Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tough Lessons from Katrina

Oh Noooooooooo! 

Best Friends let itself get shuckered by a snake oil salesman who claimed to be someone who could train and re-home Katrina pit bull victims, and most of the 28 dogs they sent his way have turned up missing or dead. 

Sad for the dogs; sad for the good people who trusted that they were safe. Sad for everyone who worked so hard to pull them out of harm's way and who kept them going. And tragic for the families who will never know if their pets survived (most likely, not).

Good for Best Friends for going after this scumbag though and for getting his ass hauled into jail. Good for the judge who is demanding restitution. This whole thing must have been turning insiders in-side-out all this time.

Katrina's lessons were beyond harsh. This raving bitch was bigger than all of us and she squashed good intentions like a Louisiana bug. But one thing she couldn't steal away was the impression the gulf coast pit bulls made on their rescuers. As a group, these dogs were exceptional. No matter how tattered and scarred, they were so true to their old world roots that they made each of us fall deeper for the breed. The fact that so many were destroyed post-storm is enough to twist our stomachs for years to come.

Next time, we must all be a little wiser, better connected, better resourced to make better decisions for the victims of these bigger disasters. There's no room for snake oil salesmen.

I posted pix of some of the storm dogs we brought back here. They represent just a tip of the iceberg of what was lost. If you own a pit bull from Katrina or have one in your circles, please share your story and let's turn this depressing blog entry around. (And yes, the pretty girl above made it. She was absorbed by Humane Society of Calumet and adopted to a young couple.)


Leila said...

The rescue community is a trusting one. That is NOT a bad thing. I'm so glad that Best Friends is bringing out the big guns to get this B%(*$%)%#$%D. My heart is broken for the already traumatized dogs that are gone. There are no words for the depth of sorrow.

But, the lessons learned will be applied in the future. And the public penalties will serve as an example to those who would be self-serving and untrustworthy.

BadRap, Best Friends, MPBR, OAA, Animal Foundation, Ringdog Rescue are just a few of the stalwart who work their hearts out. Thank you! Never give up! Never surrender!

Jessica said...

Best Friends had MORE than enpugh resources the verify this man's intentions, shame on them for not following up and making sure these dogs were receiving the care he promised them.

Donna said...

Jessica - It sounds like the lawsuit was the result of a follow up.

I'm actually more inclined to rail against the deaths of the hundreds/thousands of pit bulls that were destroyed by the very shelters that took them in (along with the donations). Talk about no paper trail, no follow up... and no public shaming to have to contend with.

HEATHER said...
This lady has a Katrina adopted pittie. I do not know where she adopted from, but they are quite happy.

Anonymous said...

I heard a local BIG name shelter here in KC killed most of the Katrina dogs they took no, back ground checks didn't make much difference with the Katrina situation and many shelters did the exact same thing this guy did. Said shelter only allow 2 kennels to be alotted for pit bulls at any time so I tend to believe the rumor.

Speaking of shuckered - what this guy did is nothing compared to what H$U$ does on a daily basis (moneywise).

Donna said...

Oh we kept count as best we could, and can list out names of shelters and near-exact numbers of Katrina pit bulls that were absorbed and destroyed (including one in Boomer's home sweet home state). BIG numbers.

I will say that the HSUS did right by the dogs in this situation by sending overflow to Dixon Correctional Institute and bringing in reputable rescue for the unclaimed dogs. You know the story.Then again, we could've been shucksters too because no one ever followed up with us!

I'm hardcore against blaming in these situations though. We need to MOVE FORWARD and recognize that we all want to save lives, but we have to admit that it's a helluva lot harder than we ever imagined. Best Friends made a terrible mistake but I'm willing to bet that they're beating themselves up harder than anyone ever could about this. I hope they decide to talk about it at some point.

Anonymous said...

Our rescue brought back 2 adult female Katrina pitbulls and 5 mixed pit puppies and have found wonderful loving homes for all of them.

Missy (Me-Moo) was found tethered in a destroyed bathroom which became her prison. Had she not been rescued by HSLA she also would be lost. Missy was a former breeder/fighter and was a high HW+ when I brought her back to Va. Sadly even with HW treatment I lost her :o( I miss the old lady and her unconditional love... Some of her story can be read on our website here

Tootsie Roll also came to us through HSLA/Camp Katrina and now belongs to my Mom who started out as her foster home and quickly became her forever home. This from a former "pit phobic" person who swore she would NEVER have a pit in her home :o) Now she sleeps with one (and 2 other dogs and 5 cats). Some of Tootie's story can be seen here

I too am saddened by the sheer number of pits lost to the storm and the storms aftermath. I worked during the early days at the Lamar Dixon Center and handled hundreds of these precious souls and I will never forget the deep impact it made on me.

May the Goddess shine her light on them all.

Sarah/Lost Fantasy Rescue, VA
and all our rescued pitties Molly, Ms. Annie, Flip, & Tootsie Roll

Anonymous said...

Donna & Everyone,
This is a particularly heartbreaking post. I have dreaded hearing stories like this about the animals rescued after the storms. I will hold off blabbing on about my own experience volunteering with animal rescue groups in the wake of Katrina, suffice to say it was gut wrenching. Kudos to BF for going after this horrible *sshole.

On a lighter note, you asked for happy Katrina pittie stories, so here is ours:
I met and fell hard for a skinny, spotted girl at the HSUS shelter in Hattiesburg MS. She had been found chest deep in water in a destroyed, deserted town on the MS coast 3+ weeks after Katrina. She had burns to her paw pads and looked pretty rough, but was other wise ok. At the HSUS shelter she stole my heart when I saw her consoling herself by sucking on her blanket (she crams a big wad deep her mouth, tenses up her whole body and sucks on it. Not aggressive at all, you can stick your hand in her mouth and take the blanket, she just looks at you with a cocked head and big brown eyes and wonders what you're doing). She was also one of the very very few fixed dogs I saw, out of many hundreds. She knew a few commands, and was obviously loved by her family (who couldn't have found her if they tried - all of her information posted on the Petfinder site was flat wrong, it even took me months to find her on that site). She also cried when I would leave her stall, and loved to sit on my lap (she apparently knew a soft heart when she saw one). From Hattiesburg, she was shipped to a shelter in Florida, and when I was ready to go home after a few weeks in Nola (and after many calls to the shelter to make sure they knew I was coming to get her), I drove to FL and picked her up. That spotted girl is now Hattie Marie, and she lives in Oregon with her big 11 year old Rottie brother Zeus and her 15 year old cat, Bill. She is terribly spoiled and loves to sing, and run, and chase squirrels, and snuggle under the covers. She is no longer skinny (65 lbs!), but does still love to suck on her blanket (sometimes she falls asleep with it in her mouth). She loves stuffed kongs (though didn’t know what the heck to do with one the first time I gave it to her), and sometimes decides the easiest way to get the treats is to just chew through the kong (yes, even the largest black ones). She had a strange hard tiny bump on her ear that I pointed out to her vet one day shortly after she came home, so the vet took a scalpel to it and discovered buck shot. Xrays later confirmed that her body is covered in buck shot. Someone shot her as she was coming toward them, as well as running away. We figure this most likely happened in the chaos right after the storms, as she was basically healed (no outward signs) by the time she was rescued. She is scared to death of fireworks and lightening, but never met a person or other dog she didn't love.
Hattie makes me laugh daily with her typical pittie joi d’vie, and I aspire to be as resilient and optimistic as she is.

Why I chose this particular dog out of the hundreds and hundreds of pit bulls I saw and handled after the storms, I truly do not know (aside from the blatant attempts on her part to work her way in to my heart). But I do know that for me, somehow Hattie represented all the thousands of animals who died, the animals who were now homeless, the animals trapped and dying in their own homes, the animals we couldn’t save. Knowing that this one dog was safe, and loved, was somehow soothing for me.
I loved this breed before Katrina, but after meeting, working with and caring for so, so many pitties, and learning more about the culture of dog fighting that permeates the South (from dog fighters themselves, now prisoners at DCI who were learning to take care of a dog for the first time), and being exposed to the horrid everyday abuse these dogs suffer, I now consider myself a pit bull evangelist. And I saw the pitties in LA & MS change the minds of many, many people who came to volunteer but who said they were terrified of pit bulls. These people went back to all parts of the country with a different, and much more positive experience of this breed than what they see in their media. I have to believe this is one of the good things to come from the horror that was Katrina.

As always, thank you for everything you do for these wonderful dogs – you guys are my heroes.

With love,
Catherine, Hattie & Zeus

Donna said...

Thank you for telling this story, Catherine.

One of the dogs that came back with us from NOLA turned out to be a blanket sucker extreme...same as you describe with your girl. Unfortunately, he soon guarded his blanket like nobody's business and we had to let him go. Poor broken boy. I'm really happy to know that your Hattie's habit is as sweet and endearing as she is. Bless you for finding her. (Photos please!)

I'm starting to wonder if the "1 in 600 pit bulls saved" guestimate holds as true for the Katrina dogs as it does for the shelter dogs.

Boris said...

Donna and Katrina dog helpers,

I'd offer another title for "Oh Noooo"

The sayings that go with the word seem to fit ... it is like being:
"stabbed in the back"
"sucker punched"
I'm sure others come to mind, when you put in effort and love worth more than $$$$$, then see greed snatch it away in such a deceitful fashion. Ductape Tim & Survivor LA2462, must feel like their crotches are burning.

This Steve Deitz quote says it better than I can:
"~ One should rather die than be betrayed. There is no deceit in death. It delivers precisely what it has promised. Betrayal, though ... betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope. ~"

Donna, I agree with your recognition of those self-righteous 'shucksters':
"... destroyed by the very shelters that took them in(along with the donations)."

Please keep the survivor stories coming, as it is needed to replenish the HOPE.

Final quote, Best Friends and all well intentioned rescue efforts find themselves in this situation because:
"~ Betrayal can only happen if you love. ~"

Boris OEL

Thoughts said...

This is so sad. I hope that guy gets what's coming to him. why did best friends not follow up sooner or check in to see how the dogs were doing? i cant believe something like this could happen. what a BAST#@# that guy is, I hope he rots alive in his jail cell and suffers, just like the dogs did.

Kirsten said...

There's no question there were some great rescue stories and sweet dogs to come out of Katrina, but this story makes me want to pound my head against a wall. I agree, there's no point in playing the blame game, but it prompts a lot of questions. Like why was it so easy for this guy to just 'disappear' all of these dogs? Why weren't they in the system somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words. I am lucky to have these dogs in my life, they are full of lessons every day.
Boris said it well, "betrayed" is a big part of what I feel, but sick and heartbroken are a large part as well. I know I'm not alone, and I know we'll all be broken about these lost souls for a long time.
I've sent pictures of my southern belle under another address.

thank you all for your daily hard work with these wonderful dogs -


Anonymous said...

That whole thing was just crazy. So many dogs. So many people. So many organizations involved. I don't think people who have never been in a situation like Katrina can possibly understand how hard that whole situation was. 10,000 dogs, mostly bullies, all at once? That's a lot. I'm thrilled for the ones that made it. Without the hundreds of volunteers and all of the organizations, they all would have died an awful death.

I know the organizations will be better prepared if, god forbid, there is another such catastrophy.

Meanwhile, our group brought back two - Dixon is living the good life now after he was adopted by someone within our rescue group -- they moved out to Phoenix and he is doing well. Nola had a horrible case of heart worm, a prolapsed uterus and a rescue organizer than insisted on spaying her anyway and she did not survive the surgery.

Donna said...

> Like why was it so easy for this guy to just 'disappear' all of these dogs? Why weren't they in the system somewhere?

It's unclear how much time lapsed between delivery of the dogs and the discovery that the 'trainer' was dumping them at the shelter. But it's easy to disappear pit bulls in this current climate. Nobody blinks an eye if a shelter destroys this breed - especially in Ohio where this took place.

Donna said...

> I don't think people who have never been in a situation like Katrina can possibly understand how hard that whole situation was. 10,000 dogs, mostly bullies, all at once?

It was insane. INSANE. And it made me realize how few resources our breed has for future disasters.

Dixon made out big time. And we'll always be sad about the possibly avoidable fate of little Nola.

pitbull friend said...

I know it's a little late to answer this, but it couldn't hurt. I was a rescuer who knew nothing about pits when I went to the Best Friends camp in Tylertown w/ my friend. We both fell deeply in love with them & have been trying to help ever since. We do so mostly through no-kill Animal Ark of Hastings, Minnesota, which took 250 animals from Katrina.

But we also couldn't drive all the way from MS to MN w/ an empty backseat, so we brought up a GSD mix and a pit, too. The GSD mix was treated for heartworm & adopted. The pit was my first foster failure. His name is Johnny Cash and he is now my Assistant Pack Leader, who helps me run things, especially by supervising foster dogs. So, a tiny good thing that came out of that mess was how many of us fell in love with these gallant, funny, smart dogs and now try really hard to help them.