Dear Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue

I'm writing to you in response to a dog you have available for adoption named Ladybird. This is how you describe her (highlighting is mine):

This VERY SWEET senior beagle girl was rescued from New Orleans (running around in the area of the Convention center) 22 days after Hurricane Katrina struck! She was muddy, dehydrated, nearly starved to death and exhausted. She literally was staggering. Her rescuers immediately connected Ladybird up to IV fluids, then bathed her and gave her a good meal! They were not even sure if she would pull through. She eventually was brought to Houston and our beagle rescue group was contacted to help her find a home when no owner surfaced.

This girl is a survivor! . She had not been well-cared-for in her past so she has required numerous veterinary procedures to restore her to good health, yet she is perky and happy, never blaming humans for her misfortune.

How can you rescue an elderly dog that was forced to be left behind at an evacuation site (Convention Center), survived on her own for 22 days and then claim that she was not cared for in her past?

Here's one of the many things I've learned over the past 10+ months: that dog was probably well cared for, much loved and has been deeply missed by her people ever since they were forced to put her off the bus. They were among the thousands forced to go to the Superdome or Convention Center and among the hundreds who took their pets along. It's ironic that when the buses (finally) arrived, most went to Texas, and most of them to Houston. This poor old dog who was forced to be left on the ground, outside the bus in the garbage dump surrounding the Convention Center is now in Texas - probably in the same city where her owner was taken last September.

And what in the world do you mean by the comment
when no owner surfaced? Do you think that those people who were forced to separate from their pets after three days of hell at the Convention Center - protecting them and finding food & water for them - were in any position to search for them when they arrived in Texas. At the...Astrodome?? Many of those people were separated from human family members for a long time and didn't even know how to find them; let alone their pets.

What did YOU do to try to locate this dog's owner? Did you contact Stealth Volunteers? Did you post a Found report on the AERN database of Petfinder with her photo and complete description? Or did you make the assumption that her owner doesn't deserve her back?

Ladybird probably watched the bus pull away with her people on it, and stayed in the area for 22 days, hoping they would return - they who lost everything in the world.
Why not at least make a real effort to give them their dog back?


Sandra Kos said...

I am the person who wrote this description of Ladybird. This will be a long response but I hope you will not edit it, as your comments were equally lengthy. I have rescued over 600 beagles and hounds in the past 6 years, with the help of many wonderful volunteers. Beagles are running around stray, starving and neglected ALL the time in ALL locations, not just New Orleans. The dogs are always posted on our website as well as on the websites of the animal control facilities, and RARELY does an owner surface. One grateful New Orleans owner DID find his beloved senior beagle on our website and he did drive to Houston to get her the very next day! Ladybird has been on our website for nearly a year now and she WAS posted on the Petfinder search data base as well by the group who found her. Statistics indicate that less than 10% of dogs in animal control facilities are claimed. Ladybird was rescued by a group that was working in New Orleans to rescue dogs and she was held by them for nearly 2 months before she was turned over to Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue after no one claimed her. Ladybird had a severe case of heartworms, had never been spayed and would not have lived much longer with her over-worn and infected uterus being in the condition in which she was found. Her teeth were rotted and disgusting due to lack of care. She was totally unsocialized. Many of the stray beagles that we rescue are anti-social for a short period of time, but Ladybird exhibited a total lack of trust for most people and particularly men.

You know, our organization took in a number of hurricane-related dogs. We were given the names of owners on 3 of them, and tried to reunite all of them. One family had already surrendered their beagle before leaving town in the wake of Hurricane Rita, and the beagle got loose from the holding area and became stray again. The owners were contacted and they didn't want him. We were also given the names and numbers of a family from New Orleans and talked with them several times. They never got back to us regarding the plans for their 2 dogs, despite repeated calls. Those dogs too were heartworm positive, unaltered and not well-cared for in their past. They were presented to the Houston SPCA directly when the owners checked in at the Houston Convention Center, so they DID know where their dogs could be claimed. Houston Beagle Rescue offered to treat the dogs for heartworms at the organization's expense before returning them!

I personally evacuated during the Hurricane Rita storm that came through Houston, taking 8 beagles in my van and sitting on highways for long hours. We were fortunate to be able to do so. However, don't presume that just because people were forced to leave their homes suddenly, that ALL the dogs left behind were previously well-cared-for and missed! And don't presume that every dog in an animal control shelter is being sought by owners, either. Many of them have been dumped there, or dumped elsewhere, or abandoned. Owners have been evicted, jailed, divorced, changed their minds about pet ownership, and so on. Our organization receives DAILY requests to take on someone else's pet, so we KNOW how disposable an animal can be.

The subject of pets left behind is a very emotional issue. I know my husband and I would have stayed in our home with our dogs if we did not have a son in Austin who (reluctantly!) allowed us to stay at his home with all the beagles.

This situation of the New Orleans animals is just ONE sad issue regarding abandoned pets, however. There is another MUCH larger problem in this country, and that is pet over-population and a "disposable" mentality among too many humans, when it comes to pets. If you will walk the aisles of the animal control facilities in any city in the U.S., large or small, urban or rural, you will find that the New Orleans pet situation has a whole additional dimension to it. Visit the national data base, www.Petharbor.com and you will notice that the pitiful faces change approximately every 4 days. They are euthanized so that the next truckload can be brought in.

Your comment to another rescuer, "I personally don't give a rat's ass if you rescued 30 animals or 30,000" is an indication that you don't "understand the big picture." Rescue is hard work, is often heartbreaking, always expensive and seldom appreciated, except of course by the dogs themselves! You obviously visited our website, where you found Ladybird. Did you read the other sad stories of the beagles that we rescue every day? Ladybird is not the only senior beagle on our site.

Sandra Kos

Amanda Cavazos said...

Hello Anita,

While I do truly appreciate your concern for Ladybird, I think you should have asked our group some questions before you accused us of anything.

Here are some FACTS about Ladybird:

- She was a high heartworm positive when rescued. It takes years for a dog to test high positive for heartworms. It was IMPOSSIBLE for Ladybird to have contracted heartworms and have them develop to such a high level in the 22 days after Hurricane Katrina. If you would like me to provide you with scientific articles proving that, I would be more than happy to do so. It costs a mere $5 a month or less to prevent a dog Ladybird's size from contracting heartworms. If Ladybird's previous owners cared about her, they would have had her on heartworm preventative. If they couldn't afford heartworm preventative, then they should not have had a dog. I do not know what area of the country you live in, but in the Gulf Coast states, every responsible pet owner knows about heartworm preventative and every vet tells their clients their dogs need to be on it. If you do not put your dog on heartworm preventative, you are asking for it to contract a deadly disease. If you do not know much about heartworms, I encourage you to research them. Dogs that die of heartworms die a slow, painful death. These dogs are not comfortable and suffer.

- Ladybird was not spayed. She had several signs of being overbred, which besides being seriously detrimental to her health, most likely contributed to the severe pet overpopulation in New Orleans. Ladybird's previous owners put her at a very severe and realistic risk of developing pyometra, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Since she was spayed at such an old age, she will always be at a very high risk of developing mammary tumors. She is not a show quality beagle, she is far from it. There were no genetic lines to carry on or preserve, there is no reason why she shouldn't have been spayed. Please do not try to tell me there is a good reason why she shouldn't have been spayed.

- Ladybird's teeth were in terrible shape and she was in desperate need of a dental cleaning, which she received while being spayed. Yes, a dog's teeth will show more wear and be in need of cleaning as it gets older, however our vet does not believe Ladybird's teeth had ever been cleaned or cared for in any way and did not get in the shape they were in in 22 days.

- Ladybird did not enter our rescue until months after she was rescued from New Orleans. We had no knowledge of her existence before then and we could not have made any efforts to reunite her with her family if we didn't even know about her. However, the other group that had her DID post her on their website as a Katrina dog looking for her family and we posted her on our Petfinder page on December 5, 2005; she entered our rescue only several days prior. If you were able to find her and weren't even searching in particular for a senior female beagle, I'm sure with the help of your group and various other groups you mentioned, her owners could have easily found her by now. We are not hiding Ladybird or the fact that she is a Katrina rescue, that is information anyone of the public has access to.

Our rescue has spent several hundred dollars on vet care for Ladybird in restoring her health. If she would not have been treated for heartworms she would have died. She had a terrible case of hookworms that also could have cost her her life if left untreated. Had her teeth not been cleaned they would have soon reached the point where she would have had a serious infection in her mouth that could have also killed her if it entered her blood stream. After Ladybird entered our rescue, she was rushed to the vet after pooping and vomiting pieces of medical bandages and leashes. Ladybird had never been exposed to medical bandages while in our care, so the only thing we can assume is that these things were still in her system from her days wandering New Orleans when she was searching for food and instead would eat anything she could find. We had x-rays and ultrasounds done to ensure that Ladybird wasn't at any further risk. She had already passed everything out of her body but still required some medications and prescription food for a few months since her body, particularly her intestinal tract, was very irritated from the foreign materials. She still must be kept on a high fiber diet and will need to be on one for the rest of her life. I doubt that her owners, who as you said had just lost everything, would have been able to provide all of that care for her. They had not provided her the essential care needed throughout her life to make sure she was healthy so I doubt they would have spend hundreds of dollars on her for that.

Ladybird did not survive the 22 days outside the Convention Center because she was in such good health prior to that, she survived because she is a fighter and is one of the toughest little dogs you'll ever find. She did not receive proper care and did not have a wonderful life with a family who did everything for her. She was EXTREMELY unsocialized, not just traumatized from what she lived through. She probably had never received a loving touch before in her life. Why would we return her to that situation instead of finding her a wonderful home that will cherish her and get her proper vet care when she needs it?

Perhaps you should have asked what else our group has done to save other dogs affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Ladybird is not the only dog we have helped. We rescued two male beagles who were taken to the Houston SPCA by their owners after they evacuated from the New Orleans area. After the agreed upon holding period, the owners did not even call about the dogs and the Houston SPCA sent them to the Harris County animal shelter. This shelter again contacted the owners who at that point said they still wanted the dogs, however, the shelter would not hold the dogs for them and the shelter called us asking us if we could help. We agreed to take both dogs in and hold them for the owners until they could take them back. Both dogs were unneutered, heartworm positive, and full of intestinal worms.

Again, these dogs did not get this way overnight, there was a pattern of neglect. We took the dogs to the vet, at OUR expense, and had them treated for intestinal worms, neutered, and treated for heartworms which would have otherwise eventually killed them. We paid to have them go to a boarding kennel for two months. We contacted the owner, told him where the dogs were being boarded if he wanted to go visit them, he never went to see them once in the two months they were there. He never called us to find out how the dogs were doing and rarely returned our phone calls when we called him to find out if they had found housing where the dogs could join him. We tried calling him many many times to find out if he still wanted the dogs and Harris County did also. We know we had the right contact information, they owner had personally given Harris County updated phone numbers where he could be reached and messages were left for him with people, not just on machines. Those people all said yes, that was the right number to reach him. He never called back, he abandoned his dogs.

We rescued another male beagle from the Harris County shelter, we affectionately called him Chubby Charley. His family surrendered him to the local shelter prior to Hurricane Rita striking east Texas. They had a few dogs and didn't want to take all of them with them, so they picked one and left the others. Because of the hurricane, he got loose from that shelter, was picked up again, and then transferred to Harris County because that shelter couldn't care for the animals. The owners were contacted and they choose not to come get him.

There was also Babbette. Her family evacuated to Houston BEFORE the hurricane hit New Orleans. They were staying with family in the Houston area. Babbette escaped while she was there. They search the local shelter and never found her. Well, somehow Babbette ended up in the shelter in the neighboring county, her family never thought to look there. We rescued Babbette, a well cared for little girl who had obviously been treated like a princess all her life, never knowing she was linked to New Orleans. We took her in for vaccines and a dental, she was already spayed and heartworm negative. She had a very serious vaccine reaction and needed extensive medical care and surgery to remove the lumps that resulted from the vaccines. A few months later after she had recovered, she was posted for adoption on Petfinder. Her family had been looking for her ALL that time and finally found her! Her owner had returned to New Orleans and his children continued searching online to find his "Nell", our Babbette. They sent us a family picture with "Nell" in it and we knew instantly it was her. Her owner came to Houston to get her the next day and the foster home said the reunion was one of the most emotional things they had ever witnessed.

And we can't forget Stormy, a little male beagle rescued from the Galveston County animal shelter the day of mandatory evacuations from Hurricane Rita. I had to go the OPPOSITE direction of the evacuations to go get him. His family had surrendered him there because they didn't want to take him with them. The shelter was only able to evacuate a small portion of the animals and was forced to euthanize the others that rescues couldn't take because they didn't want them to suffer the same fate of many of the animals in New Orleans. I took Stormy with me when I evacuated to Austin along with two other beagles and a cat.

On your website you state that your group feels all owners should have been given until December 31, 2005 to claim their animals and then those animals not reclaimed could then be adopted out, beginning January 1, 2006. Well, January 1, 2006, has come and gone and we have not received a single phone call or e-mail from ANYONE who believes Ladybird is their dog or from anyone who heard of a missing dog that matches her description. The sad truth is, nobody is looking for Ladybird, nobody felt bad about leaving her behind because nobody ever cared for her.

The important thing is that Ladybird is now being loved and cared for until a wonderful family comes along to adopt her and take care of her like her previous family never did. Her foster parents love her dearly, her foster dad cries anytime someone even THINKS about adopting Ladybird because he loves her so much. Her foster mom holds Ladybird in her arms and tells her she loves her. The foster family takes her on daily walks, she takes naps on the couch.

And you think we should return her to a life where she was obviously banished outside with little human contact, overbred, contracted heartworms and had teeth that were all about to fall out????? We definitely have different opinions about what "well cared for" and "much loved" mean. I feel terrible for any other dogs that you have helped return to conditions like the ones Ladybird lived in prior to Hurricane Katrina. We would have wanted to rescue Ladybird before the hurricane ever hit if we had known about her. As strange as it seems, Hurricane Katrina probably actually saved Ladybird's life. Imagine that.

Amanda Cavazos
Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue

Sandra Kos said...

Just wondering why you have not yet posted the comments from the three Houston Beagle Rescue volunteers?????

Lise Niemeyer McComiskey said...

I think of all the arguments made in the past year as to why a Katrina pet should or should not be given back to it's pre-Katrina family, yours is the one that manages to cut through all the egos, agendas, hostilities and
verbal sparring and instead manages to just create a picture in the readers mind of the nightmare that each pet's family faced, the disbelief each pet faced as they were forced to watch them go.....I can't imagine and as a resident of this city who has rescued from the start, I know it all to well, and yet, I can't imagine......

Lise McComiskey
New Orleans LA

Sandra Kos said...

Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue volunteers have replied several times to this post, but Anita has not published ANY of it.