Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The horses have left the building!

We just got word that the last of the horses were adopted or picked up by rescue on Monday. The barn is empty. Job well done EARS team!!!!

Read this news article for details on where some of the horses ended up.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Finally, happiness for the horses

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

There were only 10 horses left at the temporary shelter on Friday. All the others had been adopted or transferred to rescue groups. As I walked through the barn watching the volunteers do morning chores and the remaining horses contentedly chew their hay, I was overwhelmed by how much had happened in Mule Barn #5 over the past 26 days.

I went back to Day #1, when we were all happily working, getting the stalls clear of nails and wires in preparation for 40 horses ... then getting word it was 85 horses, 8 dogs, 15 chickens and 2 goats. We scrambled to affix heavy horse panels to each stall so they wouldn't get out (little did we know it would take weeks for the horses to have the incentive, let alone ability, to move that much), unload all the animals (seeing up close the absolute neglect and devastation they had experienced), and then go through every step of their rehabilitation (emotionally and physically) alongside them. It seems unreal that it all happened there in that quiet, organized, happy barn.

There were so many memories. Long, 24-hour days, unloading truckful after truckful of hay and feed, colic, coughing, comfort, relief, more colic, exhaustion, horses down, seeing Longshot standing for the first time in the morning, anxiety, worry, compassion, hope, more worry. And finally, watching Blaze, Sassy, Sergeant, Calypso, Saint (trust me -- he is NO saint!), Beauty, Longshot, Hotshot, Gandolf, Lakota, Midnight, Buddy and all the others leave for their new homes. Remembering it all leaves me flabbergasted, speechless.

Saving 84 horses from certain death took an army of people who gave everything they had. We started off with a skeleton crew of dedicated UAN and HSUS volunteers. They gave up their Thanksgiving holiday, family time and lazy days near the fire to help these horses, working a million hours a day doing hard, physical labor and still finding the energy to nurture, pet, talk to and love on each and every one of the horses.

These folks kept the horses alive. Finally we got re-enforcements and were able to go so far above and beyond basic care I think we may have accidentally spoiled some of the horses.

Longshot is a sweet and smart girl, but she was one of the weakest. I remained at the temporary shelter 24 hours a day for the first week and was keeping a careful eye on her. One morning I came in and as usual, she was down on the ground. But this time she was really down. She wasn't trying to get up, her breathing was accelerated, her eyes looked blank, her tongue was pale. She had tried to get up a few times earlier, but just couldn't do it. The scrape marks where her feet had slid through the bedding and the soiled shavings behind her told the story. I told the volunteers that we would be postponing our morning briefing. I didn't say it, but privately I wanted to be with her when she died. I held her head in my lap and stroked her. I talked to her softly and watched her erratic breathing. She had only been down two hours, but she had nothing left in her.

After a bit, we gathered a Metro Police officer, our security guard, a kind man who was delivering horse feed, and a few other strong folks and began the process of lifting her. We had a system that required at least two people on each side, one on the tail and two on the head. The seven of us lifted her using fire hoses as slings and held her there. Her legs were literally dangling. Someone offered her food, another volunteer brought a water bucket to her, and others massaged her side to get the circulation going again. Eventually she stood on her own. This went on for weeks, until finally one morning, after leaving her for my two hour "nap" between 4 and 6 a.m., I came in and found her standing. From then on, if she went down and couldn't get up, she would wait patiently until we assembled our crew, then allowed us to position her and lift her. She gave her all to help us help her. This was a dramatic change from the beginning, when she had no energy or desire to pull herself up at all. It took less and less effort to get her up each time. She lost that frantic look and began to trust us.

Then finally, Longshot stood on her own.

But that is not the entire story. Longshot had a neighbor in the barn who had no name. No Name witnessed Longshot's ups and downs and closely watched everything we did to help her. Suddenly, Longshot's neighbor was constantly down and not getting up. We began to worry about No Name. We assembled the crew, situated her and lifted her many times. After about the third time in less than 24 hours we noticed that when we counted "one, two, three" to lift, No Name would get up every time on the "two" count. After discovering this we watched more closely. Not only did she get up on "two" each time, she would nose toward her grain bucket, waiting for someone to hand-feed her, and turn her body toward the volunteers in anticipation of a massage. She is now named "Tease" and went home with a very experienced horse man (Tom) and his softy of a wife.

Our horses may have been on the brink of death, but they sure are smart. And now, they are ready to be loved as well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All I want for Christmas is ... horse poop?

Many women want jewelry, clothes or spa treatments for Christmas. Sandy Cochran of Jackson, South Carolina wanted to pick up horse manure for a week.

Sandy is a trained Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteer with United Animal Nations, and when she learned about the horse rescue operation, she asked her husband to buy her a plane ticket to Nashville as her Christmas present so she could help.

Sandy mucked and stripped stalls, brushed and fed horses, and yes, even cleaned up manure for five days. “It was hard work,” she said. “But it is the best Christmas present I could have received.”

Watch this video to see what else Sandy had to say.

Oh, and you're probably wondering about these photos. The holiday spirit is definitely in the air. A volunteer made stockings for all the horses, then proceeded to decorate the entire shelter!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Live, from Tennessee, horses on the mend!

Check out this great video of EARS volunteers and UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies at the emergency horse shelter in Tennessee. The horses are sure looking healthier and happier!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kind words of thanks

Today we received a wonderful note from Terri Merritts of Nashville thanking UAN and the EARS volunteers for helping the horses in Tennessee. Here is part of Terri's note:

I wanted to tell you how much my family appreciates the help you are giving to those sweet horses and dogs at the Tennessee Fairgrounds. I am a longtime dog trainer who works with rescues/abused animals and have worked with horses my whole life as well. My mom used to tease me that I was born on a horse! We've seen a lot of dog, cat, and horse abuse over the years. I saw the photos of the horses and hate to admit that I have seen even worse. What kind of people think it is okay to do this?

Thank you so much for the love and care you are giving these precious animals and let us know if we can help. My husband lost his job a year ago and we use this time to work on animal rescue. I just went to your Web site and signed up for your e-mail newsletters and became a fan on Facebook and followed you on Twitter. You are making a real difference in the world and being a voice for the innocent animals who are suffering. I'm just so glad there are people in the world like you who really do care for those who cannot protect themselves.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Horses are on the move

Good news! Fifteen of the healthiest horses at the emergency shelter have been transported to Horse Haven of Tennessee, an equine humane society in Knoxville.

It will still be a while before the horses are available for adoption, but we're thrilled that these horses were deemed healthy enough to travel. Among the 15 horses transported were one mare and her foal.

Read more in this Nashville Tennessean article.

Also, pictured here are a few horses who were able to venture out of the emergency shelter and enjoy some fresh air earlier this week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Horse rescue goes to the dogs

The 84 horses UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers are sheltering in Nashville now have company -- 17 starving dogs rescued from a squalid trailer in East Tennessee.

The dogs are mostly 35- to 50-pound terrier and chow mixes. They were emaciated with matted fur, parasites and open wounds. The trailer had no water or electricity and was filled with feces and urine. Neighbors reported that the property owners had moved away, leaving the dogs behind with no food or water.

The Grainger County Sheriff's Department and the Grainger County Humane Society asked The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which also led the rescue of the 84 horses, to remove the dogs. The rescued dogs will be cared for by The HSUS and United Animal Nations until their custody is determined.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Angels in red shirts

Submitted by UAN Communications Director Alexis Raymond

This week I spoke to several EARS volunteers who have returned from the emergency horse shelter in Tennessee about their experience. The only thing I can say is, “Wow.” United Animal Nations is lucky to have so many amazing, kind and dedicated people on its EARS team.

Melissa Richards (pictured at right) helps animals every day as the president of the board of directors of New Leash on Life in Lebanon, Tennessee. She is a member of her local Disaster Animal Response Team and has rescued animals from puppy mills and a tornado that hit Tennessee a few years ago.

Melissa deployed to the emergency horse shelter in Nashville from November 24 to 28, where she said she spent most of her time “scooping poop – seriously!”

“It was one of the best Thanksgivings I ever had,” Melissa said. “I couldn’t have sat home eating and watching television knowing that the horses needed help. I would do it every Thanksgiving.”

Melissa said that in her four days at the shelter, she literally saw the starving horses “fatten up” and become less fearful. “Their ribs were showing less by the time I left,” she said. “They were terrified the first day, but by the last day I was getting kisses and hugs from them.”

Nicole Tipton worked so hard in Tennessee that she had to see her chiropractor for an adjustment when she returned home to Georgia. Nicole said she did “anything that was needed” during her deployment – including mucking stalls, filling water buckets and lifting horses (like Longshot, pictured at right) who had fallen.

“Even though they were malnourished and 400 pounds underweight, they still weigh a lot and it took six to eight of us to pick them back up,” Nicole said.

Despite the physically demanding work she did, Nicole said the experience was rewarding – so much so that she is returning this weekend.

“It was wonderful knowing that the animals didn’t have to suffer anymore, and I was part of that,” she said. “Some of them were on the verge of dying had they not been rescued … it felt great to be able to show them love and kindness.”

Karen Little is a librarian at the University of Louisville and brought some of her organizational skills to work at the emergency shelter, helping the veterinarians take records on the horses and keep them organized.

“It is critical that those records be kept well, and if that is the best way I can help, I am thrilled to do it,” Karen said.

Karen has been helping animals in her own community for years – 16,000 animals to be exact. Ten years ago she and her husbanded founded the nonprofit organization Alley Cats Advocates, which has 120 volunteers who care for feral cats through the Trap-Neuter-Return method.

Karen trained to be an EARS volunteer in the mid-1990s and deployed to UAN’s Hurricane Katrina response in Monroe, Louisiana in 2005. She said her experience in Tennessee was "life changing."

“It is always interesting to be among a set of people who are going to do whatever they need to do to help an animal, even if they don’t know that animal,” Karen said.

I couldn't have described the EARS volunteer team more accurately myself.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving up is not an option

Our EARS team in Tennessee is working practically around the clock to care for 84 sick and starving horses who were rescued from lives of neglect last Tuesday. The volunteers barely have time to sleep, let alone take photos or write blog posts. But we did just speak with UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, who told us about a few of the many wonderful horses who are fighting for their lives.

The most critical case from the rescue was a two-day-old foal who had never eaten. His mom was so malnourished, she was never able to produce milk. She had a body score of about 1.5 on the Henneke Scoring System. The baby was very weak and in critical condition. If he had been out there another 24 hours he wouldn’t have made it. (Photo at right courtesy The HSUS)

An EARS volunteer spent an entire day trying to get the foal to drink milk from a bottle or bowl. He wouldn’t do it. Janell and this volunteer stayed up all night, then finally at 4 a.m. the foal took a bottle. Then, he discovered a bowl and, as Janell put it, "started eating like a pig." During the day a volunteer was on “foal duty” and fed him every two hours. For five nights, Janell stayed with the foal all night so she could feed him every two hours.

Janell said that during the rescue mission, the mom was doing everything possible to keep the rescuers away from the baby. "When we were trying to feed the baby, she was charging us in the stalls and wouldn’t let us near her," Janell said.

But by night two, when the baby was eating a lot, mom's attitude changed. While Janell was kneeling and holding the bowl for the baby to drink, Mom was kneeling down right by her side.

“She started licking my head,” Janell said. "Then she would nudge baby toward me and keep her nose right next to the bowl while he ate. Within 24 hours the mom went from trying to hurt us to bringing her baby over to us to eat. Some people say the animals know we are trying to help them – this is absolute proof.”

The foal who was so limp and lifeless that he had to be carried into the temporary shelter last week is now frolicking and playing. Janell said he’s been named Forrest because "all he wants to do is run."

Still standing
Another problem prevalent at that emergency shelter is colic, abdominal problems that cause the horses to lie down. The owner of the horses fed them all sweet feed right before the rescue, which is causing many of them to colic. But because the horses are so weak, many of them cannot get back up again once they are down. When a horse goes down at the shelter, at least six people have to physically hoist him or her up because lying down for too long can cause organ damage or even death.

Janell said many of the horses won't even try to get back up. "They’ve completely given up," she said. "But we watch them constantly ... we don’t care if that horse has given up, we are going to get him up and hold him up. We are not giving up on them."

Long Shot (pictured at right) is one mare who has given up, Janell said. But she is young and she is healthy, and nobody is going to let her stay down … they are not going to let her give up.

"The volunteers all feel the same way, they don’t want to leave at the end of the night," Janell said. "Even on Thanksgiving, I told them to go get some dinner, but they all wanted to stay. They wanted to spend their Thanksgiving here with the horses."

A retired military officer stopped by the emergency shelter the other day to offer help. He recently returned from Iraq and is in the local volunteer fire department. He and some of his fellow firefighters are now helping the volunteers hoist the fallen horses back up, as well as stacking and organizing the overwhelming loads of hay that are being donated. (Photo at right courtesy The HSUS)

Feeding Frenzy
Janell reported that the horses eat 24 hours a day because they are so starved. The volunteers are keeping "hay under their noses all the times." Each horse eats between one to three bales of hay per day. That is a lot. They all came into the emergency shelter scared and completely unsocialized. They would stay at the back of the stall. Now, they hang their heads over the edge of the stall looking at the volunteers, wondering where their hay is. They start making noises in the morning and kicking the boards.

"We’re seeing a lot more activity and sassiness come out," Janell said. "Stallions are starting to act like stallions. When they run out of hay, they are beginning to make a fuss."

The horses are starting to get names. Volunteers named one Tease (pictured at right with Janell) because she keeps going down and staying down. "There is nothing wrong with her," Janell said. "She just likes it when we all come in and make a big fuss."

Eventually the horses will be made available for adoption. But right now they are not strong or healthy enough to be transported anywhere.

"We will go to whatever extent it takes so they get what they need to live a happy and healthy life," Janell said. "We’re going to give them what they never had before."

If you would like to support our mission to help the horses, you can make a donation to our Disaster Relief Fund.