A recent CNN report raises questions about Operation Baghdad Pups, and the charity that oversees the program, SPCA International.
CNN, whose sister network presented a positive and heartwarming portrayal of the program last year, found that SPCA International spent nearly all $27 million it received in donations to raise more money through a direct mail company.
The report also said SPCA International “misrepresented” Baghdad Pups on its tax filings, and that it hired an officer for that program with a “questionable background.”
Two immediate thoughts:
One, in an ideal world, which of course we’re not in, it would have been nice of CNN, or even its less probing sister network, HLN, to do its digging before tugging at our heartstrings to the extent we cough up money.
Two, with animal charities becoming big business, where should the line be drawn when it comes to how much of the money they rake in actually goes to helping animals?
A charity needs to spend money to raise money, of course, but Bob Ottenhoff, president of the charity watchdog group GuideStar, told CNN that the SPCA International’s tax records raise “a number of red flags.”
“No. 1, there is an enormous amount of money going into fund-raising,” Ottenhoff said. “It’s not unusual for a nonprofit to fund-raise. In fact they need to fund-raise. But this organization has an enormous amount of fund-raising costs, certainly relative to the amount of money being spent.”
Of the $14 million raised in 2010, SPCA International reported it spent about $60,000, less than 0.5%, on cash grants to animal shelters across the United States. About $450,000 — about 3% of the total raised in 2010 — went to bring back animals from Iraq and Afghanistan as part of its “Baghdad Pups” program.
The CNN report seems to make much of the fact that most of those animals weren’t actual members of the armed services — but, from our coverage of the organization, it never seemed to making the claim that they were.
Baghdad Pups is a program that “helps U.S. troops safely transport home the companion animals they befriend in the war zone,” it states on the website.
As CNN put it, “the charity admitted that only 26 of the nearly 500 animals transported to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan were actually service animals. The rest were stray animals … And those 26 service animals were not attached to military K-9 units but belonged to Reed Inc., a private contractor that built roads in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
While dogs abandoned by contracting companies have been a concern of the program, stray animals, as I understood it, were what the program was all about — seeing that, in cases where they bonded with soldiers, they had a chance to come home with them.
While the CNN report may have been barking up the wrong tree in that regard, it was on the money in other ways — namely, in looking at what happens to the money.
SPCA International funneled nearly all the donations to Quadriga Art, one of the world’s largest direct-mail providers to charities and nonprofits. The payments to Quadriga Art and its affiliated company, Brickmill Marketing Services, were for publicizing the organization and helping it raise more funds.
It is the same company hired by two veterans charities that spent tens of millions of dollars for its services, triggering a Senate investigation last month. One of the charities,Washington-based Disabled Veterans National Foundation, collected nearly $56 million in donations over the past three years yet paid Quadriga Art more than $60 million in fees, raising questions about whether it should retain its tax-exempt status.
SPCA International is still $8 million in debt to Quadriga Art, according to a spokeswoman for the direct-mail firm.
Lat week’s CNN report also brought up previous problems Operation Baghdad spokeswoman Terri Crisp encountered while working on behalf of animals.
Crisp, who appeared on CNN’s sister network, HLN, last year with two dogs rescued from Iraq, is the former head of a California-based animal rescue charity called Noah’s Wish. It took in $8 million in contributions to support its work “rescuing and caring for the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina.” An investigation by the California attorney general was looking into whether that money was being used for that purpose when a settlement was reached in 2007.
Crisp, while not admitting to any wrongdoing, agreed to return $4 million in donations, and to not ”serve as an officer, director or trustee or in any position having the duties or responsibilities of an officer, director or trustee, with any non-profit organization” for five years.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: afghanistan, animal welfare, animals, armed service, baghdad, bringing, charities, cnn, contractors, direct mail, dogs, finances, fund raising, fundraising, guide star, hln, home, investigation, iraq, K-9, k9, noahs wish, non profits, nonprofits, operation baghdad pups, organizations, pets, pups, quadriga art, reed inc, rehoming, report, rescue, saving, shelter, soldiers, spca international, stray, strays, terri crisp, troops
After nine months apart, a Great Dane named Emmitt Thunderpaws recently welcomed his human back home from military deployment.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: deployment, emmit thunderpaws, great dane, return, returning, reunion, soldier, troops, video, welcome, welcome home
Another dog befriended by U.S. troops in Afghanistan has made it to America.
Oso was rescued as a four-month-old pup from the streets of Afghanistan five months ago by Phil Bourillion, of the 5th Stryker Brigade, then went on to befriend his entire unit.
The dog arrived at Sea-Tac Airport late Tuesday morning, where she was met by Bourillion’s wife, Lena, KOMO in Seattle reported.
“She means a lot,” Spc. David LaForge, who is with Bourillon’s unit but home this week on R&R, said of the dog. “She was a big boost of morale when we had her – she was a little puppy – we raised her from nothing.”
When the unit got orders to transfer to another base, plans to bring Oso along were nixed by the Army.
That’s when Lena Bourillion began the long process of trying to get the dog out on her own.
Members of the unit paid a driver to sneak Oso through enemy lines to Kabul. Once Oso was there, Lena, with the help of family and friends, found someone who would get Oso into Pakistan. From there, Oso was placed on a flight to New York and another to Seattle.
Bourillion is due back from Afghanistan in five months.
Oso will spend three weeks in quarantine before going to the Bourillion’s home in Puyallup.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 10th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, afghanistan, america, animals, army, befriended, dog, dogs, home, lena bourillion, oso, pets, phil bourillion, puyallup, rescued, seattle, stryker brigade, troops, u.s., unit, war
Nubs, the one-time Iraqi street mutt — so named by American soldiers for the stubs where his ears used to be — appeared on this morning’s Today Show, along with the Marine major who rescued him.
Nubs befriended Marine Major Brian Dennis and his fellow soldiers while Dennis was on patrol in the Anbar province.
When Dennis was required to report to another location, 70 miles away, he bid his friend farewell and left with little hope that Nub would survive on the war torn streets. Already, the dog had his ears cut off, and had been stabbed in the side with a screwdriver — both, Dennis believes, by Iraqi soldiers.
Two days after Dennis arrived at his new location, Nubs showed up.
Dennis said he was inside headquarters when a fellow Marine came in and said, “You’re not going to believe who’s outside.”
“Who’s outside?” Dennis asked.
“Nubs is outside,” the soldier said.
After a joyful reunion, Dennis was informed that, since the military prohibits keeping dogs in war zones, he had four days to get rid of him. Given the bond they’d established and the dangers Nubs faced, Dennis was hesitant to do that.
Strays in Iraq, Dennis said today, serve as a needed escape for soliders — “an escape from the drudgery and the mundane life and the bad things you see at times.”
Dennis and his friends launched an Internet campaign and raised $5,000 to send Nubs to a friend in the U.S..
In March 2008, about a month after Nubs arrived, Dennis returned from Iraq and was reunited with the dog.
Now the whole story has become a book, “Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, dogs, ears, finds, found, home, internet, iraq, major brian dennis, marines, mutt, nubs, pets, reunited, shipped, soldiers, stray, today show, troops, u.s., war
A stray dog named “Sandbag” who was taken in by British soldiers in Iraq has been transported to a safe house with his puppy in preparation for their flight to the UK.
Soldiers who adopted the dog as their mascot — he was rumored to have been shot five times by then – returned home earlier this year, according to he Daily Mail.
They were worried he would be put down by local Iraqis or killed by other dogs, but the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) tracked down Sandbag, and his puppy, Dirtbag, around the port at Umm Qasr, near Basra, last week.
The dogs were believed to have been living on the streets for about three weeks.
The Mail reports that three armored vehicles were deployed last Thursday to rescue the dogs and transport them to a safe house in Baghdad where they will be cared for while arrangements are made to fly them to the UK.
A fundraising appeal to bring Sandbag home was launched on August 7 by the Blue Cross, a British pet charity, and the SWHP. Nearly 500 people worldwide have donated to the appeal since then.
Rescuers also found a cat the troops had befriended, named Hesco, and planned to ship him to Britain as well once temperatures cool enough to fly the animals safely to Kuwait, and then Britain.
To donate to the fundraising appeal, visit www.bluecross.org.uk.
(Photo: Sandbag, right, relaxes with Dirtbag in Iraq)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 1st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, blue cross, british, dirtbag, dogs, flight, home, iraq, mascot, sandbag, society for the welfare of horses and ponies, troops, uk
Three months after shipping her adopted dog, Ratchet, home from Iraq, Army Specialist Gwen Beberg was reunited with him, her tour of duty completed.
“Hey, baby. Oh, you got so big — Oh, you got so big,” said the soldier to the pup. “Yeah, who’s home? Who’s home, huh?”
The two were reunited Saturday as Beberg returned to Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Friends, family and supporters gathered at VFW Post 363 to witness the reunion. “I wish every soldier in the world, past, present and future, came home to a welcome like this,” Beberg said.
Beberg urged support for Operation Baghdad Pups, a branch of SPCA International that rescues dogs and cats adopted by U.S. military personnel. More than 50 pets have been relocated to the United States.
Beberg adopted Ratchet as a month-old pup after fellow soldiers rescued him from a burning pile of trash.
Although the Army balked at Beberg’s plan to send the dog home, Beberg’s efforts, and those of Operation Baghdad Pups — along with 70,000 signatures on online petitions and some help from congress — led military officials to loosen the prohibition on U.S. troops adopting pets in Iraq.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adopted, army, beberg, dogs, gwen beberg, home, homecoming, iraq, military, minnesota, operation baghdad pups, ratchet, reunion, reunite, troops, video, war
Scheduled to be flown home to Sgt. Gwen Beberg’s parents in Minneapolis, Ratchet was confiscated by U.S. military officials on his way to the Baghdad Airport for no apparent reason, according to SPCA International, which operates the program.
The SPCA International initiative was created to provide medical care, clearance and transport home to animals U.S. soldiers have come to love and care for during deployment in the Middle East.
On Wednesday Operation Baghdad Pups Program Manger, Terri Crisp, returned to the United States Wednesday with 15 more U.S. soldiers’ pets. But the happy occasion was marred by news that Ratchet was left behind.
At least 5 other soldiers are facing situations similar to Sgt. Beberg’s as the military cracks down on animal friendships they consider to be harmful, SPCA International says.
“There comes a point when Americans must ask, whose side is the military on? The way the military is blatantly disregarding free therapy for our mentally wounded soldiers begs that question today,” said Crisp.
Sgt. Beberg’s mother, Patricia Beberg, was saddened by the news as well. The sergeant has been in Iraq 15 months past her original return date.
“It has been a year of disappointments, loneliness, and fear because of all the sacrifices the army has required of Gwen. Ratchet was the savior of her sanity. I don’t know how my daughter will cope. Ratchet has been her lifeline,” explains Sgt. Beberg’s mother.
“Hundreds of U.S. soldiers in the Middle East befriend animals in the war zone to help themselves cope with the hardship and terror they face every day. These dogs and cats become their lifeline – saving them from deep depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” SPCA International said in a press release.
“The military refuses to help or formally recognize the lifeline these animals give to our mentally wounded. Veterans returned from Iraq are committing suicide at twice the rate of average Americans. It is time that Americans ask the Veterans Administration and the military to embrace all measures to ensure the mental health of every one of our soldiers returning from war. Operation Baghdad Pups’ dogs and cats can help fight this silent killer.”
So far, more than 1,200 have signed an online petition for the military to release Ratchet.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 10th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, army, government, gwen beberg, iraq, operation badhdad pups, pets, ratchet, rescue, soldiers, spca international, troops, war