January 2014, September and December 2013 - Cat Depot’s Emergency Response Team Deploys

Cat Depot’s Emergency Response Team (CDERT) deployed at the request of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®). CDERT will help care for hundreds of dogs rescued in a multi-state, federal dog fighting raid – the second largest dog fighting bust in United States history. CDERT is comprised of Cat Depot staff and volunteers who have trained with the Florida State Animal Response Coalition (FL SARC) and have required FEMA certifications.

Cat Depot Emergency Response Team Deploys in January 2014 to Assist ASPCA in dog fighting raid

CDERT in Action - January 2014

Day 1 - Reporting for Duty
Our newest CDERT members joined the ASPCA assist with the dogs rescued in the dog fighting raid. They assisted in cage cleaning and dog handling and attended a lecture on defensive animal handling.

Day 2 - Field Report from CDERT Member
This morning it was very apparent how incredibly out of shape I am. My legs felt like they were on fire and that feeling lasted all day. Nat was tired but not too worse for wear. Being the new kids, we got some of the hardest pods to clean. We held our own as we tried to keep up with the "art projects" our finger painting adolescent puppies like to make for us. At lunch we watched some great videos of dog tricks in preparation for the "talent show" that will be held in a couple weeks. The main goal is to teach the dogs a few cute tricks so that they will be more adoptable once ready.
It was back to the grind in the afternoon moving dogs and cleaning kennels. Today was really hard work but well worth it, even though when we finally got back to the hotel and sat down, I realized I smelled like dog poop. Nothing a hot shower and a load of laundry couldn't cure. 
Day 3 - Field Report
Another day of cleaning kennels under our belts. The CDERT members were assigned to work the same pod, so it was nice to have a familiar face to work with. Together we tackled what many had told us was one of the most difficult pods - not because the dogs were aggressive but because they like to make the biggest messes. The "teenagers," as they are affectionately known, apparently don't like having their rooms cleaned because the rooms never stayed clean for more than a few minutes, if that. Of course, we couldn't get mad at them for destroying the evidence of all our hard work because they are just too cute and sweet.
The afternoon was a bit of a challenge as we had not one, but six pods to look after. The difficulty was compounded when the rising temperature and humidity in the warehouse made the floors extremely slick and essentially turned some areas into a skating rink. While that was fun for a while, it was definitely not the best working conditions and eventually the floor cleaning zamboni machine came through and saved us. Hopefully tomorrow we'll catch a break and get the easy pods (if they even exist). 
Day 4 - Found the Groove
Today was a good day. Nat found his groove working in the shelter and he helped train one of the new volunteers. I got to work with the behavior team today cutting up food for treats then taking some of the dogs out for play sessions and training. It was great to see the puppies and even a couple of the older dogs playing together and enjoying the company of other dogs despite what they were bred for. It's amazing to think that many of the dogs that we are working with wouldn't even be alive today if it weren't for the intervening actions of so many to stop the massive dog fighting operation. We're sad that tomorrow is our last day to work here, but we will definitely make the most of it.
Day 5 - Reporting from the Field
Our fifth and final day was by far the best. We finally got the rhythm down and moved like clockwork. At lunch we got a pleasant surprise - we won the prizes (ASPCA sweatshirts) from our Superbowl party contests.
After lunch, I worked one on one with some of the dogs that had minor behavior issues, such as resource guarding and mouthiness and Nat got to create scent items for enrichment.
This whole experience was extremely fun and gratifying. We can't wait to come back! (Before leaving, I had to go back for a few hours to do play sessions with the pups one last time).
Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

CDERT in Action - December 2013

Cat Depot’s Emergency Response Team (CDERT) joined dozens of workers at the ASPCA’s temporary shelter to assist with the dogs rescued in the dog fighting raid. The dogs now get daily manners and skills training and afternoon enrichment items. CDERT members work with behaviorists to teach the dogs basic skills, such as “four on the floor” (all feet on the ground and not jumping up at the cage door) and help prepare enrichment toys. 
Dog raid statistics provided by the ASPCA:
The rescue has been going on for 119 days
There have been 535 volunteer responders so far
47,000 man-power hours have been spent on caring for the dogs 
Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

CDERT In Action - September 2013

ASPCA Dog Fighting Rescue - Day 1

After a good night's sleep our team assembled in the early morning for what would be an incredible day of learning. Following a morning briefing with the ASPCA's leadership, our team members were assigned to work in specific areas within the temporary emergency dog shelter. CDERT members worked with puppies, dogs affectionately called "painters" due to their messy cage habits, "shredders" or dogs who like to chew up anything and everything such as the newspaper or piddle pads in their cages and "fearful" dogs. Responders came from all over the country to help. 
The donations that were delivered in Cat Depot's rescue trailer were unloaded in the afternoon using the bucket brigade method. The rescue workers were very thankful and impressed by the volume of waters, towels and snacks Cat Depot supporters donated in just a few short days prior to our deployment. 
The day ended with a big group dinner. The rescue workers were able to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

ASPCA Rescue - Day 2

After their morning briefing, CDERT members were given the responsibility of being pod leads. Other responders were assigned to them to work in tandem in the pods. In the afternoon team meeting, a select few responders were given the privilege to work with the ASPCA Behavior Team, including three CDERT members.

Using positive reinforcement techniques, our team along with others, are attempting to enrich the lives of these abused  and exploited dogs. In just two short days, our team has acclimated to the work load and is humbled by the tireless efforts of the ASPCA.

Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

ASPCA Rescue - Day 3

With half the work week now behind them, the wear and tear of the daily physical labor is beginning to take a toll on our team. Although they are assigned a specific dog section at the beginning of each day, they are all charged with working as a team to help take care of the nearly 300 rescued dogs housed at this facility. 
To give you an idea of the work load, here's a typical day:
Each day, a responder along with a support staff member is assigned a dog section. Within that section, dogs are housed in individual pens. Before entering each section, responders must spray the bottoms of their shoes with a disinfectant. Next, they put on personal protective equipment of booties and gloves. Then they enter the section. The job begins with feeding and completing a daily observation log for each dog. Next, they lift an extra large airline crate that is housed on top of each dog pen to the floor. Using their best handling skills, they move the dog out of his pen and into the dog crate in order to clean the cage. Many of the dogs are jumping at the cage door, while others are cowering in the back on their cage. Each type presents a challenge.
While this process is happening, the responders are making note of the dog's behavior to mark on a daily behavior chart. After picking up the waste, toys, water bucket and bed, they spray it down with an accelerated cleanser. The dog cage is swept, mopped and reset with a cleaned bed, fresh water, toys, etc. The dog is placed back into his cage and the crate is then stored on top of his pen for the next day. Working in assembly line fashion for maximum efficiency, each of the two workers in an area alternate and performs one step in this process so that no fewer than eight dog cages are being cleaned in one cycle.
Once all the dogs in that section are cleaned, the entire section is swept and mopped and garbage removed. Because these are fighting pit bulls and their arousal triggers are unpredictable it is paramount to quickly but calmly move them from cage to crate and then from crate back into their cage. Safe handling skills and situational awareness is of the utmost importance. After a section is completed, responders check in with the shelter team leader and assist with another work team in a different section.
In all, nearly 300 rescued dogs need to be cleaned and cared for in this manner during the morning hours. This continues until lunch. After lunch there is a quick meeting and new tasks are assigned. These may include skills training, decon, enrichment, or preparing the second feedings. After responders complete their special assignments, they return to their dog section to administer the evening feedings, complete the daily observation log, spot clean each dog pen and restock supplies. Lunch is the only time responders are not moving, carrying, lifting or pushing something around. 
But despite the physical demands, there is always an overwhelming hearty sense of accomplishment at the end of each day for all responders.
Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

ASPCA Rescue - Day 4

By now the CDERT team is very comfortable working within the emergency dog shelter. After the first day on the job, each of the Cat Depot team members have been daily leads and dog handlers. They have witnessed progress in the last few days with some of the dogs' disposition. Several timid dogs have been coming up to the fronts of their cages and many of the excited dogs are offering "sits" at the front of the cage doors when the responders approach. And, one CDERT member who had worked with a feartful, quivering dog who barely moved in his cage all week, actually saw the dog play! That was one of the most rewarding moments of the week.
The ASPCA has repeatedly stressed that these dogs have not only been neglected, abused and mistreated but they have been bred for generations to do two things - fight and kill. They explained that the genetics were masterfully planned and there were no accidental pregnancies. Responders are even told to handle the puppies with extreme caution as they will attack other puppies or try to latch on to clothing. The seriousness of the case can be overwhelming at times. Meeting a small dog with a body full of scars who had his teeth removed so that he could be used as a "bait" dog was a slap in the face of humanity. And yet, there is hope for dogs like him and the others. Every afternoon the dogs are offered some type of enrichment such as a new toy and responders have started skills and manners training. 
The team members' lives are being enriched as well. The ASPCA is supplementing their experiences by providing an opportunity for education through lunch and learn sessions. Yesterday they learned about the role of a Logistics Manager for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Activities Department. It allowed the CDERT members to gain a deeper understanding of the Incident Command System beyond what was learned in the FL SARC Awareness Level Training.
Cat Depot Emergency Response Team assists ASPCA

ASPCA Rescue - Day 5

Walking into the emergency shelter on their last day, the CDERT knew they still had 8 more hours to help make a difference. The simultaneous barking of 300 dogs was now a familiar morning serenade. They tackled their projects with the same enthusiasm and determination, or maybe even more so, than on their first day on assignment.
Working with fighting pit bulls is intense. And knowing that most of the dogs have a hard, long road ahead of them leaves the responders feeling saddened. However, they also know that The ASPCA is an exemplary organization with highly talented leadership and is unwavering in their commitment to giving the dogs a better life.
Our team was humbled by the experience and are honored that they played a small role in the rescue. 
To their surprise the Cat Depot team was able to reunite with our friend and Cat Depot Honored Veterinarian, Sarah Kirk, who is the Medical Director for the Field Investigations Response department. 
The CDERT team thanks everyone back home in Sarasota and at Cat Depot for supporting their efforts.

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