Guest Blog by Betsy Dribben, ASPCA Vice President of Federal Affairs.Betsy Dribben is an attorney who has worked as a staff member in both the U.S. House and Senate. She currently lobbies Capitol Hill on federal issues for the ASPCA.
At recent hearings of public witnesses held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies focused on a wide range of proposed federal budget cuts and how deep they would go. At first, the room was a sea of dark suits—until Ms. Madeleine Pickens, a petite woman with long blonde hair dressed in country and western style garb, along with her supporters in Native American dress, plunged into the buttoned-down crowd. Madeleine Pickens, head of Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation,brought passion to her testimony, which was not so much on budget cuts as it was an articulate expression of her frustration with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Pickens has proposed a plan to work with the U.S. government to move herds of wild horses to her Nevada acreage for ecotourism purposes. However, the BLM’s negotiations with her have yielded no results in favor of saving wild horses and burros.
Along with her were two wounded warriors, their service dogs by their side. Ms. Pickens referred to those who had come before her asking for funding for historical monuments. “How have these national living symbols of American history [the horses] been devalued as less deserving than a National Historic Stone Monument?” she asked Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID), Ranking Member Jim Moran (D-VA) and others. She warned that the cost of confining wild horses is “out of control” and that the BLM’s current program of roundups and holding pens was “not sustainable.” Then, in a dramatic gesture, she pointed to the large packing cartons she’d brought along: “These are some 72,000 emails from the public stating how horrified they are about what BLM is doing.”
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) politely but firmly took on Pickens as she finished her comments. “You are very reverent about horses,” she said, “but there are so many horses destroying grass resources needed by other species like elk. Those horses are feral to this land. They tamp the land down with their solid hooves. And when it rains, that tamped down soil causes water to run off.”
If she was expecting a soft-spoken response from Ms. Pickens, she got just the opposite. “All this stuff about desecrating the land, where does it come from?” Pickens firmly inquired. It was clear from her statement and body language that she was not buying Rep. Lummis’ argument.
With very little time left before the Subcommittee had to leave the hearing, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) weighed in. In a strong voice, he warned “These horse roundups and holdings are costing the U.S. government tons of money. In early years it was $20 million, and now it’s up to $70 million. Ms. Pickens has had an idea on the table for three years, and no one at the BLM wanted to listen.”
He also weighed in on Rep. Lummis’ comments: “As Ms. Pickens said, ‘to say that the horses are doing damage to the ecosystem stretches credulity.’”
At the request of local authorities and animal welfare groups, the ASPCA has deployed responders to Faulkner County, Arkansas; Franklin County, Kentucky; Pemiscot County, Missouri; and Shelby County, Tennessee, to organize temporary shelters and transport emergency supplies provided by PetSmart Charities. The ASPCA has helped more than 200 animals over the last two days.
“A natural disaster can produce immediate suffering, and we’re pleased to be in a position to provide relief and ensure that any displaced animals receive appropriate care,” says Tim Rickey, ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response.
Many weather reports are predicting an above-average risk of flooding in the Southeast and Midwest over the coming weeks. Your best move is to develop an emergency plan that accounts for the safety of your pets. Here’s how:
Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible and that it includes: 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number.
Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind.
Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food, medications and pet first aid supplies.
"The best thing you can do for yourself and your pet in the event of an emergency is to be prepared," says Rickey. “It’s also crucial that residents plan to take pets with them when evacuating. If it’s not safe for you to stay behind, it’s not safe for your pets.”
Stay tuned to ASPCA.org for more news about the FIR Team’s rescue work.
Sirens blared, thunder crashed and a state of emergency was declared following a series of tornados that tore through the state of Missouri. Due to severe flooding, many people were displaced from their homes—and so were hundreds of companion animals.
In response to the disaster, the ASPCA dispatched its Field Investigations and Response Team to assist the Caruthersville Humane Society, the city of Caruthersville and the county of Pemiscot with the emergency rescue and sheltering of displaced pets. So far, nearly 40 animals have been taken to the Caruthersville Humane Society, where they are being triaged, housed and reunited with their pet parents.
“We realize the stress of having to evacuate your home and leave your pet behind,” says Kyle Held, ASPCA Midwest Director of Field Investigations and Response. “We’re pleased to be able to offer our assistance to the Caruthersville Humane Society in caring for and reuniting local residents with their companions.”
The ASPCA's custom-built Animal Rescue Transport Trailer is currently en route to Caruthersville, bringing much-needed supplies for responders who are searching for animal victims.
“Staff and volunteers from the local shelter have been working around the clock,” reports Held, “and the ASPCA will continue to provide emergency supplies and support to the surrounding communities as long as we’re needed.”
Residents who wish to report lost pets or request rescue: Please contact the Caruthersville Humane Society at (573) 333-0100, or visit 500 E. Industrial Drive in Caruthersville, Missouri.
The ASPCA’s 2010 Kid of the Year kid has done it again! Eleven-year-old artist and author Olivia Bouler is on a new mission to help animals—and the ASPCA. Last year, Olivia raised thousands of dollars for the animals affected by the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf. She sent watercolor bird illustrations to those who donated to the Audubon Society in honor of the birds harmed by the spill.
In a new partnership with the company ArtStamps, Olivia is using her artistic talents to help animals once again. An imprint of her latest design of her pets, Quinn, and Clara, or any of her other art gallery images, are now available on more than 500 products offered by ArtStamps. And 25% of all sales from Olivia’s gallery will be donated to the ASPCA!
Get Involved! What do you love to do? Just like Olivia, you can use your favorite activities to help raise life-saving funds for homeless animals. Visit our Get Involved section for more ways you can make a difference!
A BIG thumbs down to Kage Games for its recent launch of a mobile dog fighting game called Dog Wars. The free smartphone app has caused outrage among animal lovers—and for good reason. Players actually feed, train and fight virtual dogs. They can even inject their dogs with steroids, bet virtual money and use a gun to fight the cops during a bust.
Dr. Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects notes, “Anything that in any way appears to promote or condone the serious, violent crime of dog fighting is cause for concern. This ‘game’ comes at a time when public outrage and law enforcement concern about dog fighting is at an all-time high, and the public should make this outrage known to those who promote it."
Dog fighting is not a game—and it is certainly no fun for the animals involved. Fighting dogs are often forced to spend their entire lives tethered to short, heavy chains. They receive inadequate care, little socialization and often go for days without access to quality food or clean water. During fights, many die of blood loss, shock and exhaustion. Others, those who are no longer deemed valuable, are simply killed.
Take Action! Dog fighting is a felony across all 50 states. Please visit our Blood Sports section to learn more about the cruelties associated with this barbaric “sport.” And ask your friends to boycott mobile apps like Dog Wars!