Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting more than we give

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Sunday was a day for the horses, mules and donkeys to settle into their new environment. The UAN volunteers took care of feeding and watering the equines as soon as they arrived and then began the task of building more partitions and rearranging the horses in their pens to better fit their needs. For the most part, all had settled in comfortably and it was relatively quiet, with the exception of Jack, the noisy, braying mule. 

The personalities of the animals are definitely starting to emerge: We have identified kickers, biters, bullies, fighters, pacifists, sweethearts, partners and food mongers, to name a few. We are able to see more of the health problems and injuries on the horses now that we have gotten closer to them and the UAN team has begun assisting the HSUS veterinary team in treating them.

Though it was a hot and muggy day, the horses seemed to be quite comfortable and were enjoying having food and water readily available. All of us are looking forward to watching them blossom in their new temporary home.

We added a new member to our exclusive club -- another dog, this one picked up as he was wandering along the side of the road. Toward the end of the day volunteers Nova Keaton and Howard Edelstein spent some time pulling ticks off of him, giving the poor dog some much needed relief. Only time will tell who shows up next.

I have enjoyed getting to know the volunteers on this deployment and was interested to hear what drives each of them to go on these tough deployments, using vacation time to get away from work and paying their own way to get to the various locations, not to mention working long hours in less than ideal conditions.

What I heard over and over again is that they felt they needed to be advocates for animals who cannot speak for themselves and that they felt the need to make a difference on a larger scale than they could by volunteering at their local shelters or by donating money, even though they all do plenty of both. Though each UAN volunteer has a very different background, one thing they have in common is a passion for educating others on the value of animals, and sharing the UAN story is a great way to accomplish this.

So the dirt, grime, sweat, bugs and grueling work make it all worthwhile; in fact, it wouldn’t seem quite so worthwhile without the hardships. And it seems that in spite of the conditions, the volunteers all agree that they get much more out these rescues than they give. 

Happy Memorial Day to all!

Photos: Joe Schuabuer of Cincinnati, Ohio and Ali; Betty Harmon of Angier, North Carolina can't resist Clifford the Big Red Mule; Howard Edelstein of Silver Spring, Maryland enjoys time with Crash, a dog he rescued on the side of the road; Nova Keaton of Oak Harbor, Ohio gets Clifford the Big Red Mule to take some hay. All photos courtesy of EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The horses are here!

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Hello again from hot and sunny West Virginia. The UAN volunteers had a busy day today, even before the horses began to arrive. It turned out that the rescued horses, donkeys and mules had developed some strong social bonds; there was some concern about separating them into individual stalls, so a revised plan of action went into play.

Larger, open-area pens were constructed to allow for three to eight horses in each, and the volunteers had to put down new sawdust, food and water buckets. But in typical UAN fashion, the volunteers took it in stride and got right to work, completing the tasks in time for the first trailer to arrive.

The horses varied in size, color and temperament and arrived in various states of neglect. Some appeared to be fairly comfortable around people, others tended to shy away to the back corners. Some were emaciated, with ribs and hip bones jutting out.

Most of them had considerable scarring. Some had more serious injuries like open wounds and infections. But within minutes of each trailer being unloaded, the equines were happily eating their hay, drinking water and enjoying their salt blocks. 

You can already see their personalities emerging. There is a very noisy mule who loudly brays whenever there is a ruckus in any of the pens around him. One lovely mare has nubs for ears, the result of frostbite, and one especially stubborn mule has been named Chuck Norris due to his ability to strategically place his kicks. I am sure we will see many more personalities begin to emerge as the animals settle into their new surroundings.

To our delight, a surprise addition to our menagerie appeared this morning -- a small dog who appeared to have been dumped on the rural road near the temporary shelter and who immediately stole all of our hearts. She seems to be suffering from fleas, skin disease, worms and other possible maladies, but is remarkably sweet and well mannered. UAN volunteer Nova Keaton of Oak Harbor, Ohio will take her home to get her the veterinary care she needs and then find a new forever home for her.

I also did a little more research on the Mothman I wrote of yesterday. Some say that the Mothman sightings are a sign of impending doom and that he was spotted prior to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and other major world disasters.

I am happy to report that there have been no Mothman sightings since we arrived here, so I am confident that our animals are safe and will come alive with the tender loving care of the UAN volunteers.

Photos: Two very thin horses share some hay; HSUS staff and UAN volunteers team up to build new pens; the jutting ribs and hipbones of a yearling; three horses eat happily after the long ride; a stray dog who had the good fortune to stumble upon the temporary shelter; the Mothman statue in Mason County.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Doing our part to save lives

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Hello from Mason County, West Virginia, location of the latest UAN Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) deployment, where we are awaiting the arrival of 49 horses, mules and donkeys seized by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) yesterday. The volunteers arrived from six different states and even from Canada, at their own expense, to assist in the sheltering of these animals until permanent placement is found.

But even though it was what many would consider a “down” day, with no horses to care for, the volunteers all stayed very busy preparing for the arrival of the animals. They spent long hours toiling in the hot sun organizing and stocking the temporary shelter as well as rounding up supplies and working to get electricity to the barns. Volunteer Ronda Fraser, who came all the way from Kitchener, Ontario, spent a good deal of time sorting through medical supplies and organizing them in the medical supply room.

Angela Shields from Tidewater, Virginia operated the backhoe, hauling bedding for the other volunteers to load into wheelbarrows and deliver to the stalls. Dave Hall from Holly Springs, North Carolina was on a mission to find a generator to bring power to our shelter and I am happy to report that by day’s end, the generator was up and running, we had lights and the fans were running, considerably cooling the temporary shelter. After bedding was put down and water and feed buckets were placed in the stalls, the EARS volunteers finished organizing tools and supplies and retired for the evening, tired, but ready to take on the challenges that tomorrow will hold.

On a historical note, Mason County is the location of the “Silver Bridge” collapse that tragically killed 46 people in 1967, following the reported appearance of a large winged figure referred to as the Mothman, who was sighted by at least 100 people in the year leading up to the bridge disaster. Some believe that the Mothman was there to warn residents of the town of the disaster and may have saved many lives.

Well, we EARS volunteers are happy that we are here in Mason County, doing our part to save the lives of the animals we will be caring for tomorrow. Until then, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Photos (top to bottom): UAN is in the house; Angela Shields of Portsmouth, Virginia and Joe Schuabuer of Cincinnati, Ohio wait for the backhoe to finish loading their wheelbarrows with sawdust for the stalls; Angela takes her backhoe job seriously; teamwork helps as Joe and Betty Harmon of Angier, North Carolina bring their wheelbarrows together for filling.

Volunteers await horses from West Virginia cruelty case

Twelve volunteers with United Animal Nations' Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) are currently in West Virginia, preparing a temporary shelter where they will care for nearly 50 horses rescued from a neglect situation on Thursday, May 27.

Read the UAN press release.

See news coverage of the rescue on these West Virginia TV stations:

WSAZ Newschannel 3


Please check back soon for more information and photos.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good news: Cats find homes!

Great news from Lancaster, California: all of the cats removed from the Cause 4 Cats Sanctuary in Kern County last week have been spoken for!

Our hardworking partners at The HSUS found rescue groups and other organizations to take in all 125 of the cats and find permament placement for them. Some cats have already left for these news destinations, and volunteers will care for the remaining cats at the temporary shelter through the weekend.

Thanks to these groups for taking in or placing the cats in barn homes:

East Bay SPCA, Oakland, CA
San Francisco SPCA
Cits for Cats
Mobile Pet Veterinary Services, Inc., Bakersfield, CA

And thanks to UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service volunteers and the other agencies who provided their expertise to help these cats: The HSUS, spcaLA, Kern County Animal Control and PetSmartCharities.

Below are a few more photos from the emergency shelter taken by EARS volunteer Pamela Elliott.

Photos top to bottom: Helen, one of the most social cats at the temporary shelter and a volunteer favorite; EARS volunteer Jody Kruger gets to know one of the cats at the shelter; EARS volunteers help local veterinarian Kristina Love examine a cat; several more of the residents of the temporary shelter.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The calm after the storm

Submitted by Alexis Raymond, UAN communications director

Friday was like the calm after the storm at the temporary cat shelter in Lancaster. The previous day was a whirlwind, non-stop effort to get 120+ cats relocated and resettled, but we spent much of yesterday listening to the silence of a happy, well-run shelter.

Because UAN operates so many temporary shelters for dogs rescued from puppy mills, the silence of an all-cat shelter was a major change of pace. Often times we heard a random “mew,” but we spent the majority of the day in a peaceful silence. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of activity.

EARS volunteers made sure all of the cats had plenty of food, water and fresh litter. A local veterinarian came to assess the most critical cases. Folks from HSUS began contacting rescue groups throughout the region to seek placement for the cats. 

And little by little, a few of the cats started revealing their personalities.

Since the animals are still getting settled and many are stressed from their relocation the day before, the volunteers kept their distance to give the cats time to adjust to their new lifestyle. But some of the cats showed that they have already made the transition and are interested in meeting the EARS volunteers.

Helen was one of the friendliest. The little black-and-white girl with gorgeous green eyes was always at the front of the cage, extending a paw or rubbing her head up against the bars. Helen was in the “sick bay” area (many of the cats have treatable conditions like upper respiratory infection and skin problems) but that didn’t stop her from greeting everyone who came by her cage.

EARS volunteer Sara Dawdy of Sunnyvale, California spent some time with Helen, and also reported on one tortoiseshell cat in her section who showed signs of progress in just the first day: in the morning she was pressed in the back of her cage, but by the evening feeding, she was at the front of the cage seeking attention.

Blue Boy is a black cat who is already in contention to be a volunteer favorite. He was so docile, UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies said it would be okay to take him out of his cage, so he got some cuddle time with EARS volunteer Barbara Forte of Downey, California. (I’m not sure who was luckier in this scenario – Barbara or Blue Boy!)

At the evening briefing, Janell said she expects that even more cats will start coming forward and warming up to the volunteers as they settle into the rhythm of the shelter. Then, they will find out what thousands of other animals around the country have learned in recent years – EARS volunteers provide the ultimate in care and love for animals brought out of crisis and into care.

Photos (top to bottom): a curious cat approaches the front of her cage; EARS volunteer Jody Kruger of San Jose checks on a friendly cat; Helen says "hello"; Barbara Forte and Blue Boy. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

A better future for dozens of cats

Submitted by Alexis Raymond, UAN communications director

Yesterday was a busy day in Lebec and Lancaster, California, and all along the road in between. At 7:30 a.m., teams from United Animal Nations and The Humane Society of the United States departed from Lancaster to rendezvous with Kern County Animal Control and the spcaLA for a compassionate rescue mission. We were removing dozens of cats from a house belonging to Cause 4 Cats, an organization operating as a cat sanctuary. The operator of Cause 4 Cats sought to provide refuge for unwanted cats, but eventually became overwhelmed with more than she could care for property.

The cats were living in a variety of indoor and outdoor areas, and many had treatable respiratory and skin conditions. Most of the animals were spayed and neutered or separated by gender if they were not.

After arriving on the scene, UAN’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers began to assemble dozens of plastic crates – provided by the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’ – to transport the cats from the house to the temporary shelter another team of EARS volunteers was setting up in Lancaster.

I was part of the team that went to remove the cats, and I was awed and impressed by the amazing teamwork among all of the agencies involved. (And equally amazed by how tiring assembling plastic crates can be!)

Four EARS volunteers helped process the animals coming out of the house – more than 120 of them. They noted their physical characteristics, took identification photos, affixed paperwork to their kennels and loaded them onto the transport vehicle.

Meanwhile, the EARS volunteers back at the temporary shelter assembled dozens of large wire kennels into which the smaller plastic carriers could be placed. They unwrapped shiny new bowls and prepped food and water. They waited in eager anticipation of their new charges. During a day that lacked interaction with hardly any animals, the EARS volunteer “shelter team” still worked their tails off.

UAN’s Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies has a theory that at every emergency response we go to, we encounter a few random species of animals (such as two cats during a puppy mill seizure or a couple of swans during a hurricane response). Well, this deployment proved Janell’s theory right again. When EARS volunteer Sheryl Green was driving to the shelter, she found two loose dogs running along the highway and coaxed them into her vehicle. I don’t think these two dogs could have wandered into a better situation! Luckily they were wearing tags and Sheryl was able to contact their owners. So Abby and Sam spent most of the day hanging out in one of the pens, waiting for their family to arrive and going for an occasional walk with the EARS volunteers.

Around 4 p.m., the first load of cats arrived at the shelter and were introduced to their new digs – clean cages complete with a fresh litter pan, water and food. The UAN and HSUS teams were at the shelter until 10 p.m. getting the cats settled into their new spaces. It was a long day but a rewarding one: we were there when the animals and overwhelmed rescuer needed us, and the future would surely be better for all of them.

Photos (top to bottom): UAN and HSUS personnel assemble crates. EARS volunteer Valerie Clark of Sacramento, California gets ready to load a cat onto the transport vehicle. Abby, one of the lost dogs who was lucky enough to encounter an EARS volunteer. EARS volunteer Linda Sherman of Modesto, California unloads a cat from the transport vehicle.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A video of a true survivor

Check out this video of Hallelujah, the little dog with a horrible genetic deformity who was rescued from a puppy mill in Tennessee on April 23. Hallelujah's front legs are stuck out straight to the side, so he only has the use of his back legs and gets around by hopping on his shoulders and face.

Read more about Hallelujah in the post below.