Friday, June 18, 2010

Why we Need Your Help... and what you can do

This picture pretty much explains why my work is so hard.

As a law clerk at the Orleans Public Defenders Office this summer, I go to work every day feeling like I'm marching off to the battlefield, to wage war on everything that's wrong with the criminal justice system here in New Orleans.

When I come home, I start my other unpaid, full-time, soul-crushing job: running Dogs of the 9th Ward as we head into Rescue Year 2. It's very similar really: every day it's Me vs. The World, and every day I fight the battle, and sometimes I win, but mostly it's a draw -- at best.

It's strikingly similar. In both capacities -- and both are my passion -- I put everything into what I do, but the chips are stacked against us. The problem I'm fighting is just so huge, it seems like every small victory is overshadowed by all the losses.

Rescue in New Orleans is not like rescue anywhere else. At least, not like rescue anywhere else in America. This isn't America; this is a hot, sweaty, poor town down on its luck, but alive -- very alive. And that's what makes it wonderful. Second lines, kids practicing trumpets for band in the streets, parades for any reason or no reason, crawfish boils -- these are the things that make New Orleans better than any other place in the world.

But the there's the other side. To quote our former (and infamous) mayor C-Ray, pardon my French America, but I am pissed.

The dog in the picture above is -- or was -- a black and white pit bull with a pink harness. She died on Claiborne Ave. near Elysian Fields in the 7th Ward/Treme Area. I assume she was hit by a car. I saw her some four, five weeks ago. I called Sanitation to pick her up. They told me to call Animal Control with the LA-SPCA. Called them -- they never called back. I emailed the CEO of the SPCA and asked her to please get me the contact info for who I should contact.... nothing. I called sanitation again. Still nothing.

Meanwhile, her body decayed in the 80+ degree heat. The heat and the humidity break tissue down so fast. Someone -- some compassionate person -- put a towel over her dead, decaying body. Not that that stopped the flies.

When I finally went to take this picture almost one week ago, this girl had become nothing but a skeleton, and even her bones had started to decompose. Here I was, in the middle of an urban area, underneath an on-ramp to the Interstate 10. And I felt like I was on some paleontological expedition: you're not supposed to find skeletons in the middle of the city.

The worst part? This girl has tags on.

This dog was someone's friend and family member. They probably don't know what happened.

If I was braver, I'd get her tags off her and call them. But I'm not.

My point is this: until the people in this city realize that they count -- they're worth something, and people should care about them -- the problems we have will persist. This is truly the City that Care Forgot, and the people of New Orleans consider themselves the People that Care Forgot.

And maybe it did forget, but it's about fucking time that someone woke its ass up and reminded it.

The situation we have here -- not just in the 9th Ward, but in many areas -- its unique. We have dead, decaying dogs on major streets. We have packs of three, five, ten -- sometimes more -- feral dogs living in terror of humans, while those people are equally terrified of them. Imagine this: imagine living in Uptown New Orleans, or in New York, or California, or Minnesota, or wherever you live, and imagine that a pack of large dogs, most missing hair, injured perhaps, take up residence under your house. You can hear them knocking into gas and water pipes under your house. Your kids go out into the yard, and sometimes the dogs are there, terrified, and your kids are terrified of them.

Then one day the have puppies. All night you listen to puppies barking and crying under your house. You call the LA-SPCA Animal Control -- that's the only Animal Control we have here in New Orleans -- and report the problem. They come. They look. They say, "It's impossible." And they leave you with your feral pack.

Most of those puppies won't even reach adulthood. They will die of starvation, dehydration, trauma, disease. Maybe they'll freeze if it's winter; maybe they'll overheat if it's summer. They might die under your house. Imagine having puppy corpses decaying under your house.

Best case scenario, most of the pups will live, and they will eventually leave your house and move on, move under some other house, or maybe into the interior of a vacant, gutted building. They will grow up terrified of you, and you of them.

This is not a situation that should exist in urban America.

Fuck Katrina. That was 5 years ago, and it's not an excuse.

The pictures below are all dogs who have not been rescued. They probably never will be. They will live out miserable lives on the streets, having litter after litter, and then dying.

We have so far to go before we get to where we want to be -- where we need to be. All of these dogs are dying a death far, far worse than euthanasia. The SPCA uses a humane lethal injection -- no gas chambers (though we have em in rural areas!), no heartstick. These dogs are living miserable lives and dying miserable deaths.

The 56 dogs we've rescued are the lucky ones. For each of them, hundreds more in the 9th Ward alone are dying. Across the metro area, I won't even make a guess at how many homeless, dying dogs there are.

Without more support from locals and others alike, we will always lose this war.

There are many things you can do to help, no matter where you live!
  • If you live in New Orleans, contact City Council reps and tell them we need more and better Animal Control.
  • Foster a dog from New Orleans! Yes, you can even foster if you are long-distance! We are starting dog transport and foster programs in other areas. Foster space is our single greatest need. We pay all expenses, you provide loving, stable, happy homes.
  • Feed a dog! For the price of a couple lattes or one Domino's Pizza, you can feed a dog for a month. Donating $15 per month feeds one large dog.
  • Vaccinate a dog! $30 completely vaccinates one dog -- Rabies, 3 rounds of boosters, plus kennel cough (bordatella).
  • Spay/neuter a dog! $45-$75 spays or neuters one of our dogs (depending on size).
  • Live far away? Advertise our adoptable dogs wherever you are, and we will fly them to you.
  • Transport a dog! If a dog has a home far away, about $250 will get that pup home.
  • Are you local? Help plan adoption events, help socialize dogs.... we have many opportunities.
  • Local or long-distance, we need help with admin/clerical work! I'm doing it all myself right now. I need help with email, organizing, etc.
Can you think of any other way to help? We want to hear from you! Please email

As always, donations can be made to via paypal, or to our vet, Prytania Veterinary Hospital 504 899 2828, 4907 Prytania, NO LA 70115. Seriously: no amount is too small. It adds up, and every dollar counts!

I beg folks from other areas to look at these pictures and my story, and please realize what we're dealing with here is very serious. It's just another world, honestly. And these are all different breeds of dogs. Although D9 focuses on pit bulls, we are an all-breed rescue and have had everything from beagles to retrievers to shepherds and Rottweilers come through rescue. Please help us save dogs from the worst fate imaginable, and support the dogs -- and the people -- of New Orleans.

Dogs of the 9th Ward
504 390 5836


  1. Outstanding, hey if you need me to do anything in addition to what I do now, you know how to get in touch.

  2. kelly, I thank you for rescuing those who dat pups, and all the dogs you've taken the time to help out. I'm working at the hi ho lounge right now, and am collecting dog and cat food for those who are on the gulf coast, giving away pets because they can't afford to keep them. let me know if your in that spot with these babies... there's plenty of dog food to go round.

    I'd like to add... anytime you want to put together an adopt a dog event... just let me know. seems like folks are just looking for new doggies. the local SPCA told my friends just the other day, that all the dogs they have? are quarenteened... parvo. so I gave your number to friends looking to adopt. I hope they found you.

  3. Thanks, Claudia. We are always in need of dog food, though of course if individual owners need it more than us, be all means, give it to them!

    I do need to do some adoption events. I'm so busy, I've been unable to do that, but I have some wonderful volunteers helping now, and maybe we can get something put together.....

  4. You know we'll help you with events or clerical stuff or whatever we can. And I'd also be willing to put on some gloves and go get those tags off that poor girl on the side of the road if you tell us where to find her. And btw this is Sheryl, speaking also for Tia. Don't know if you know this username.

  5. I know that second dog down! The black and white girl! I tried to trap her for Best Friends Animal Society almost 5 years ago. WOW...If that's her I'm utterly shocked that she's made it this long. She has a little grey in her muzzle it seems too. One of my colleagues was tracking her for quite a while, but she was elusive...and perhaps smarter than us. Last I saw her she was playing with another dog in a grassy corner lot.

  6. Kelly,
    I just wanted to say how much a admire you for your extremely hard work. I started rescueing stray/abadoned dogs off the streets of NO after Katrina and now up to 5. The last dog is a pit bull I saw roaming around City Park for days (and I am sure longer). She had the usual package of illnesses. I just can't understand how people can spot these babies and ignore their suffering. Well keep up the great work you are doing. You are a wonderful person!!! Shannon