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Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's not that I don't care, but...

I'm an animal lover in many respects, and find myself particularly happy with dogs. It almost doesn't matter what kind of dog, either- I just love dogs. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that when hurricane Katrina devastated the coast, I gave money first to the American Red Cross and then to the Humane Society of the United States. Don't get me wrong- despite my love for dogs I remain powerfully human-centric, and vastly prefer to see human lives being saved before animal lives. That said, however, there is a good and pressing need to deal with the animal population in a disaster zone. What is that reason? Well, you know how unreasonable people get when they're hungry? Imagine meeting a pack of dogs who are subject to equal hunger.


So, basically, you have to either try to rescue them, or shoot them. A donation in support of the "rescue" option seemed like the way to go. Unfortunately, however, since then the Humane Society has been sending me e-mail updates on their emergency response. It's been heartwarming, don't get me wrong, but I've also gotten a sense that some folks at the Humane Society may be, for lack of a better term, totally bugfuck crazy. Let me give you an example:


On Wednesday, one of our Disaster Animal Response Teams in New Orleans rescued a St. Bernard from a rooftop – a dog they described as the most emaciated animal they had ever seen in all their years of handling animals. The veterinarian who treated the dog was shocked that the animal, who weighed just 40 pounds, was still alive.

Who helped us rescue this animal? It was several National Guardsmen, who heeded our rescuers’ pleas to take them through the water on a tank so they could get up on the roof to save the dog.

But the troops’ actions were not ordered by the National Guard – nor by the White House, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, or the state of Louisiana. In fact, despite our repeated requests, none of these entities has formally agreed to marshal their ground forces to help rescue the pets and other animals slowly starving to death in the affected areas.

At a press conference just a few hours ago, I implored the federal government to come up with the nation's first animal rescue plan. Now, I am writing to ask you to give them the same message: Please call or email President Bush and other officials today and urge them to help us before it’s too late.

Time is running out for these animals. Every hour that passes means more pets, locked behind closed doors in the disaster zone, will die of starvation. Our teams are working as hard as they can to reach as many pets as they can - and as we reported to you on Wednesday, we’ve rescued thousands. But there are thousands more.

At this 11th hour, when so many lives are at stake, we are asking you to help. I urge you to contact these government officials today and ask them to help rescue animals before it is too late. Please send an email to President Bush and other federal and state officials who have the power to order National Guardsmen and other responders to assist with food drops, help supply our own operations, and do whatever else it takes to save animals.

One of our rescuers said it best: “We should not have to rely on the compassionate instincts of individual Guardsmen to rescue these animals. We need the full commitment of the government.”

Members of Congress have also been calling on President Bush and the federal agencies to actively assist with direct animal rescue. With most of the human victims of the catastrophe removed from the city, it’s not too late to save animals’ lives. It’s time for the government to recognize the incredible bond between people and their pets, and step in to help.

Thank you so much for your support of our disaster teams, and for all you do for animals.


Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

It's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but when we have a president who regards human life as expendable- so long as it doesn't give him campaign contributions, anyway- and a disaster response that can best be described with the term "fubar," we really need to pick our battles. Asking Bush to attend to the needs of animals in the midst of this kind of human catastrophe is akin to trying to get a four-year-old to stop and wait at a crosswalk and then yelling, "Look! Over there! A kitty-cat and a man giving away chocolate!" I love animals, but can we all focus here just a little?

And with Rita preparing to finish what Katrina started, I think we're going to need all the goddamn focus we can get.


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