Thursday, February 26, 2009

Transport Underway

This morning Doll and Chele left with a van full of 28 lucky dogs and cats for another trip to Every Creature Counts (ECC) in Denver.

It's a tough, long 24 hour drive in each direction, but it means everything in the world to the animals on the van who will now have a chance at a new life and a good home in the Denver area.

Here are a few of the animals on this trip:








Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Update for February 24, 2009

What is it about us that there’s no getting use to what’s unacceptable, horrid, vile.

The treats and wonders of this life light us up from the break of dawn until the last glimpse of the star-spread night. The irresistible innocent thrill of crisp yellow dried grass crunching beneath your slick soled mucks as you step from the slippery morning steps gives way to annoying drops of chilled condensation you try to miss as you deliver food from deck to deck. Perhaps what’s so special is that these are the last of the predictable moments of the day.

I begin every day with a plan and toss it in with the dyer sheet of the first load of laundry. Coupled with the unexpected is the weight of time and cost management, two factors that can clash and certainly weigh on all of our minds in these economic times. Fierce faith and total compassion have to merge with sound decisions to make the seemingly impossible - a promise to animals that have no hope without Project Hope’s commitment.

This week was a glowing example of how we meet the expectations of our home team, supporters, viewers, and ourselves.

Sunday, as I arrived at PetSmart to meet fellow rescuer Debbie Young who’d aided us with the placement of pups, Chickasaw County Sheriff Jimmy Simmons called to ask for help. On a tip, he’d busted a group of dog fighters. There were two dogs involved and another dog on site. Arrests were made, but his county, like so many in the region, has refused him an animal shelter, so he took the dogs to his home kennels temporarily, but needed our help in finding a haven and a future for them. Our vet, Dr. Abernathy, agreed to care for them temporarily. It would be Tuesday before I could offer assistance.

On Tuesday I arrived at Sheriff Simmons' to transport the dogs. As I pulled in to his property his Basset Hound, pot belly pig, and Preacher, his Mt. Cur/Catahoula mix met me. Preacher is Sheriff Simmons' constant companion, even accompanying the Sheriff to court.

As I passed the gates to his workshop and kennels a chorus of curious, begging, and frustrated voices peppered my ears. Sheriff Simmons keeps numerous hounds and aids stray and abandoned dogs. Dogs were chained, kenneled in cotton trailers, hutches, and a variety of cages. My senses were challenged. Sheriff Simmons cares deeply for dogs; he just has a vastly different acceptance of care and confinement than we do.

Sheriff Simmons pointed to a confined senior Golden Retriever named Gatsby and asked if I could take him. He’d nursed him back from starvation, but with his responsibilities he might not get the time to place him soon. I couldn’t deny him help, nor leave the dog.


Next we loaded a very sweet female, "Gyp", that Sheriff Simmons had freed from her exploiters.

The two males who’d fought were housed at the back of the property where Sheriff Simmons had securely separated them from each other and his dogs. The first male refused to leave the barrel he’d curled up in. He offered to hurt the two men trying to get him to come out. A homemade catch pole was necessary to extricate him. He was pitifully marred with scars, punctures, and lacerations.

The next dog came more willingly, though he seemed perplexed with his circumstance and clearly displayed symptoms of discomfort and pain. He shook his badly infected ear and his stomach and groin sucked in with each painful breath. His legs were also badly punctured and lacerated.

Once in the van the unwilling dog began to growl and snarl towards the other dog. I slipped thick cardboard between them and he calmed down. The trip to Doc’s was uneventful except that my senses had experienced more than my emotions could rationalize. I hurt so for what I’d seen and wanted to change that my insides ached. I was ill.

At Doc’s, attendant Peggy cheerfully came out to assist. We began by setting up safe and as comfortable as possible caging for the dogs. I named the Golden Retriever Gatsby and when we got him out his exuberant and strong lead nearly overpowered Peggy. He was thrilled with his meal and settled in.

Chickasaw III (the female) I named Iris. She was so sweet and cooperative. With her settled in we went back for the boys.


Chickasaw II (the tan male) I named Danny. He needed a name that said he deserved to be seen for the individual he was and not what he’d been subjected to. He was easy to handle and was relieved to settle in. I photographed his wounds and tried to capture the gentle mood in which he cooperated.


Chickasaw I (the black male) now named Harris, did not want to be moved again but he did not challenge or take his discomfort out on us. Once inside I shut the doors to the entrance, exit, and other run areas and allowed him to explore the area in front of his run. The large dogs in the adjoining runs were calm so I allowed him to approach and smell them. He was calm and showed pleasure from my gentle strokes on the small area of his head free of lacerations. He was so totally covered with scars and wounds that it was astounding.


Sheriff Simmons believed the court would grant him custody of the dogs within a week or two. We’ll work to see if we can get the dogs into trained hands who are experienced with deprogramming dogs who’ve been pitted against others.

Sarah, our new volunteer vet student who also works at Doc’s, took notes on the mannerism and condition of the dogs after she walked them and Dr. Ann treated their wounds.

The gentler rewards of the week involved our joint efforts with the second year MSU student program who altered the 13 dogs we aided the Cleveland Shelter with. The dogs were to have been heartworm negative so they might be chosen for transport, or local adoption. It turned out that some of them had not been tested and others were positive. It was very stressful learning that this complication had set our efforts back, but both the MSU students and PH decided we wouldn’t turn our backs on the dogs. We will jointly aid the shelter with saving the dogs. The blessing for PH is that the cost of treatment will not impact us. We will simply work with the school and shelter in finding placement and transport for the dogs.

Sherri Norquist called to ask for our urgent help for a mare who was removed from a circumstance of extreme neglect. "Buttermilk", now Buttercup, had a worthy guardian who was talked into giving her to a man who wanted a horse for his grandchild. The man fell into financial woes and totally failed his four horses. He didn’t even pick up the phone to see if they could be returned to their previous guardians. Buttercup was nearly dead.


When Buttercup arrived it was incredible that she could possibly be in better condition than when rescued. Though she clearly was hundreds of pounds underweight, she had the strength to give a clear message to the donkeys and Rodney that she wanted to be friends, but definitely would not share her food.

Rodney is so thrilled to have a horse to spend time with. It took Buttercup a little time to understand that the big gentle giant has something about him that lends to his abrupt approach. Though blind, Rodney is remarkably adept at using his senses find food and friends with minimal effort and with seldom and slight bumps and near collisions.

Rodney loves his Buttercup.

All and all it’s been a remarkable week. As challenging and emotional as our encounters with cruelty are, the determination and rewards to aid suffering and exploited animals overrides even the fears of how all of this can be accomplished and with the limitations of the resources of today’s economy.

Sheriff Simmons has rescued horses that our friend and helper in horse cases, Billy Mills, may be able to take. A Vaiden family rushed a dog to us that had been shot and Doc is aiding. We’ll be helping our dear friend and fellow rescuer, Linda Money, in her extreme time of need. Her home burned and her animals that were inside perished. We can all relate to that horror.

New volunteer Trista with Natalia.

New and absolutely wonderful volunteer Trista Wilkinson has not only volunteered nearly every day this week, but her father has offered to aid us with the electrical work we so badly need. He may not be able to help until early summer so we may have to go ahead with two of the projects, but we’re thrilled with the prospect of genuine volunteerism heading our way. Saturday we had four volunteers aid for at least a portion of the day. Yahoo!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

A photo of Doll from the early days of Hope Sanctuary.

From Doll

Sixteen years! Can you believe it? Sixteen years ago today I flew in to Jackson, MS from from San Francisco. Sally Link and Jan Leslie had been pleading for IDA’s help to expose and end the nefarious business practices of USDA licensed animal dealer, Jerry Vance. A Department of Environmental Quality inspector who had inspected Vance’s pig farm had discovered his massive kennel operation next door. The inspector was missing his dog that he believed to be stolen. He asked a worker if he could look at the dogs and, amazingly, among the hundreds of dogs, he found his.

That night he called Jan Leslie, the one remaining active member of the defunct Grenada Humane Society. Jan prompted a flurry of activities that spread the word resulting in a second dog being recovered from Vance’s operation. Jan notified the USDA and local authorities with little to no result.

It’s a long and moving story that sadly concludes with the second and final disappearance of both recovered dogs, months of investigating Ripley, Mississippi’s “First Monday”, a trade and sell event held the weekend before the first Monday of each month. Trips to other auctions and trade days where “bunchers”, people who obtain dogs and cats in any manner possible and sell them for biomedical research, uncovered more dealers. Jeff Hodges, crony to Jerry Vance, was one of the dealers. The horrors I captured in video and photos at his kennels made national news.

I was to be in Mississippi for two weeks. Months of undercover work and the superb assistance from our home office team exposed the dealings of these men. What our investigation uncovered was so incredible that we caught the attention of the popular news magazine show Eye to Eye.

When the nation learned that these dealers each had over 750 violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act, regulations intended to protect animals destined for laboratories from unnecessary abuse, the USDA was besieged with calls. The USDA was forced to pull the licenses of these men. In a cruel twist of fate the men were fined $25,000 each, but weren’t required to pay it “unless they were caught violating the AWA again.”

The encounters I had with neglect and cruelty between February and August made it very clear that IDA’s presence was vital in the region.

In the first few years we were amazed with the events we encountered. Another outrageous case that comes to mind; Jim Bates, a pet shop supplier, who horribly neglected his animals – we removed 683 dead and dying birds, rodents, and reptiles from just one of his warehouses. He was ordered to pay a $3000 fine and to cease business in Poplarville, MS. Today, he’s back in the news. After years of moving, he relocated in Jackson. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks learned he was selling native wildlife, that he was again badly neglecting, and charged him. He’s now fled arrest.

We’ve shut down puppymills, collectors, including Catherine Twiss, who held 86 lions, tigers, bears, pumas, a liger and a camel in the most deplorable of conditions. We helped prosecute a pet shop dealer who locked her doors and left the animals to die. We’ve helped countless animals, making a difference one animal at a time.

Looking back, all of this is amazing to me, but the most amazing thing is when an abused or neglected animal comes to Hope Sanctuary and is able to find peace in this sanctuary we’ve established for those who would have otherwise had no hope.

We’ve come so far. Mississippi State University now spays and neuters for us twice a month, we’re beginning to gain the support of the community, and we’ve had a profound affect on law enforcement, the courts, and the public. There is still much work to be done.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped us on this sixteen year journey. We couldn’t have done it without your support.


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