Friday, May 29, 2009

EARS in the news

Read a news article about the puppy mill rescue that features comments from EARS volunteer Heather Ferguson of Surrey, British Columbia.

EARS volunteers like Heather take time off of work and often drive great distances to take care of animals in need. Thank you Heather, and all of the EARS volunteers in Kennewick!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Great news!

Great news! The owner of Sun Valley Kennel has relinquished custody of all 371 Miniature American Eskimos seized from her property on May 27.

Read more.

400 puppy mill dogs rescued!

United Animal Nations (UAN) is assisting the Benton County, Washington Sheriff's Office with the seizure and care of hundreds of dogs from a puppy mill in Kennewick.

Volunteers with UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) worked with The Humane Society of the United States and Spokane Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team (HEART), to assess, examine and catalogue the animals. The dogs will be cared for at a temporary shelter.

The dogs — all Miniature American Eskimos — lived in deplorable conditions: Dogs were confined to shopping carts, while others spun circles in rusty pens caked with feces. The smell of hot urine emanated from the property lined with pens and more makeshift cages, created with plywood and rusty metal doors. Some of the dogs suffered from malnutrition, urine burns and overgrown nails.

Here's a report from UAN's Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies:

These dogs are absolutely filthy….these are supposed to be white dogs, but all of them are varying shades of yellow to brown. Many have had long-term diarrhea which is causing the matting to be even worse. They are all underweight, dehydrated and have fleas, overgrown nails, severe dental disease, eye problems, worms ….and the list goes on and on. Many are also pregnant or have puppies with them. All of the dogs are frantically scared. They try to squish themselves into a ball at the back of the kennel or some just spin instead, circling and circling their enclosure. It’s heartbreaking to see, but just reinforces the fact that we need to be here. These dogs desperately needed help.

As one of the veterinarians said, “Even ten people working 24 hours a day would not be able to care for this many animals.” All 371 of these dogs were being cared for by one woman.

The field team has also discovered chickens and cats on the site and it’s unknown if they will be coming here as well.

The situation changes almost hourly and all the while the trucks are continuously pulling into the parking lot with more and more identical dogs. The volunteers are working hard to make sure the crates are set up and the shelter is ready to accommodate all of them. They line up patiently at each truck to gently take the terrified dogs into their arms and put them in their clean kennels. The first thing almost every dog has done is drink the entire bowl of water that is waiting for them.

Time to get back to work to get ready for the rest of the animals. It looks like it’s going to be another long day, but a good one. Thank goodness these animals are in our care.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Way to go, EARS team!

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

As I’m getting ready to demobilize this morning, I’m trying to come to terms with all of the animals I got to know, the wonderful shelter staff and residents of Santa Barbara, and all the memories from the last few days.

On the first night, when the front lobby was jam-packed with people and animals, a paramedic walked in. He went to the front desk and asked if he could cut in front of the line as his patient in the ambulance would not agree to go to the hospital unless she was sure her cat was well taken care of. She had been in a mandatory evacuation zone but refused to evacuate and leave her cat. Her caretaker finally decided to call 911 when she started having difficulty breathing because of the heavy smoke. Luckily, communications during this disaster were extraordinary and when the ambulance arrived, they were able to advise the patient of the Santa Barbara Humane Society’s ability to care for the evacuated animals. She agreed to go to the hospital only with the condition that they would stop by the shelter on the way and drop off her cat. Those in lines eagerly agreed to let the paramedics go first so they could continue their transport to the hospital.

So much has happened since that first night. The activity, the emotions, the exhaustion and the compassion have taken their toll on all of us. We’re walking a little slower, and making more groaning sounds as we sit down and get up. Finally watching the goofy basset hounds happily trot away with their tails wagging in perfect synchronicity was a fitting end to our deployment.

But it’s not over yet! I just received word from the shelter director that the EOC called requesting all personnel to stand by. Winds of up to 70 mph are expected to start tonight and many of the voluntary evacuations areas are expected to upgrade to mandatory evacuation areas later this afternoon. The fire is at 80 percent containment however with the predicted high winds headed right into the valleys that have multiple animal sanctuaries, there is a good chance we will still be urgently needed. After hearing the news I debated crying or banging my head against the wall. After considering my options I came to the conclusion that no matter what I did, the situation would not change, so I did the only thing I could...laugh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hitting close to home

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

We are wrapping things up today, but I wanted to share one story that has touched all of us EARS volunteers and Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) staff members.

A local EARS volunteer named Nancy (pictured) lost everything in this fire. She came by the temporary shelter on Saturday to drop off her dogs. I made sure she knew we were available for anything: supplies, manpower, moral support. I suggested that many of the EARS volunteers would be happy to come out to her property to help her clean up once their animal sheltering duties are done. The EARS volunteers were very supportive of this, but Nancy was still coming to terms with things.

Nancy runs a wildlife rescue out of her home and has multiple personal pets. Yesterday she came by to ask if she could buy a couple of crates. I told her to bring her truck around. All of the volunteers stopped what they were doing, hugged her and began loading crates, bowls, food, shavings and whatever else she might need into her truck. She cried, we cried. SBHS staff found out about it and they cried, too.

There are many other stories from our time here that have brought us to tears, and even laughter. I will post a few more soon...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bittersweet goodbyes

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Yesterday we were able to see many of our new friends go home. This is always the bittersweet part of any deployment. We have gotten attached to the animals in our care and are thrilled to see them happily going home with their people, but it is hard to say "goodbye."

We were able to meet the twins' dad, who came to pick them up to surprise his wife. She had been missing her babies terribly. When he came to get them we were all so excited and taking photos. He confusedly asked, “Are they famous?” To us they are.

The Rowdys' dad came to get them yesterday, too. Unbeknownst to us, they were extraordinarily well trained, however all commands had to be spoken in German. If we had only known...

The animals who were picked up by their relieved owners had to stick around for an extra minute or two for us to locate whichever volunteer had fallen for them. The volunteers walked the owners out and helped load their pets in the car, all while giving updates on their pets' care.

“He ate his breakfast, but only nibbled at dinner." "We went for about four walks today and played ball.” And the oh-so common, “He hasn’t pooped yet today, so he’s ready.” The owners were extremely impressed with the care their animals were given while in the emergency shelter. I’m sure they were only expecting them to be housed safely and that was about it. When they heard in detail about the wonderful treatment their animals received they were in awe. Many kept asking, “How did you find the time?” EARS volunteers always seem to find the time to take animal care to the next level, and watch over their charges as if they were their own.

On Monday we will probably see the remaining animals safely return to their homes. We are all so proud of our hard work and happy that we could help the animals, as well as their owners, during their time of need.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Things are looking up

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Yesterday was a good day. We saw a few of the animals starting to go home with their very relieved and grateful owners. There were a few more animals coming in, but for the most part it was a relatively quiet day. With this luxury, the EARS volunteers were able to do what they love to do and what they do so well: spoil the animals.

It is such a rare occurrence during a disaster response to be able to have more than a few minutes of "down time" to share with the animals in our care. We quickly have gotten to know, and grown attached to, many of these guys. From Marshmallow, the cat who snores so loudly he almost drowns out the dogs, to “The Twins" Linus and Rigby, the min-pin look-alikes, to the Rowdies, Rocket and Gunner, humongous German Shepherd mixes that thoroughly enjoy taking us for walks, we were able to get to know and enjoy these animals.

The two basset hounds who have been baying since they arrived finally quieted down when the volunteers realized they were right next to each other but couldn’t see each other. They removed the box that was between their cages and both dogs happily wagged their tails and smiled, such a small detail that made such a big difference in their behavior. “The Twins” had been singing (as we politely called it) since they came in. We finally gave in and put them in a crate together. They curled up next to each other and peacefully napped. We also discovered they expect to be taken out and cuddled OFTEN. They enjoy it so much and are so cuddly and attentive; they have trained us to take them out and sit on our laps almost hourly.

Sam, the smoky weimaraner, got to go home today after thoroughly wearing volunteer Kylie out after his fifth play time of the day, engaging her in ball throwing, tug of war, chase and many other fun games.

Trouble the terrier mix finally came around after volunteer Theresa held him on her lap for about half an hour to soothe his shaking. He started looking around and eventually turned into a happy, waggy, goofy dog. When he was returned to his kennel after his intense lap therapy he immediately ate his breakfast that had been sitting there all day.

The Labs played ball and the shepherds ran, the cats played with new mouse toys and the poodles cuddled. Once again UAN's EARS volunteers amazed me with their dedication, their energy and their compassion. They went so far above and beyond “care for the animals” it was incredible. The animals who came in so stressed and unhappy on Friday were able to have the ultimate play date yesterday and actually seemed to enjoy their visit to the emergency shelter. We expect a lot of activity tomorrow, but in a good way. Most evacuees were cleared to return home late Saturday, so after their short stay with us, these animals will most likely be going home.

It was an absolute honor to work with this amazingly hardworking team of volunteers. I know the animals benefited from their presence, the owners are immensely grateful, and I feel privilege to have been a part of the experience.

P.S. You can read more about the temporary animal shelter in Saturday's issue of the Santa Barbara Independent.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

EARS is the news

News 10 in Sacramento ran a story about the work EARS volunteers are doing in Santa Barbara.

Smiles of relief

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Yesterday, we got up with the sun (what we could see of it through the smoke) to set up the emergency shelter in a barn on Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) property. With the help of the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’ we set up enough crates of all sizes to house the many, many animals already lined up with their owners in front of the shelter.

Many of them were in tears bringing their animals in, but once they saw how organized and efficient the entire shelter operation was running, they visibly relaxed and felt better. The staff at SBHS has been absolutely amazing in their dedication to care for their community’s animals. They have been working continuously since the fire broke out, grabbing snatches of sleep in back offices whenever they could. Now that they have the UAN reinforcements they so urgently needed, many are able to go home to check on their own houses, see their families and get some rest.

We had to expand the emergency shelter a few times during the day to accommodate all of the animals coming in. The EARS volunteer team is incredibly capable and hard working. It is so amazing to watch this group of people, who have never met before, let alone worked together, come together and create our “shelter in a box,” as SBHS staff is calling it.

The animals are comfortable and relaxed, many eating, napping and asking for attention. It’s great to see a pet’s reaction when his or her owner comes to visit. Sleepy, lazy cats turn into frisky kittens and big, old Labs rattle their cages with excitement at seeing their moms and dads.

One Arnold Schwarzenegger look alike arrived with a very lost and panicked look on his face. He told me he was looking for his cat, who he thinks his neighbor may have brought in but was unable to find out for sure. I asked what his cat’s name was and when he told me “Sneaker,” I knew right where he was. The cat had already gotten up out of his napping spot and was walking to the front of the cage, after hearing his owner’s voice. This was definitely a dog born in a cat body. Sneaker banged around his cage excitedly and circled, circled, circled. He jumped and poked and played with the man for half an hour. This big, burly guy talked in a baby voice to his kitty the whole time. It was very gratifying to see him leave, waving and with a big smile of relief on his face.

Many of the people coming in are still evacuated and unsure of the status of their home. The shelter is a place they can come to and get comfort from their pet that they so desperately need. We are continually thanked profusely by the staff and by the community. Even people who did not need to house their animals here are so thankful for what we are able to offer their friends and neighbors. I know all of the volunteers feel the same way I do -- grateful to be able to care for these pets and help the citizens of Santa Barbara when they need it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Providing relief during a major crisis

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Yesterday, the fire jumped a major break, which has warranted additional evacuations. We are finding room for the animals as best we can, but pretty much every room in every building in the shelter is filled to overflowing. Somehow, all the cages are very clean and the animals seem unphased by all that’s going on. The staff here at the Santa Barbara Humane Society (SBHS) has been amazing in their dedication to the animals and to their community.

It is hard to see all the people bringing in their animals; their stress is obvious. But after talking with the SBHS shelter staff and EARS volunteers they seem to relax. Helping to get their pet situated in their temporary spot, and witnessing the comfort of the other animals in our care must be a relief. They know that their pet is safe and well cared for -- one less worry during this time of crisis. I think it really helps them to be able to spend some time with their pet’s new caretaker.

The compassion everyone here at the shelter has for these people and their pets is amazing. Most of the SBHS staff has been working, literally, non-stop for the past three days. They are working on little or no sleep and are still able to help their community and care for the animals. They are very much looking forward to the additional help UAN will be providing. Hopefully they will be able to sit down for a minute or go home to sleep.

Last night we assisted the staff with intaking another 50 animals. I would estimate the shelter population to be around 400. We’ll see what today brings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We're helping Santa Barbara fire victims!

A team of EARS volunteers is en route to Santa Barbara, California, where a raging wildfire has forced thousands of people and their pets to flee their homes. EARS volunteers will be helping the Santa Barbara Humane Society care for the evacuated animals at a temporary shelter.

The Jesusita Fire has already scorched more than 1,300 acres destroyed dozens of homes. Strong "sundowner" winds are blowing the fire out of control and making it difficult to contain.

UAN's Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies has just arrived at the temporary shelter and will provide updates on the situation as soon as she is able.

Please check back for more details!

You can support our efforts by donating to our Disater Relief Fund.