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Tag: disaster

Three puppies lift spirits of rescuers

avalanche pups

The rescue of three puppies who’d been buried for five days under a deadly avalanche provided a glimmer of comfort during the continuing rescue effort in central Italy.

Firefighters on Monday pulled the white Maremma sheepdogs from the wreckage of Hotel Rigopiano in the Pescara province, where 23 people have been found dead.

Nine survivors have been found and six people remain missing.

The puppies had been born in December to the hotel’s resident dogs, Lupo and Nuvola (Wolf and Cloud), who had escaped the quake and found shelter in the nearby village of Farindola, according to a report in The Local.

The births had been prominently featured on the resort’s website.

The discovery lifted spirits of the rescue teams as they searched for more survivors.

The one-month-old pups were found in an isolated part of the resort, which was slammed by a series of powerful earthquakes and avalanche Jan. 18.

“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, a member of the Forestry Corps. “In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. Then we expanded the hole and we pulled them out.”

After their rescue and medical checks, the puppies were reunited with their parents in Farindola, where one of the hotel employees had taken them in.

(Photo by Marisa Basilavecchia / AP)

Woman and dog rescued as car goes under

A woman and her dog were pulled from their car Saturday, seconds after it disappeared under rising floodwaters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The car was about two-thirds submerged when some men on a boat pulled up, with video camera rolling.

She can be heard asking for help as the convertible sinks beneath the water.

“Oh my God, I’m drowning,” she says.

The men tried first to break a window as the Miata sank, then managed to pierce the convertible top and rip it open enough to pull the woman out just after the car submerged, according to the video that aired on WAFB

Immediately upon surfacing, the woman told the man who pulled her out to get her dog.

“Get my dog. Get my dog. Get my (expletive) dog.”

When he hesitated, she dove under the water.

“I’ll go down,” the woman said before diving and bobbing quickly back up, empty handed.

“I can’t get your dog,” the man in the water says after reaching under the water and into the car several times.

As he dives under one more time, one of the men on the boat says, “Maybe she’s gone.”

“No, she better not be,” says the woman.

Just then, the man in the water pops back up, with the dog in his arms.

“I got your dog.”

All three swam to the safety of the boat.

KHOU reported that the boat was being used to give a reporter a tour of the areas affected by the flooding, and that it was shot by WAFB reporter Robbie Reynold.

The man who jumped into the water and pulled the woman and dog from the car was identified as David Phung.

Out from the tornado debris, it’s Bowsie!

Standing amid the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, Barbara Garcia was being interviewed by a TV reporter when the dog she thought she lost to a tornado stuck his nose out from under the flattened remains of her home.

Garcia was recounting sitting in her bathroom with her dog in her lap when the twister hit, and how, just minutes later, she was picking herself up out of the debris.

“[The house] was there, and it was gone…. I had some stuff on top of me and I started wigglin’.”

Her injuries weren’t too severe, but her dog was gone.

“I hollered for my little dog, and, he didn’t answer. He didn’t come,” Garcia told KWTV News 9 reporter Anna Werner.

“So, I know he’s in here somewhere,” she added, pointing to the pile of debris, and not sounding optimistic about his survival.

About then the reporter spotted the dog’s head sticking out of the rubble.

“The dog! The dog! The dog! Hi, puppy!” Werner said as she stooped down to pet Bowsie, a Scottish Terrier.

“Oh, Oh, Bowsie. Oh, Bowsie, bless your little bitty heart,” Garcia said as she and the reporter pulled some crumpled metal off the dog, allowing him to wiggle his way out of the debris.

“Well, I thought that God had just answered one prayer, to let me be OK,” Garcia said. “But he answered both of them.”

Swept away, rescued, and now reunited

That dog we showed you Saturday — the one who was rescued from atop the rubble of a home after being swept more than a mile out to sea by the tsunami in Japan?

Today she was reunited with her owner.

The reunion took place at an animal shelter in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, where the dog, named Ban, was returned to an overjoyed owner, three weeks after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

Ban, a two-year-old mixed breed, was plucked off the wreckage of a house drifting in the sea Friday by a Japanese helicopter rescue crew. You can see that video here. Apparently, she spent more than three weeks adrift.

The dog’s owner, whose name was not made public, saw the rescue on television and rushed to claim her pet, according to both Voice of America and the Associated Press.

Thousands of people and countless pets are still missing three weeks after the disaster, which left more than 12,000 people dead.

Evacuating Japan: Will pets be left behind?

Will families of American military personnel in Japan be forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuate?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is seeking the anwer to that question.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the non-profit organization asks for a clarification of the U.S. government’s policy on whether or not military families can bring their pets with them — or must be forced to choose between staying in harm’s way and abandoning a beloved companion.

Family members of military personnel stationed in Japan began evacuating today amid the increasing threat of radioactivity in the wake of last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

ALDF says it has received desperate emails from some of them, who say they’ve been informed pets will not be allowed on evacuation planes chartered by the U.S. Department of State.

“In a context of terrifying natural and nuclear disasters, with military personnel and their families already being separated from each other, we would hope that the U.S. government would not place an additional burden on military families by disregarding the very real bonds they have with their animal companions” said Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.

“It is our hope that the tragedy of people forced to abandon beloved pets in order to evacuate to safety, which we saw play out on a heartbreaking scale during Hurricane Katrina, is not replicated during the current crisis in Japan.”

ALDF says it has heard from numerous families who say they are hesitant to evacuate from the escalating radiation danger if they are required to leave their pets behind.

Some families have turned to Facebook for help, including Mariaelena Rodriguez Geoffray, shown above with her dog, Bella. Seeking a commercial flight, she has been told by two airlines that temperatures are too cold to fly a pet.

Her dilemma is recounted on the blog Two Little Cavaliers.

There are about 43,000 dependents of American military personnel living in Japan.

Tsunami rescue dogs delayed by red tape

Dozens of search and rescue dogs from around the world are arriving in Japan to help find survivors of the tsunami — but some of the teams have been delayed from getting to the quake zone by the country’s stringent customs regulations on importing animals.

“There are many rules here. So it’s taking a long time,” a member of the Swiss team told ABC News.com in the customs area of Narita International Airport, just after an aftershock rolled through the airport.

The 25-member Swiss team, among the first to arrive, said bureaucratic delays kept them and their nine search and rescue dogs — retrievers, Australian collies and border collies — from arriving at the quake zone quickly.

U.S. officials said they are working with the Japanese to expedite approval of dog teams from Virginia and California who arrived in Japan today. About 150 American rescuers and their 12 dogs were sent from Los Angeles and Fairfax County, Virginia.

(That’s one of the Fairfax team’s  canine members above, just prior to departing yesterday.)

As of Monday, 91 countries and nine international organizations have offered to assist with relief efforts from last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, according to the Japanese government.

(Photo: Courtesy of Fairfax County)

St. Bernard: The imperishable parish

If you don’t think dogs are being hurt by the BP oil spill, perhaps you need a lesson in the trickle down – or, in this case, ooze down – theory of disaster economics.

And there may be no better place to learn it than St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, a community that was struggling to survive to begin with, left underwater by Hurricane Katrina and, with more than half of its families owing their incomes to fishing, is now feeling the rippling ramifications of the oil spill.

They evacuated during the hurricane, came back and have been rebuilding ever since. Now, the oil rig explosion and subsequent contamination of the gulf means a loss of work and more sacrificing.

Right down to the family dog.

This one statistic pretty much sums it up: The St. Bernard Parish animal shelter took in 60 dogs in May 2009; this May it saw 288 come in, many of them surrendered by owners who, having at least temporarily lost their livelihoods to the oil spill, said they could no longer afford to provide care for their dogs.

That sad-eyed girl above, named Abby, arrived at the shelter a week ago, surrendered by a family that subsisted on harvesting seafood from the gulf – only a few pockets of which are still open to shrimping, crabbing, and oyster harvesting.

While some fisherman have turned to working on the cleanup, “they’re not making nowhere near what they were making before,” said Shannon Asevedo, a St. Bernard Parish animal control officer.

Another occupant of the shelter, Sasha, was owned by a BP employee who turned her over to his mother-in-law because he was being called upon to travel so much. When Sasha had ten pups last month, it was more than she could handle. Now all 11 are at the shelter, where the BP employee’s ex-wife works as a volunteer – partly so she can see her former dog. Due to financial and legal problems, she’s unable to care for Sasha as well.

“Our intakes have probably doubled if not tripled since the oil spill,” Asevedo said. “They may not all be related to it. Most people just say they can’t afford to take care of them anymore. It’s a shame. More are here because their parents can’t take care of them. At the same time, adoption rates are down, too. So where do they go?”

St. Bernard Parish Animal Services Director Beth Brewster says the shelter attempts to place all dogs in adoptive homes, ships some to rescue groups and tries to put down only those deemed aggressive.

Interestingly, the shelter sees a large number of large dogs and pit bulls. Families returning to rebuild after Katrina often bought large dogs and left them at their homes at night to protect against the theft of construction materials.

Brewster, in the job for two years now, said the parish’s previous shelter, with a capacity of 26 dogs, “was a dump.” The parish opened its new facility this January, with financial help from the Humane Society of the United States and FEMA.

The old shelter had reopened shortly after Katrina, but went nearly two years without electricity or running water. It strung together hoses to bring in water, and used extension cords to supply electricity. It, unlike the new facility, had no air conditioning, which took a toll on dogs and humans alike.

The shelter was so shoddy that the shelter bought an old school bus and would load it with adoptable dogs, parking in front of the Home Depot and trying to find them homes.

Now they have a gleaming new shelter, and a new air-conditioned mobile unit. But they also have more dogs than even their new and expanded capacity can handle, with more and more dogs being surrendered for economic reasons.

“This is not a wealthy community to begin with,” Brewster said. “Most of these people grew up on the water and more than half make their living on it.”

Recognizing the parish’s problems, the Humane Society of the United States has sent a shipment of dog food to the area, to be distributed to pet owners facing hardships associated with the gulf oil spill. The food is also being distributed in Plaquemines Parish.

“The Humane Society of the United States was saddened to hear that animals inland from the shoreline are also suffering from this disaster,” said Julia Breaux, the organization’s Louisiana director.

St. Bernard Parish, as you’ve probably guessed, is not named after the dog breed, but after the actual saint — Saint Bernard, who devoted himself to the conversion of the people of the Alps and is known as the patron saint of mountaineering.

But the determined people of the parish may have more in common with the dog breed, which is named after St. Bernard’s Pass in the Alps (which is named after the Saint). The dogs were brought to a famous hospice there in the 1600s, where they developed their reputation for mountain rescues and where, it is said, rugged and adverse conditions honed their strong instinct for survival.