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AKC ON-SCENE at KATRINA

 

Dateline Friday Sept. 9, 2005 - Our appreciation to Niki Marshall who told us AKC has been coordinating rescue efforts on site since Wednesday the 7th, moving from one stricken city to the next.  There couldn’t be more qualified, in-tune people there than Jason Miller, AKC’s Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) and Steve Robinson, head of AKC Compliance, (formerly known as Inspections and Investigation, I & I).  More to the point, Steve is a dog man (Chows) and a retired State Trooper.  Both men are tops in a crisis situation and that’s what they have on their hands throughout the Gulf Coast states!

 

Niki said AKC and all the Kennel Clubs and rescue groups are coordinating with Louisiana State University (LSU) Veterinary School, the American Veterinary Medical Assoc., the Houston KC, and FAKC (Florida Assoc. of KC) as well as AKC Delegates.   Niki wasn’t sure how funds were being dispersed but said “We’ve collected about $150,000 and 100% of those proceeds, there are no administrative costs, will go to the Katrina animals in need.   CAR’s Canine Support and Relief Fund - Katrina, all goes to Katrina rescue.” 

 

She explained “The AKC’s CAR has a general fund that provides resources and support to non-profit animal shelters and other organizations that need help as a result of natural or other disasters.  That is a permanent fund but all the money that we’re bringing in right now is going to Katrina.”

 

Asked why AKC is invisible on news coverage and HSUS and others are all over the place, Niki said “There are a lot of great organizations out there doing similar work and Thursday a lot of us were on the CBS Morning Show.”  She isn’t sure why AKC isn’t getting its share of press coverage, thinks perhaps it is because AKC is doing the relief effort, getting crates and supplies there, and too busy to seek publicity.

 

We reached Steve Robinson on the road, moving from one coordination point to another. 

 

TDP:  Steve, can you tell us what’s happening down there right now?

 

SR:  “We’ve been to several shelters, Monroe LA, Jackson MS, Louisiana State, Baton Rouge, and now we are on our way to the Lamar Dixon Animal Shelter.  This is the one where they bring a lot of dogs direct from the major impact areas.  You’ve got professional people in there.  We’ve just left Louisiana State where they’ve got about a thousand animals housed.  They have veterinarians from all over country in there.” 

 

TDP:  We’ve been asked if anyone has addressed putting those dogs out of their misery, those that are stranded, cannot be rescued, and are beyond hope but still suffering?  The ones on rooftops and baking on top of cars?

 

SR:  “That’s something we wouldn’t have access to, there is no way we could get within 25 miles of that area.” 

 

TDP:  But we’re seeing it, the TV crews are in there.

 

SR:  “But that’s TV, they’re media coverage.  That is all set up through FEMA and local law enforcement.  We don’t have access to that type of involvement at all.”

 

TDP: Are you able to liaison or talk with anyone about that problem?

 

SR:   “They won’t even talk to you about that.  They have volunteers.  We’re looked at strictly as just another volunteer organization.  We have to go through the lines of authority even to do what we’re doing.”

 

TDP:  Right, we heard from a breeder who’s been down there twice that you have to be FEMA certified or something in order to get in?

 

SR:  “That’s true.  About the only way you get in to some of those areas is if you are a property owner.”

 

TDP:  Why is HSUS and other such groups getting so much coverage about this?

 

SR:  “They are set up as a rescue type organization whereas this is the first time we’ve ever gotten involved directly in this kind of thing.  They have thousands of people set up throughout the country to do this.  What we’re doing is completely different, we’re down here to try to figure out how we can assist the shelters and to help our customers and anybody else but we don’t have authority to go into the impact zone.”

 

TDP: As a law officer, you have a cool head so let me ask you - if you could do anything right now, at this moment, give an order, and something would happen for those animals that are beyond rescue, what would you do?

 

SR:  “Umm I’ve never been confronted with that situation, I guess you’d just have to assess each one of those situations individually.  I would think at some point, like you said, a decision is going to have to be made but that would be at the state level or FEMA would make that decision.  It could be at the local level.  When all is said and done, it’s the responsibility of local people, the city of New Orleans, to coordinate these sorts of efforts, at least until they change it and request the state to give assistance.  It’s the same way with the federal.  That’s where all the bureaucracy and stuff comes into place.”

 

TDP:  Well somebody should try to do something!  We understand how difficult it can be to reach them or get your hands on some of those animals but there is an alternative…. There must be military sharp shooters and the people are pretty well clear…

 

SR:  “Have you ever tried to shoot an animal?  It’s not as easy to do as someone might think it is.  I’m not talking about from the emotional point, I mean to actually hit it and kill it.  I’ve had to do it in the course of my duties and it’s not easy and there’s the risk you might only injure the dog worse.  I wish I could give you an answer that would make you feel better about things but I can’t.  It’s just not going to happen no matter what I say. 

 

“I do hope though, that someone makes that decision in time.  There’s not anything we can do until they get those dogs rescued.  Then we can give support and assistance for the people that care for the animals.  We can provide them crates and food and fencing and those kinds of things.  They’ve got hundreds of people down here that are volunteering, this is not going to stop today or next week, it’s going to continue and what we want to do is to be sure that they are well informed because they have tons of purebred and mixed breed dogs that are going to have to be placed in permanent locations.  We can coordinate people so that when the time comes, we can get those dogs in the proper locations. 

 

“You know they estimate that only ten percent will be reclaimed according to the head of the coordination effort at LSU?   And that’s the reality of this situation.  We’ve got a wide range of contacts and we are doing everything that we possibly can to assist these people to make the circumstances better for the service and for the service of the dogs.  We’ve accomplished more that I expected we could when coming down here.  We’ve only been here three days but it’s as much as we could have done in a week in terms of our effort and contacts. 

 

“When it’s all said and done the rescue effort is improving and they are getting more and more dogs out.  And they have staging areas where they triage them and keep things moving.  There are still areas in the impact zone that we can’t get to because they are locked down and they will put you in jail.  The last thing we want to do as an organization is break the law, we sure won’t do that.”

 

TDP:  All we are seeing on TV is the Governor and the Mayor fighting so I suppose that’s not helping matters any.

 

SR:  “Well you’ve got your local, state and federal authorities and each of them have their specific responsibilities.  It’s going to be up to the local authorities to make the decision about what to do about those dogs, whether it is euthanasia, as you said, or whatever they are going to do.”

 

TDP:  Steve, we thank you for the interview.  We are glad you are there.

 

SR:  “Well we’re working hard, we’re doing all we can do.  We’re on our way right now to the big rescue shelter to see how we can help them.”

 

“You call me anytime with anything I can help you with.  I wish I could tell you more but one thing you can count on is, I’ll tell you the truth.  I don’t try to rose color it,  I just tell it to you straight up.”

 

TDP:  That’s what TheDogPress readers want.  I’ll be back in touch with you when you and Jason catch your breath.  Again, thank you for being there!