At least one comparison to Katrina is true

So nice of you to finally make an appearance in San Diego on Day # 5, George.

If I remember correctly, wasn't it Day 4 or 5 before you showed up in New Orleans?

Or rather over New Orleans?

I can't wait to see how much Federal disaster relief is going to help illegal, undocumented workers from Mexico and not to the people of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish who are still living in toxic FEMA trailers and gutted houses.

Does The Road Home ring a bell with you?

Have a nice day.

Update on San Diego Wild Animal Park

Of the over 3,500 animals that reside at the Park, two animals (a clapper rail and a kiang) were lost due to complications from the fire. More than 600 acres of Wild Animal Park property were burned. These were open buffer zone areas and not exhibit or public access space.

The California condors and other endangered bird species, as well as other animals that had been relocated to the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center’s fire-safe area, have been returned to their home habitats.

Although trees suffered from wind damage, and wildfires scorched several perimeter areas of the Park, animals remain safe and secure within their expansive 60- to 80-acre habitats. These habitats are heavily irrigated and contain no flammable material, creating a safe zone for many species.

The animals remain safe, secure, and have weathered the firestorm well. The Wild Animal Park did lose one of the empty condor breeding facilities to the fire as well as a storage facility containing Festival of Lights event materials. Winds have damaged trees throughout the Park, but again the animals and exhibits have weathered the storm. A core group of employees is on hand to care for the wildlife. Other employees and some contractors are currently assisting with clean up and restoration efforts. As an energy conservation measure, the Wild Animal Park has voluntarily removed itself from the SDG&E power grid and is operating on generators.

Many people have asked how they can help the Wild Animal Park restore habitats affected by the Witch Creek fires.

Situated in the San Pasqual Valley, the Wild Animal Park is no stranger to the threat of fires. Over the past years, we have been actively working to minimize these threats through a Greening Campaign. This campaign has enabled us to create hundreds of acres of nutrient dense, eco-irrigated land that functioned as a natural safety blanket for our animals during the recent fires. Although we have already converted much of the Wild Animal Park’s dry, arid, fire-prone land into environmental sustainable landscapes, at a size of 1,700 square acres, the Park needs further help. Your contribution today to our Greening Campaign will allow us to continue our greening efforts at the Wild Animal Park.

Should you care to make a donation to the Greening Campaign for the Wild Animal Park via personal check please make it out to the Zoological Society of San Diego (or ZSSD for short) and mail to:

Zoological Society of San Diego
Attn: Development- Wild Animal Park Greening
The Zoological Society of San Diego
P.O. Box 120551
San Diego, CA 92112-0551

Animal shelter information for San Diego fire evacuees

The San Diego Humane Society's Animal Rescue Reserve (ARR) team is currently working with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services to evacuate domestic animals and livestock threatened by the Harris and Witch Creek fires with first priority being given to evacuation areas in Rancho Bernardo. Over the last two days, officers, staff and volunteers have evacuated more than 400 animals and are actively assisting more than 1,000 animals at our shelter locations throughout the county. However, experts estimate that between 10,000-15,000 animals have been displaced countywide.

Currently we are not able to assist or escort individuals into burned areas. All resources are active at this time in areas needing immediate evacuation.

If you have animals or livestock that you cannot evacuate yourself or that need to be rescued, call (619) 236-4250 and press "1" for emergency services.

The San Diego Humane Society is asking for donations of the following items:

-Cash donations to support rescue efforts

-Pop-up tents for shade and shelter

-Lead ropes for livestock

-Broodmore halters

Cash donations can be made online at www.sdhumane.org or by calling (619) 299-7012. Items may be brought directly to the San Diego Humane Society campus at 5500 Gaines Street.

Volunteers are not needed at this time, but the San Diego Humane Society is keeping a list of names for people interested in helping.

If you have a stable or other areas that can house a number of large animals and livestock that need to be evacuated, please call the San Diego Humane Society at (619) 299-7012.

Residents that need to evacuate their homes are asked to take all companion animals with them. If possible, place your pet in a crate or carrier and bring any necessary supplies including leashes, food, water, and medications as supplies at evacuation centers may be limited. More tips can be found online at www.sdhumane.org.


The El Cajon Animal Shelter is accepting pets and can still take in domestic animals and small livestock for boarding from pet owners who have been evacuated. The shelter is located at 1275 N. Marshall. For more information, call (619) 441-1580.

Red Cross evacuation centers are accepting pets in carriers. If you do not have or were unable to put your pet in a carrier or need pet supplies, bring your pet to one of the following Red Cross evacuation centers:

El Camino High School
400 Rancho Del Oro Dr.
Oceanside, CA 92057
Space for horses, livestock and small animals
(No People, ONLY Animals)

Fiesta Island

1500 Fiesta Island Rd
San Diego, CA 92109
Accepting 500 owners and animals
Space in Thermal and Indio is available as a back-up site. Call (760) 399-2716 for information.

Fiesta Island Lakeside Rodeo Grounds is currently only available for animals being evacuated by County of San Diego or San Diego Humane Society officers and is not available for public animal drop off.

Qualcomm Stadium
9449 Friars Road
(Small Animals)

Camp Diggity Dog
in San Diego is offering free boarding to any dogs displaced by the fires. For more information.
1835 Imperial Ave
, San Diego

Email: Bark@CampDiggityDogs.com

Note to pet owners: be aware that this is a private, for-profit business making a kind and generous offer to fire victims. If you leave your pet with them or anyone offering free boarding of any kind, please be sure to get something in writing that makes the terms of the arrangement very clear to both parties. If possible, visit and spend time with your pet every day or as often as possible until you can take back your pet. Also, if possible, offer what you can afford to pay for this service and provide your own pet food if you can.

Large Animal Sites:

The following sites are FULL and are no longer accepting animals:

Lakeside Rodeo Grounds - FULL
Del Mar Fairgrounds - FULL

If you have animals or livestock that you cannot evacuate yourself or that need to be rescued, call (619) 236-4250 and press "1" for emergency services.

The Tijuana Valley Equestrian Association is helping to place horses in private ranches in the Tijuana River Valley area. The association has placed 200 horses and has room for more. For information, evacuees with horses can contact John Gabaldon, the chairman of the Tijuana Valley Equestrian Association at (619) 920-1282, and he will provide directions to the location of the corrals.

Rohr Park in Chula Vista has plenty of room for horses. It is a large community ring in Rohr Park, located at the intersection of 4600 block of Sweetwater Road, near Winnetka Dr. They can handle 50-60 horses and have plenty of water. Evacuees with horses can call Dave Braithwaite. 619-203-1640.

San Diego County Animal Services has opened a shelter for large animals located near Gillespie Field, 1960 Joe Crosson Dr. in El Cajon.
Directions: Take East on Hwy 67; exit at Bradley Avenue and turn left; right on Cuyamaca; and left on Weld Blvd. The animal evacuation shelter will be on the right hand side of the road.


Terri Crisp & former Noah's Wish volunteers ready to assist animal rescue from California fires

Terri Crisp founded and served as Executive Director of Noah's Wish, and earlier this year she founded Animal Resources: Providing Disaster Management Solutions. She has rescued more animals from more disasters than any other person, and has provided excellent training to thousands of volunteers all over the U.S. and Canada. She wrote two books about her experiences, Out of Harm's Way in 1997 and Emergency Animal Rescue Stories: One Woman's Dedication to Saving Animals from Disasters in 2002.

Animal Resources, based in Northern California, is ready to respond to the wildfires if and as soon as they are called upon. Fire updates regarding the animals are posted on their website.

Since 1983, Terri has rescued animals from more than 60 disasters including earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, oil spills, tornadoes, and tropical storms.

In 2005 alone, she and Noah's Wish volunteers and coordinators responded to both the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, and then to Hurricane Katrina, where she spent over 2 1/2 months in Slidell, LA.

In spite of later criticism from a few outsiders and disgruntled ( but highly vocal) volunteers (including a veterinarian) who refused to follow established guidelines (and were asked to leave Slidell) during the emotionally-charged weeks and months following Katrina, Noah's Wish had a recovery rate of over 75% and was later commended by the Office of the State Vet of Louisiana for their work in Louisiana.

None of the rescued animals were "lost" from the shelter managed by Terri Crisp in Slidell because Katrina was not a dress rehersal for her and her coordinators.

By contrast, animals were "lost" and stolen from the other emergency shelters set up following Katrina - those operated by the Humane Society of the United States, Muttshack, Pasados, Best Friends, and the independently run Camp Lucky and Winn-Dixie shelters. Some of this was due to lack of established policy and procedures; some due to the lack of experience on the part of those running the shelters; some due to the large-scale chaos and confusion; a lot due to rescuers and volunteers making judgements about the owners of the animals not being worthy of getting them back. Pit bulls were stolen and scammed out of several shelters until fences and guards were put in place.

And a lot was due to volunteers seeing Katrina as an opportunity to go pet shopping.

That recovery rate of over 75% is more than three times the reunion rate claimed by any of the other organizations that rescued animals and established temporary shelters in the Gulf Coast following Katrina.

The recovery rate from a disaster includes not only actual reunions, but the percentage of owners with whom contact was established. Following a disaster of the enormity of Katrina, many people who lost their homes had no choice but to surrender their pets either immediately or later.

Terri Crisp made sure that multiple efforts were made to contact the owners of every animal removed from every residence or street corner. She even established contact with the owners of all 50 cats she agreed to take from the Lamar Dixon shelter, operated by HSUS and reunited most of them.

A few shelters receiving pets from the Gulf Coast also had high recovery rates due to their ongoing commitment and dedication to reuniting pets with their owners. These include The Humane Society of Monterrey Bay in Northern California; Animal Ark of Minnesota, Spindletop Pit Bull Refuge in Texas.


Shame on you Marina Baktis / Mutts and Moms

for your decision to place Iggy in another home rather than return him to the family who loves him. Up to that point, you could have done the right thing, you could have made the decision that was best for Iggy. And in turn, best for yourself and best for other pet rescue organizations.

Mistakes were made all around; Ellen made a mistake in not reading the contract, or possibly ignoring the part that said Iggy needed to be returned to you if things didn’t work out; the lunatics who made death threats against you made horrendous mistakes, and I’m sorry that the crazy “animal lovers” crawled out of their slime-holes and did felt the need to do this. And if you find out who made the death threats, I hope you and your attorney are willing to press charges.

But… regarding the battle over Iggy, you have consistently shown poor judgment and a worrisome lack of compassion, and you made mistakes far greater than any that Ellen made. And you are the one who turned this into something much bigger and uglier than it needed to be.

But in the end, those who lost the most are the most innocent of all – Iggy and the family that loves him.

I don’t know you and I obviously don’t know Ellen but even if this involved someone who was not a celebrity, I would be saying the very same things because the issue at hand is one little dog and two young girls, and to me, it has nothing to do with the celebrity of the original adopter. I have to wonder if you would have behaved the same if a non-celebrity who was a friend or acquaintance of yours adopted Iggy and then gave him to close friends?

Ms. Baktis, aside from the lack of compassion and judgment you have shown, there are some other worrisome issues. Since you state on your (former) website that you are a 501c3 organization, where were the members of your board of directors throughout this fiasco? I find it had to imagine that your board would not have advised you to handle this differently since they are accountable, legally and financially, for your actions. Did not one of the members of your non-profit board of directors advise you to give Iggy back to the family that loves him and perhaps handle this differently?

The overall sense from what I read (articles and opinions on the web taken with several grains of salt as well as what I read on the Mutts and Moms website) is that you seem to be something of a control freak which explains why you felt the need to start up yet another rescue group rather than work with one of the hundreds already established in southern CA.

Your adoption application would eliminate most good dog owners I know including myself.

Your stipulation that all adopters need to make a minimum $250 donation to Mutts & Moms is insane (this required donation is in addition to your adoption fee).

I’m not disparaging the work you have done placing dogs into loving homes, but looking at the “success stories” on your website, most of the dogs were not saved from imminent death as you imply.

Most adoption contracts are not legally binding documents because of the way they are written; some claim that the rescue group always retains "ownership" of an animal even months and years after adoption. Adoption contracts are at best a set of rules, not LAWS. Even if you had an attorney review and approve the contract (which it appears you did not) it does not mean that it would hold up in court.

So while Ellen either didn’t read the contract or read it and didn’t abide by it, at the worst, she broke or bended some rules. She didn’t break any laws. Nothing she did caused any harm to any other person or animal. Yet your actions were unnecessary, selfish, spiteful and mean. You made this into the ugly media battle that it was. And while the death threats against you were ethically, morally and legally wrong, they would not have happened if you had behaved in a kind and humane way from the beginning.

The best animal rescue organizations and shelters include numerous rules and policies in their adoption contracts which give them the right to enforce some or all of them as they choose. I’ve adopted a lot of pets over the years and have never had a home visit though that is in every contact I’ve signed. I’ve also “adopted” pets from shelters (sometimes known as “pulling” an animal in some sort of danger) and like Ellen, also signed a contract stating that I would return the dog to the shelter if I could no longer keep it. But that was the last thing I was going to do which is why those dogs were pulled in the first place.

Now I hate to start this off by saying that “rules are meant to be broken” but I will, not because I believe in anarchy but because we all know that many rules are stupid. Any business owner or boss or teacher can make rules that are often just their own attempt to have some control in the world.

For example (un-related to Iggy or any other animal), there are four restaurants near where I live that all have some version of the following printed on their menus and posted at the register: No credit card purchases under $10 (or $5.00). That is the restaurant’s rule but it is against the law to limit the amount of credit card purchases.

Most rules are created for the greater good of everyone. But not always. Sometimes they're just stupid and petty.

And Mutts & Moms was a small animal rescue organization (that finds homes for dogs pulled from shelters), not the CIA or Homeland Security.

It was only an animal rescue organization, and getting animals into good long-term homes should be the goal and purpose. The goal should not have been the rigid, anal enforcement of your own rigid, self-created rules.

All of this has heightened the growing issue I have with the word “rescue.” I have friends who rescued cats and dogs from flooded houses in New Orleans after Katrina; Terri Crisp and her team of volunteers and coordinators responded to over 60 natural disasters, including the Tsunami and Katrina in the same year. But taking a dog out of a shelter is not rescuing it – it’s already been rescued which is how it ended up in the shelter. In the case of some animal control facilities, you might be saving an animal's life if it is scheduled to be euthanized but the animals you below are rarely the ones euthanized. They are usually the first to be adopted. These are your Happy Tails.

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Dog Starved in the name of ART

This was so unbelievable that when I first heard of it I first had to check to make sure it wasn't another urban myth. Sadly, it is not.

A Costa Rican "artist"named Guillermo Habacuc Vargas used a starved dog (that he paid some kids to bring to him) as a work of art and allowed the dog to die tied up in a corner of the gallery as part of the “exhibition.”
He was chosen to represent Costa Rica in the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008. A petition (in Spanish) has been created to voice support of a boycott of him receiving this honor.

While all of the photos are shocking, the most shocking to me is the one of the gallery-goers schmoozing and sipping drinks a few feet away from the dog. Did the "artist" also prohibit people from offering the dog a small bit of comfort while it lay suffering and dying as he prohibited anyone from offering food and water? Not that the people seen in the photo looked to be particularly interested in or concerned about the dog.

This makes the mind numb and the heart heavy. It's startling that no one tried to rescue or steal this poor dog from the gallery. There are animal rights activists in Central America just as there are everywhere.

While all forms of animal cruelty and neglect are painful to see or hear about, cruelty in the name of art is incomprehensible.

The artist was trying to make a point about the starving street dogs of Central America, but if he had any real imagination - perhaps imagination fueled by compassion - he would have found another way to make his point by expressing himself in a more creative and less cruel way than using a starving street dog in a twisted form of performance art.