDog for the Washington State Patrol before finally passing on of natural causes in 2011.

Leroy detoured through DCI too, and went on to join BR's Pit Bull Hall program. He's since earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate, several K9 Nose Work titles and serves as a demo dog for a dog training camp for kids.

Martin was found alongside a dead dog in the attic of a 9th ward house. He was nearly starved himself, and rattled to the core. He now lives the good life with another dog and is earning accolades in Canine Obedience work.

Sydney came from a neighborhood under water, and went on to earn her CGC and Therapy Dog certification in her new home in CA. Her adopter later became a BR volunteer and foster home for other forgotten dogs, including a drug bust survivor from the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit, MI.

Darla was in very bad shape when she came back to CA. Healthy now, she serves as a playmate for one of the M. Vick dogs that shares her home.

Delilah was one of the few dogs that was already spayed when we found her at the rescue station. She found a great home and is well loved.

Taz became an ambassador at BR's Pit Bull Hall project and then to a home with another dog. He used to sit on tables whenever it started to rain, but has since learned to enjoy water again and is an enthusiastic swimmer.

Where should you send donations? Based on their commitment to all animals, we have to recommend Best Friends for your storm donations. They're currently on the ground, moving rescue efforts forward. More importantly, we know they won't discriminate by breed.


Unknown said...

I hope everyone notices the irony of the SPCA's tagline on their homepage: "The SPCA of Texas is dedicated to providing every animal exceptional care and a loving home" except if you're unadoptable, stray or a pit bull...or a feral cat.


Anonymous said...

What a disgrace.
Texas SPCA should be ashamed.
What an incredible bunch of good looking dogs.
Donation going to Best Friends with instructions to use for Pit Bulls only.
Pit Bulls are being treated like the residents were after Katrina.
People still struggling from last time and now facing this.
Charity begins at home.
It`s not only the Texas SPCA that should be ashamed.

Boris said...

Mr. Gustav,
Thanks for taking it lightly on Louisiana and Texas, as it saved a lot of pups who got taken lightly (cats got to go to Colorado).

O.K. Today, I'm not proud to be Texan whether adopted Houstonian or my native Dallas area Pibble buds. It just doesn't seem Texan to show a 'no room in the inn' mentality. Heck, TxSPCA even rescue rabbits and roosters!

Like the 'underground railroad' maybe before the next storm we need to organize an united front of rescue groups, private shelters, kennels and homes that would provide temporary housing for these Pit Bull refugees. Sheena and I would love to take one in, in a pinch (Bull-&-Terrier only, no foo-foo or yappy-snappers allowed).

Like the pictures and stories from past rescues, we can't forget this bigoted treatment (
The generous pet loving Texans need to do their research to see their dollars and attention go to places where it will be used to do some good for these family and the brave abandoned dogs. So, thanks Godma for the memory, please find prominent places on the WEB so we don't loose this lesson.

Making my emergency refuge home list,

Anonymous said...

"Once again, you get the back of the bus." Wow...............

Brings to mind - Rosa Parks! We need to stand our ground and come to the front of the bus.

In this day and age why discriminate against anyone. I don't get it.

Let's make good memories. I love a rescued Katrina pit bull!

Barb said...

The anti-pit attitude of SPCA Texas is especially disturbing since the word is that Texas (which currently does NOT allow BSL) is going to consider changing that law when our State legislature convenes next year.
We're starting a grassroots campaign against it, but it's discouraging to see an entity like SPCA - which SHOULD be on the dog's side - turn traitor.

Thoughts said...

I agree that Texas SPCA should be absolutely ashamed. I just cannot comprehend why or how people give pit bulls such a hard time but not the supposed "bully breed" of earlier generations like Dobermans and German Shepherds. It's just a bunch of bull**it, pardon me, but it angers me so.

Thank you for sharing all the wonderful stories of the Katrina pit bulls with us! What big old sweethearts they all are!


Anonymous said...

When I questioned the Texas SPCA about their policy, I received this response:

The SPCA of Texas (SPCA) is one of several animal welfare agencies that responded to requests for the relocation of dogs and cats from flood prone shelters in the New Orleans area. Based on the SPCA of Texas’ adoption housing resources available last week, the SPCA accepted 188 dogs and cats from the Louisiana SPCA (LASPCA) located in New Orleans. These dogs and cats included some animals from other shelters that had agreed to house the LASPCA’s stray dogs and cats along with pit bulls that were being held for pending cruelty cases – keeping them in the State of Louisiana. The SPCA of Texas did not have the available resources to house these “cruelty hold” pit bulls. This group of 188 dogs and cats did include several pit bull mixes from the LASPCA. The SPCA did ask for assistance from other adoption organizations to accept a portion of these dogs and cats but we elected to keep these pit mixes for our adoption program. The SPCA as policy does accept and adopt out pit bulls. The temporary kennel housing used for these relocation animals limits our ability to accept large numbers of pit bulls. I welcome other organizations interested in accepting pit bulls and mixes especially during these type of rescue efforts.


James Bias, CAWA


SPCA of Texas

2400 Lone Star Dr.

Dallas, Texas 75212


214-651-9244 fax

Donna said...

Thanks anon. This info actually conflicts with the two responses we recv'd about nola's pit bulls. From a spokesman at the LA-SPCA ....

>We've actually evacuated all of our pit bulls (along with our stray and owned animals) to a temporary shelter in Baton Rouge. Our hope is to bring all of our Pits back to our shelter in New Orleans once the coast is clear.

We did send all of our non-bully adoptables to Dallas. Thankfully all of our shelter animals are out of harm's way.<

This confusion mimics Katrina in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

More from the Texas SPCA...

"The statement that you are referring to is an edited, partial posting to a member’s only group that was being asked to assist with accepting some of the animals rescued from New Orleans. Our VP of Operations was providing detail about what the request involved for the members of the list. The first question asked by most shelters considering the transfer of adoptable dogs involves Pit Bulls. Many shelters willing to accept transfers are limited or by ordinance are prohibited with their admission of the “bully” breeds. Texas law fortunately prohibits breed specific legislation but this is not the case in many other states. I am disappointed that the partial posting of a member’s only site was placed outside the group leaving the impression that the SPCA of Texas does not care for or about Pit Bulls. On the contrary. The SPCA of Texas has been an active advocate for Pit Bulls including the investigation of dog fighting, responsible Pit Bull owner education partnered with the Lone Star Pit Bull Club and ordinance education concerning the problems with breed specific legislation. We are also quick to respond to the media when the “breed” is being vilified for attacks. We redirect them to the owner and not the breed type. We continue to accept owner surrendered Pit Bulls for adoption while many shelters refuse to accept any Pit Bulls or just euthanize them because of their appearance."
James Bias

Boris said...

"""The SPCA as policy does accept and adopt out pit bulls.""""

Following Ken Foster's stories from the road adds to these SPCA discouraging words:

Does Tx talk for the national SPCA? If so, we are putting our money where our heart is:
SPCA and Tx SPCA just joined ranks with Houston SPCA, and won't see any more donations from us!

Hitting them where it hurts, consider mentioning this bigotry to the big 'matching-gift' companies, as reason to drop SPCA from their endorsement list.

Boris' OEL

Donna said...

Yes, indeed. It's a horrible reality that select cities & shelters in this country discriminate against pit bulls. But during natural disasters, large scale transfer efforts should serve ALL breeds -- not just the breeds that will be embraced in select BSL cities. While it can take longer to re-home larger dogs, shuffling all of them to the back of the bus (or, off the bus) in favor of highly adoptable smaller dogs is not a solution, but a decision and a choice that supports breed bias.

New Orleans is a city of pit bulls, among other wonderful breeds. There's no doubt that highly adoptable pit bulls were rejected during the rescue selection. I was disappointed to see these dogs overlooked (Why not help a token handful of pit bulls? -- Mixed breed dogs don't count) and I'm very discouraged to see that BSL is now being used as a reason to create a discriminatory rescue policy during a time when the more open-minded agencies need to step up for all dogs - not just the dogs that will get a quick home.

No matter what Texas SPCA's policy is on pit bulls at home, the discriminatory language in their Gustav rescue announcement was highly unfortunate. Targeted breeds need their advocates to be better than this. We can't make it "okay" to reject these dogs.

Anonymous said...

The Texas SPCA may say they help pit bulls, but the people I know who have taken stray pits down there to be temperament tested (their intake procedure is really complicated because of their new commitment to 'no kill' which means they only take dogs that are highly adoptable) is that none of them have passed temperament testing and you can leave them there for euthanasia or take them iwth you.

I'm sure this is just the limited sample size I have seen, of course. *eyeroll* Just like all the 10K stray pit bulls running loose in south dallas according to Elba Garcia are going to get themselves neutered because of the new spay/neuter law.

Anonymous said...

I received the exact same email from Texas SPCA...word for word.
I won`t bother posting it.

Donna said...

> their intake procedure is really complicated

Oh I completely understand having a tough selection process for intake - we do the same, really. My concern is that this website announcement ......

"The SPCA of Texas has been working tirelessly with humane agencies across the nation to ensure the safety of the animals affected by Hurricane Gustav."

...... Is highly misleading. Working tirelessly to move adoptable non-pits to other shelters is a wonderful thing. But leaving adoptable nola pit bulls behind is heartbreaking, and it's EXACTLY the same attitude that allowed so many to die post-Katrina. As long as these dogs are considered "too much trouble," they risk being left behind in legislative battles too.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's not the complicated evaluation I object to. It's that it differs for different dogs (they take some downright nasty little dogs) of more 'adoptable' breeds. Securring an appointment to have a dog evaluated for intake is approximately as complicated as the US tax code- you have to call at JUST the right time of day and they make a certain number of appointments (for that day ONLY) IF they have space, and only during a certain specified TIME of day. It's all VERY user-unfriendly.

I loved my time there as a volunteer but the dedication to chasing off volunteers who were also involved in purebred dogs really was offputting. I wish I was doing more to help, but I spent more of my time working there being angry- and for a change, not at the irresponsbible pet owners dropping off their dogs.

Kingsgurl said...

I am very discouraged to hear this. Martin is even sadder, he hoped advances would be made to help ALL dogs in need, not just cute, fluffy, ADOPTABLE (who decides that anyway??) ones. Guess he would have been stuck in that attic once again.

Karl Katzke said...

Speaking for Texans, from a Texas resident who is very involved with rescue -

We have a huge problem in Texas with dog fighting, and specifically with organized pitbull fighting. Whether they're dogs adopted from shelters for bait dogs, or they're dogs adopted from shelters and rescues and abused until they become fighting dogs, it's so beyond prevalent that any dog related or dog adopting agency in Texas has had to create special policies, procedures, and limitations when dealing with pitbulls. Some groups, unfortunately, have decided that it's not worth the trouble when they can simply euthanize all dogs in a certain category.

When I worked with my county's shelter as a volunteer, it broke my heart to see the pits brought in and to see how many were put down ... and how many, due to behavioral or health conditions ... actually NEEDED to be put down. But the word is out -- you cannot get a pit out of the shelter once it's in. The people who ARE responsible and own pits in the area do everything they can, from tagging to tattooing and chipping their dogs so that they don't get shunted in with those cases.

Now that I'm volunteering mostly with a private charity rescue foundation that DOES accept pits, they have had to set a limit on how many they can have in the program because of the number of qualified foster homes available. (I'm working towards becoming one of these homes, but I have a ways to go.) But since people know that the organization has Pits for adoption, you'd be surprised what we hear when talking to potential adoptive families... most often, so to speak, from the mouth of babes. One little girl mentioned as an aside that they had a pitbull before. I asked her what its name was, and she said "asesino" -- roughly translated, "Killer". I asked her what happened to killer and she said, "He lost." Her dad looked down in shock, grabbed her by her arm, and dragged her out of the pet store. Funny what you can find out with just a simple question...

The point I'm trying to make is just that you shouldn't judge via remote control. The Texas SPCA and many other counties' refusal to adopt out pitbulls has led to humane deaths for many animals as opposed to endless breeding and daily torture in inhumane conditions that only ends in a final bloody match. If you'd like to help, come here and do something about it instead of trash talking organizations working in a seriously constrained place via the internet.

Donna said...

Karl - So, you hold the opinion that only irresponsibly owned pit bulls end up in shelters. Right? And since these dogs have had the misfortune of coming from homes that can't or won't reclaim them, then it's okay to destroy them because responsible adopters just don't exist. Does that about sum it up? If so, then you would be in alliance with Peta, who doesn't believe that pit bulls should be adopted out from shelters - ever. Nice people, those Peta folks.

This blog wasn't meant to criticize Texas SPCA's adoption policy, but to question their *disaster policy* that discriminates storm victims based on breed.

If the SF bay area suffers a huge disaster, I have to hope that any shelter that positions itself to act as a "hub" for our rescue efforts stays committed to ALL adoptable dogs, not just select dogs based on size or breed. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why.

Ken Foster said...

I'll be blogging about this soon, since I had a lengthy exchange with the people involved, and the story shifts slightly with each person they talk to. But, in a nutshell, Bias told me that they did take pit bulls from New Orleans, but that they didn't want to burden other organizations with them. He also said that the pit bull on their Gustov fundraising email was a New Orleans pit bull that they would adopt out. The SPCA says no pit bulls were sent there.