I called the Chair of the Katrina Hearings and Guess what happened - No really Guess

This Thursday, September 15, the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee will hold hearings on the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. I asked the committee chair, Rep. Tom Davis, and its ranking minority member, Rep. Henry Waxman, to allow PETA to testify about the plight of animals affected by disasters such as Katrina during their hearings.

They assigned a staff person to take these calls. Her direct line is (202) 225-5074. She said ...the hearings are tomorrow, we already have the witnesses WE want to hear from, ...there will be other hearings and maybe we will have....oh not PETA, [or by implication groups that actually did the animal rescues] but maybe,... oh lets see, ...the USDA.

She didn't say it but PETA is offensive to those big corporate donors like the dairy industry, the mink industry, the meat lobby, the "animal research" labs and the argi-business industry.

No, the politicians do not want to be in the same room with PETA or any animal rights groups. They privately refer to PETA as a terrorist group.

I wonder if the Katrina hearings are just going to be gotcha games or a genuine attempt to solve the problems exposed by this disaster. After all, elected officials and the staff who work for them will never be stranded in water filled with corpses because they are too poor to evacuate. New policy will not benefit them.

No, the politicians are rich and powerful. They will be the first ones out. They will probably have a special escort paid by the taxpayers. And it is doubtful if they bond with anything except their own ambition. So actually solving the problem may not be as much a priority as gotcha games.

If they just reorganize FEMA again we will know that their objective was only to embarrass the other side. Because "where" FEMA is does not matter. The only thing that matters is what FEMA does.

Reorganization just destroys institutional memory. What needs to change is FEMA policy and procedure. And State and Municipal policy and procedure.

But politicians do understand power. And even we can be powerful if we stick together and define our own reality rather than let them define it for us.
If enough of us say animal and owner separation is important it will become important.

Right now we are perceived as foolish by those who let people die rather than pay to evacuate them. They laugh at us while they use our organizations. Why are we talking about animals, they say - why don't we talk about people? But we think it obvious that when we talk about respecting the bond between animals and their caregivers, we are talking about respecting people. We are talking about how we want to be treated and aren't we people?

This is true respect, not the hypocrisy of a governor who talks about treating the dead with "dignity" after she let them rot in the sun for three weeks until they split open (seemingly because she was too cheap to pay a service to pick up the bodies). Who cares if it was up to FEMA-pick up the corpses and argue about it later. These are the people who say we should care more about people.

So don't let yourself be made to feel ashamed of your feelings when they brush you off as having unimportant concerns. Do not let ridicule stop you. They are the ridiculous ones and the results of their incompetence is everywhere in plain view.

Go to the PETA website-they have the e-mail addresses of the Katrina Hearing members.

Email them all to demand that all the groups which actually went into the water, or opened a shelter be allowed to speak to the committee, including PETA. At those hearings, such groups should talk about the cumulative cost to them of FEMA not doing it and the numbers of animals they had to rescue. The cost to already crowded animal shelters. The cost.

Demand that those Katrina survivors who were separated from their animals be allowed to speak to the committee. Under the separation policy, FEMA attempted to separate a blind woman from her guide dog and subsequently she refused to leave her home. That is the result of a stupid policy. I hope someone finds that woman and takes her to the committee. Or the young man who said "I am not leaving without my dog so shoot me" or the child who vomited crying for snowball who was torn from his arms or the old lady who would not leave her cats.
Sept 15th, By the way, the Guard and Military should testify about how much this stupid policy cost them:
(by the way the military was not enthusiastic about this leave the animals order - right now - I have been watching for 40 minutes a fantastic effort by the national guard to rescue a dog, a black lab, who after 3 weeks of starvation is still attempting to guard the home for his owners who may be dead inside - she stands in front of the door growling at those troops attempting to enter - the guard is trying not to kill her but to entice her into her crate which they found in her yard - I love them for this patient effort - THEY GOT HER - THEY PUSHED THE CRATE CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE DOOR UNTIL SHE HAD TO GO IN AND THEY SLAMMED THE DOOR! HURRAY -SHE IS IN THE BOAT GOING TO SHELTER - BLESS YOU GUARDS!!!!! )
Write the politicians reminding them of what you saw and read and how YOU would feel. And just as important, send a copy of that email to your local media, the newspaper, your favorite talk show host, the cable news channels.

I must warn you that simply saying it is illegal to leave animals to die will just make them put a disaster exception in the cruelty laws - we must explain why it is self-defeating.
Tell them:

People would not leave their animals behind so the separation policy hampered efforts to evacuate.

Destroying the bond between animals and their owners delays recovery for survivors.

Abandoned animals contribute to the toxicity of the environment [dead animal bodies, feces].

Wild starving dog packs are dangerous to clean up crews.

Forcing people to abandon their animals costs more money for recovery, sorting, housing, vet services, relocation, and reuniting with owners.

You can add what I forgot... all the time remembering the politicians for the most part do not care about cruelty and the suffering of animals - that is not an argument which will move them.

The point is we need policy changes that our local governments can copy. The state/national guard, the military and FEMA should evacuate people on buses with their animals [starting before the disaster if we have warning] or use FEMA money to let the animal welfare people do it.
They should allow people to stay in shelters where their animals are also housed in crates.
Food, water, buses, crates and animal food should be part of the plan.

We can do this - we can change these policies - it is the sensible thing to do - look at what they did. Anything would be an improvement.

On August 29, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. In addition to the human misery that the storm left in its wake, Katrina left many thousands of animals dead and dying. But
the greater problem has turned out to be state and federal governments
adding to this toll—and causing the slow and agonizing deaths of many
thousands of much-loved dogs, cats, and other animals—through its failure to
allow animal protection agents to rescue animals.

Worse, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) guidelines on animal handling in a disaster were carefully crafted years ago in cooperation with PETA and other animal organizations, our government has evidently thrown them out the window, even going so far as to order citizens to abandon their animals
under threat of arrest—animals who in many cases were considered members of
the family and were all that these people had left.

Telling these exasperated citizens of our country to abandon the animals they care for so deeply is, in fact, illegal.
Chapter 14, Section 102.1(A)(1)(d) of Louisiana's Revised Statutes, for example, states that anyone who abandons an animal is guilty of the crime of cruelty to animals.

Please ask Mayor Nagin to ensure that his beleaguered constitutents are allowed to bring their companion animals along should they be evacuated:
The Honorable Ray NaginMayor of New OrleansSend an e-mail to the Mayor's Office here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical, but as always, the function of the radicals is to force the middle-ground away from the middle

11:28 AM  

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