Saturday, December 5, 2009

Seized and Saved

Henry and Copper. Not yet made whole. We're looking at about $3000 each for their orthopedic surgeries, not counting aftercare. A private donor is covering the remainder of Henry and Copper's surgery costs. (She types through tears...)

When is an animal "rescued?"

The video crews catch the initial gore and horror: The scarred pit bull on his logging chain, the skeletal horse hock-deep in in mud, a hundred cats peering from holes in the wall.

The news footage shows the "rescue" -- trucks and trailers, mountains of crates, live traps and catch-poles and people wearing dust masks and t-shirts with the name of some National Animal Charity in VERY LARGE LETTERS on the back.

They gather up the miserable creatures and make them Go Away. They rescue them.

Maybe, if this show came to a Theater Near You, you might catch a news brief a few weeks later about their former owner's plea bargain, and how she "signed over" all the animals in return for leniency on the charge of cruelty to animals. Whew. That's good. Now the animals are really rescued.

Of course they are. For decades, you will see tiny clips of these same miserable crime victims against New Age background music and a Genyoowine Hollywood Celebruvoiceover.

Today I saw a seven-year-old picture of some of these dogs on my teevee while Nina from Just Shoot Me told me to send $19 a month to the National Animal Charity -- in this case, the HSUS -- to rescue them.

Where are the after pictures?

The shining horse carrying her rider down the trail. The sleek pit bull lolling on the sofa cushions. Smug moggies sunning on the windowsill.

In many cases, the after pictures would be problematic fundraising, because they look like this.

Or in the case of horses, even this.

It wasn't the man or woman trying to plea bargain on charges of cruelty who killed them.

It was the "rescuers" who determined that all seized pibbles are "fighters" and all "fighters" are irredeemable. That hoarded cats, once extracted from the drywall, are expensive to vet and time-consuming to tame. That seized horses are expensive to keep and can be quickly unloaded at auction.

But more and more, animals that are seized are getting an opportunity to live and to heal.

It may take months of patient training before a puppymill survivor can stand upright on a leash or work up the nerve to take some chicken from a human hand.

Untold hours in the round pen -- and hay, wormer, and the farrier on speed-dial -- to make a neglected horse into something other than a Frenchman's sandwich.

The cats will need to be treated for URIs, say goodbye to their gonads, and, if an implacable volunteer with a lap and a feather wand can't convince them that the Good Life lies in an easy chair, they'll need to find productive employment as barn cats.

The humans who accomplish these transformations are not the employees of the National Animal Charity.

In addition to the time -- volunteer time, unpaid time, time gifted for love -- this all takes money.

Money for food, money to transport, money for kennel runs and fencing, and, frequently, lots and lots of money for veterinary care. Sometimes, specialist surgery.

Like this girl.

While the HSUS was sending her pictures around as part of a scheme to raise a million bux this month, Fay was having her first surgery to fix her amputated lips.

Brilliant! The HSUS is taking care of Fay! They have the ability to raise beaucoups bux and pay the surgeon. Then, when she's all fixed up, they'll find her a home.

Or ... not.

True, the HSUS was part of the drama when Fay was seized. They will waste no opportunity to tell us so.

They never owned Fay.

They never had custody of Fay.

They never fed Fay.

They spelled Fay's name wrong.

The warm bed in the safe place is being provided by Gale.

Gale, like virtually everyone who works "for" or runs a Small Local Animal Charity or Small Focused Animal Charity (such as a breed or disability-focused rescue), is a volunteer.

If my experience with NESR is representative -- and I believe it is -- there is no "fundraising budget." We use our websites and email lists to ask for support. Volunteers work the phones and sweet-talk corporations for donations that represent peanuts to them, jackpot to us when it comes through. We scrounge supplies on Craig's list. Foster families feed the beasties.

If the HSUS persuades good-hearted animal lovers to send them a million dollars this month -- 1% of their 2008 revenues -- perhaps $300,000 will be available for "program costs." Including their employee's salaries, office space, vehicles ...

The rest will pay for Nina van Horn to tell us on the teevee to send more moneyz.

Meanwhile, Gale and her fellow volunteers scrape and beg to get together the vet fees for Fay's multiple surgeries.

But I already sent money to the Humane Society for that dog! They sent me an email! Who are these people asking for more!

They are the ones still rescuing Fay.

She's not rescued when the bolt cutters sever her chain.

She's not rescued when the video camera is packed up and the van drives away.

She's not rescued when the man who cut her lips off signs her over, nor when he is sentenced for his crime. Indeed, that has historically been when she is most likely to be killed by her custodians.

She's not rescued when she puts the first tentative foot onto a cushion by the hearth of a foster family's den.

She is not rescued when the surgeon pulls the last stitch.

She's rescued when she has been made as whole in body and mind as can be done, and she's living a life as a normal dog. Not an object of pity, not a poster girl for anything, not a project -- just somebody's dog.

The hard work of rescue takes months, years. It has nothing to do with catch-poles or t-shirts with VERY LARGE LETTERS displayed for the cameras.


Of course, the punch line to Fay's story is that the HSUS was caught with its pants down and its pecker in the apple pie.

Confronted by bloggers here and here and on Twitter and Facebook, the National Animal Charity now claims that it will be sending money to pay for Fay's surgeries -- the ones it claimed were already done on its fundraising video. Five thousand dollars -- which is not the full amount needed. Chump change to the HSUS -- and the largest line item in the budget of almost any local or focused volunteer rescue.

Fay's foster human will believe it when she sees it.

Meanwhile, the HSUS probably brought in $5000 within five minutes of sending that email. And continues to rake it in.

Fay will reap some benefit from the HSUS's most recent experience with the mousetrap in the cookie jar. She's fortunate to carry visually stunning evidence of physical abuse, fortunate that she became the poster pit for a cynical money-pitch, fortunate that they got caught in a lie that was specifically and concretely about her.

What about the others?

The other dogs from the Missouri fight bust -- dogs whose needs may be less visually apparent, less dramatic. This one needs a dental, that one is hypothyroid. All these need to be spayed. This guy needs to see a chiropractor to do something about the damage that logging chain did to his neck. This one really needs to see a professional trainer.* All these need to be tested for heartworm and treated for coccidia. This is the hard work of rescue, as well as the expensive part.

Thousand dollar vet bill here, fifteen hundred there ... pretty soon you are talking real money. The three bux profit you got from selling each Studmuffins of Rescue '09 calendar doesn't go nearly as far as you thought it might.

And so on.

We think it's great that the HSUS is now thinking in terms of survivors, rather than proclaiming each animal "rescued" when the bolt cutters come out and then advocating that they be summarily executed for the crime of having been a victim.

We'll believe they mean it when the money starts flowing. Sure, it's likely that Fay's rescuer will see the $5000 -- such a pittance from the hundred-million-dollar budget when you've been caught in the lie, it's cheaper to cut the check than to dodge the truth.

Will Copper (broken carpals -- $3000+) or Henry (two destroyed knees -- $3000+) or Charlie (one slipping patella, $500+ if the GP can fix it) have to suffer through a bunch more bake sales before they can be rescued?


* Why is it that it is assumed that veterinarians who provide care to animals owned by nonprofit rescue groups will be paid for their services -- while those who make their modest living as trainers are expected to always work pro bono? Because we love animals and shouldn't ever take any money for our time and expertise. Unlike a vet, who is a professional.

I'm not in any way dissatisfied with my professional decision to provide pro bono services for NESR -- it has been my choice, and I believe that all professionals should donate services to some worthy cause of their choice.

But you know, a trainer's mortgage payment is not pro bono.


  1. I never realized the truth to this until ONB. When you are the one on the "front lines" you realize what it truly takes to rescue a dog. And the true rescue can take years. Copper is on his way though - the cast was taken off recently and he is learning to use his leg. So, one rescued, many, many more to go.

    Rachael Roper

  2. Great post, but I'm not sure I'll be able to eat apple pie any time soon.

  3. JL, we make them from scratch. That way we know what's NOT in them!

    Heather, I'm especially fond of that little asterisk addition you put at the bottom. When I saw it after that one word, I was actually half-expecting to see a link to that "Positive Enough For Ya?" entry you wrote a while back. But that addendum is also quite true as well. Trainers are not "pros" because EVERY trainer, yes even Aunt Betty who watched It's Me Or The Dog on the teevee and read a single book about training, is as qualified as anyone else to offer advice--or, if nothing else, a VERY STRONG OPINION on how things should be done.

    Have you ever read through the NADOI Humane Training Project transcripts? They're quite disturbing in places.

  4. I'm not sure how many more fundraising scams HSUS will get away with before some crafty lawyer provides PRO BONO services to combat the team of HSUS lawyers and get these people some jail time.

  5. Viatecio, what "NADOI Humane Training Project" are you referring to? While there were NADOI member who were associated with the AHA Humane Dog Training Project, these individuals were not acting on behalf of NADOI, and in fact, NADOI has a position statement on its website ( regarding the matter.
    Jan Gribble

  6. Viatecio,

    Yes, the standards and guidelines you mean are the Delta Society's, not NADOI's.

    Or maybe they are some other ones rolling around out there?

    I have seen these kinds of processes get hijacked by people with a political ax to grind countless times. It generally ends with the good-faith committee members refusing to sign when their contributions are shat upon.

    It's important that these dissenters -- who are generally the most accomplished professionals recruited for the committee -- be very up-front and on-the-record about the shortcomings in the process and the results. If they are not, the resulting documents gain an authority that they do not deserve.

    Just time will tend to entrench that false authority.

  7. It was a while ago, and I can't find the transcripts anymore...they were hosted on the NADOI site, but I think you're right Jan, it was the AHA. Heather, I'll email them to you, since what you linked to on the site doesn't look like what I have. Julia Maclachlan of DRU clued me into it years ago and I was able to copy them, and it looks like they're not anywhere now. It was basically a bunch of professionals debating what exactly constitutes "humane" in training and what, if any, national certification should be involved for the dog training profession.

  8. I will absolutely GUARANTEE you that the guidelines were never hosted on the NADOI website. I haven't seen any reference to the guidelines (the set published by the AHA or the set that was published by Delta) in a few years. At one point (I haven't checked recently) Delta had its version of the guidelines available on its website. AHA used to have a link where you could buy a copy of its guidelines. I did write two (lengthy) articles while the process was undertaken and both can be found on the IACP website under the articles link. ( Jan Gribble

  9. I second what Rachel said. I never realized what "rescue" really was until I was a part of ONB. Granted I have "rescued" animals in the past through adoption from rescue groups and the human society but I had never particpated in rehabilitation of animals prior to adoption. I now want to continue to work in rescue as a volunteer and have found another place besides ONB now that it over. However, the more I learn about animal cruelty, the worse I feel that so many animals are not truly "rescued" and there are agencies such as the one you discuss that are not on the up and up.

    Trish Kellinger

  10. Jan, I owe you an apology. It's been so long since I've looked at those documents (and I'm not on my desktop enough anyway) that I forgot that the NADOI was represented, not the host site. It is the AHA's project and was posted on (which seems to now be the IACP?). And if I look real closely, it appears to still be there.

    I'm sure you would WROTE the articles and were there!

    Yikes...I'm sorry! I'll be the one in the corner with my dunce cap on.

  11. Heather, way too many times you make me cry. Both because of the horrible things some people do and because of the wonderful, selfless things other people do to try to make things better.

    Under one of my aliases (they think I like them) HSUS sent me the fund-raising email for Fay. It made me want to vomit. There MUST be something actionable in it, but I am not a lawyer. And it is very carefully crafted. They personify evil in this generation.

  12. Viatecio, not to worry. I'm just a bit sensitive on the subject.I was not directly involved with the AHA project, but as you can probably tell, the project concerned me very much and as a board member of NADOI I worked very hard to help draft the position statement now on the web site. Jan Gribble.

  13. Will Copper (broken carpals -- $3000+) or Henry (two destroyed knees -- $3000+) or Charlie (one slipping patella, $500+ if the GP can fix it) have to suffer through a bunch more bake sales before they can be rescued?


  14. i have a question about what exactly constitutes rescue for animals who are livestock to begin with - if an animal is abused in the process of becoming food or some other material/end-product, do you think they deserve life-long (if they do not needless suffer) sanctuary because of it? in other words, is it the harm imposed that makes an animal rescue-able if it did not start off as a pet? or is it an initial pet/companion animal status that then defines rescue as survival & well-being w/o risk of slaughter?

    the hsus seems to spend a lot of money to enforce/make legislation that will stop practices that may/do result in animal abuse, and calling this alone 'rescue.' and that the future welfare of current victims of abuse is not in their purview; seems they only want to stop the possibility of abuse & help enforce laws that seek to punish it. if they did not make the implication that they are helping 'survivors' in their campaigning would that limited view of rescue be acceptable or is it absolutely contrary to the idea of rescue to begin with?

    i speak softly, but my stick needs embiggenning...

  15. s/is covering/is covering some portion of/. This did not happen without the NESR's fundraising.

  16. Shirley, I've cogitated on this very question after watching too many of those Animal Planet shows where someone really is abusing the cows and pigs and chickens, and they get seized.

    It does seem to constitute a Get Out of Veal Free card for the animals.

    And I can see all sides of it, and have no good answer.

    I was about to go into it in teeth-gnashing detail, but I think it may deserve it's own blog post -- what is the appropriate outcome of a cruelty seizure of "food animals?"

  17. post the hell out of the subject pls..

  18. Good post. Informative. Really enjoyed reading this. I'll be back :)



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