DART Efforts - Nashville Humane
Nashville Humane's DART team information and articles.
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DART Efforts


NHA’s Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) is state and nationally credentialed to assist our sister agencies and neighbors with any animal emergency, including natural disasters, puppy mills and hoarding cases.  Working alongside the American Red Cross, Office of Emergency Management, HSUS, ASPCA and more, the NHA DART team is comapassionate, knowledgeable and efficient in the care they provide our furry friends, near and far!


To make a donation and support our DART efforts, please click here.

May 2011: NHA’s Disaster Response Team Assists Memphis


As the Mississippi river rose and crested over seven states, Memphis, Tennessee saw unprecedented flooding.  In a proactive measure, Shelby County ordered the evacuation of 1,300 plus homes, many containing pets.  As ASPCA prepared a temporary shelter for animal residents, they requested the assistance of NHA’s Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) in providing a safe haven for owned animals during their family’s evacuation.


On May 5th, the NHA DART team reached Memphis to work alongside ASPCA, American Humane and other agencies for five long, busy days.  The team cared for more than 150 animals including dogs, cats, birds, a precious guinea pig and a happy family of ducks.  The number of animals in need rose with the waters.   Rescue boats were sent out daily to recover stranded animals, returning with them so they too could have a shelter from the storm.


Our state credentialed, professionally trained DART team returned from Memphis physically exhausted yet emotionally fulfilled by the assistance they provided a neighbor in need, much like those that assisted Nashville and one another during the May 2010 floods.


An opportunity to lend a helping hand arose again on May 20th.  ASPCA contacted NHA to assist in replacing shelter animals in an effort to make room for local animals that needed help.  The team returned to the flooded area and took possession of 14 dogs/puppies, some as young as 3 weeks old.  The animals were placed in foster care until they returned to the NHA shelter to be examined, vaccinated, spay/neutered, microchipped and placed up for adoption.  We are happy to report that all 14 dogs/puppies have been adopted into loving homes.

February 2011: The Road to Recovery Leads to NHA


On February 2, 2011, NHA’s DART team prepared to receive animals from a Marshall County puppy mill raid.  Contacted by the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, facilitated by an anonymous tip, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) removed 97 dogs and one cat from a puppy mill in Lewisburg, TN.  The animals were living in small wire cages (converted rabbit cages), covered in feces, and some so severely matted they couldn’t even see.  “Many of these dogs were so filthy and uncared for that it was difficult for us to even tell what breed they were,” HSUS Tennessee Director Leighann McCollum said. “This is the perfect example of the squalid conditions dogs in puppy mills are forced to endure.”


Most likely, these animals had been born in the shed and never seen daylight – until they were carried out with hopes of a new life.  For 26 dogs and one cat, their new life began at NHA.  Each animal was provided further medical care by Dr. Sharon Hensley, spayed or neutered, and temperament tested by behavioralist, Anna Henley.  Many also required professional grooming, provided by the Nashville Kennel Club, and dental care.  “We’re fortunate to have such great friends, staff and volunteers,” said NHA Director of Programs and Services Joy Beach.  “The efforts of our staff and volunteers are complimented by our community partners.  Everyone contributes their expertise to helping us fulfill our mission of finding responsible homes for these animals.”  We are happy to report that all of the animals have been adopted and are enjoying a new, healthy life.


You may watch the “Road to Recovery,” one poodle’s (Brownie) journey from the puppy mill to his new home by clicking here.

March 2010: Grainger County Rescue


March 6th – Our team assisted the Humane Society of United States (HSUS) in the evacuation, veterinarian care, and wellness testing of 122 cats removed from a horrible hoarding situation in Grainger County, TN.

May 2010: Together We Rise Above


In 2006, NHA filmed an informational video, “Forever Home,” highlighting the various programs and services that enable us to realize our mission.  Board and staff members alike shared stories and the joys of assisting animals, near and far, with happy endings. One tragic event, fresh in everyone’s minds, was the devastating Hurricane Katrina.  Our role in the relief efforts is documented against the backdrop of horrific images, capturing the widespread devastation and horrendous journey of many animals from home to homeless.


In the wake of the May flood, it is the words of our Executive Director, Mary Pat Boatfield, expressed in the 2006 video, that are heard with a new understanding and appreciation.  “We made a commitment that we don’t ever want Davidson County animals to go through what New Orleans animals went through.  So our people went through special training so they are both nationally and state trained to handle animal emergency disasters. And Katrina was the catalyst to get us to realize that you have got to plan for disasters.”


And we have certainly trained and planned!  In joint effort with the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Health, the Nashville Red Cross, and Metro Animal Care and Control, NHA has memorandums of understanding to ensure care, shelter and essential needs to individuals with pets.  These MOUs were executed with timely precision to assure our community’s needs were met with efficiency and effectiveness.


On May 1, NHA mobilized ROVER and Teddy’s Wagon to set up a temporary, pet-friendly Red Cross shelter at David Lipscomb University.  For eight days, our team managed the temporary shelter.  Additionally, the NHA shelter was open 24/7 to assist the animals of flood victims.  NHA provided emergency animal sheltering to 99 animals while their families rebuilt or found new homes.  In addition, we accepted more than $75,000 in pet supplies and pet food from corporations, school children and individuals looking to help animals in need.  With this generous support, NHA was able to assist an additional 543 animals.


As days passed, we began working on reunifying animals with their families.  We placed found-ads in the Tennessean, as well as on PetFinders.com.  And we focused on finding new families for animals surrendered to us. In an e-newsletter sent on May 28th, we shared with you the story of Candi.  She had been adopted from us in 2006, and in a sad turn of events her family lost everything in the flood and could no longer care for her.  They brought her to us, and we embraced her with open arms.  We even dressed her in her very own, “I doggie paddled the Nashville Flood,” t-shirt.  We are happy to share that Candi has been adopted into a loving home, and like Nashville – she is rebuilding her life one day at a time.


We cannot express in words our gratitude for our neighbors and sister agencies.  Together, we rose above the flood which brings one final expression to mind, “There is no place like home.”    We’re proud to call Nashville ours, and to call you our neighbor!

February 2009: NHA Assists in White County Puppy Mill Raid


Nashville Humane Association was once again on the front-line saving animals from a local puppy mill.  On February 4th, Mary Pat Boatfield, Executive Director, received a call from ASPCA.  They requested NHA’s assistance in an upcoming puppy mill raid in White County, Tennessee.  As confidential communication transpired over the next few days, it was discovered there were 300 plus being housed in terrible conditions.  The local Sheriff’s Department had been investigating the puppy mill for quite some time, and now was the time to act.


ASPCA, the lead investigative agency, asked NHA to act as the transport agency by removing the animals from the site to a temporary shelter 3-5 miles away.  NHA’s Disaster Animal Response team, credentialed staff, loaded equipment and left on the following Tuesday for Cookeville, Tennessee.


At 6 a.m. the following morning, the Sheriff’s Department secured the scene making way for all vehicles and teams from ASPCA, American Humane, and Nashville Humane Association.  From 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the following morning, veterinarians examined the animals prior to the NHA team delivering them to the temporary shelter.  ROVER, Teddy’s Wagon, and the NHA Van were utilized during this important endeavor.


Following the raid, the puppy mill owner released their rights to the Sheriff’s Department resulting in the dogs being moved to various shelters to begin a new, happy life.


NHA’s extraordinary team returned to the shelter with 35 dogs, all of which received a complete physical exam by Dr. Sharon Hensley, friend of NHA.  Additionally, all were micro chipped, temperament tested, and spayed or neutered.  Once they were ready, our friends from Nashville Kennel Club came to our aid making sure all the animals were bathed, groomed, and ready for adoption. Many have been adopted into the loving, caring homes they so richly deserve.

June 2008: NHA Assists with Tennessee’s Largest Puppy Mill Rescue


On June 25, 2008, the Nashville Humane Association was called in to assist the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a puppy mill rescue that officials called the “largest in Tennessee.” The rescue took place in Lyles, Tennessee in Hickman County at the Pine Bluff Kennels, which was owned by Patricia Adkisson.  She surrendered nearly 800 animals to the district attorney, who then transferred them to HSUS.


Volunteers from NHA and other area agencies entered the dark, grim surroundings to rescue dogs, many of which had been without water for days in the 90 degree heat.  They immediately started transferring the animals to a makeshift shelter, where NHA veterinarian Dr. Louis Lembo examined them.  According to Dr. Lembo, most of the animals were living in rabbit hutches, two or three to a hutch, which was way too small for the animals.


Once the animals had been examined and given any necessary treatment, they were sent to several different humane associations and animal shelters across the country to be placed for adoption. NHA received close to 50 dogs, mainly small breeds.


Because of the many issues that occur in some puppy mill dogs, each animal was evaluated to make sure the adoptive family was aware of the unique issue that would need to be addressed with each particulate animal.  They were then spayed or neutered and placed for adoption.


Once they were finally ready for their new homes, the community came out in droves. Nearly 200 people showed up at NHA, all wanting to adopt one of these dogs.  To make it as fair as possible, there was a number system put in place, so that everybody had a chance to visit with the dogs and find their perfect match.  Nearly every dog was adopted that day, with the few remaining not far behind.  All dogs are now doing fine in their new homes, thanks to the amazing staff and volunteers of NHA.


Other special thanks go out to Dr. Sharon Hensley, DVM, Ann Woodward, Joy Dillon, Susan Cole and Mary Denise Malone from the Nashville Kennel Club, who helped bathe and groom the dogs to have them look their best before they were placed for adoption. And thank you to all the volunteers who went above and beyond to make this rescue a success.

September 2008: NHA Cares for the Animals of Hurrican Ike Victims


When the call came in for hurricane relief, the Nashville Humane Association stood ready to help, as we have done many times before in the wake of a natural disaster.  SAWA (Society of Animal Welfare Administrators) requested our help at the Galveston Humane Society which had been completely destroyed by Hurricane Ike.  On September 24th, the Nashville Humane Association’s Disaster Response Team left Nashville for Galveston, Texas.


In the wee hours of the morning, the team left in ROVER the mobile spay/neuter unit which also works as one of several disaster relief vehicles.  The following afternoon, they arrived in Houston where the command center for the response teams was located.  Once credentials were presented and security badges obtained, the team drove towards Galveston.  The trip was nerve-racking in the absence of electricity, street lights, and street signs.


Galveston Humane Society received a great deal of structural damage, so it was temporarily relocated to an old police station.  Our Nashville team relieved responders from San Diego and Florida.  Once the transition was complete, the NHA team went to work.  There were more than 25 cats and 40 dogs in need of care.  In addition, a variety of pocket pets were rescued and housed.  The animals were experiencing a variety of emotions, including uncertainty and fear.


The team was responsible for feeding, cleaning, and exercising the animals, as well as monitoring health issues.  And just when  a routine was developed, the team realized a new shipment of animals would arrive every afternoon.  The animal count was rising with every passing day.  As space became a precious commodity, piecing crates together became an art.  Additionally, the water was contaminated, so the team found itself under an order instructing that all water is boiled prior to use and consumption.


Around the fourth day, the NHA team extended services and space to those receiving aid from the American Red Cross  The American Red Cross provided shelter for victims, but were unable to care for their animals.  Given NHA’s partnership and past work with the local American Red Cross, we understood their needs and welcomed the additional pet population.


Galveston was completely destroyed, and for many their animals were all that was left of their lives.  As communication systems became available, animals were sent to the Houston SPCA to be reunited with their owners.  Every afternoon, animals went to Houston as new animals made their way to Galveston.  Between caring for the animals, preparing them for transport, and helping residents handle their loss, the NHA team was exhausted.  Yet they gained strength in the knowledge they had done everything they could to help.  On October 8th, the team returned to Nashville proud of the job they did for the animals and in representing Nashville Humane Association.

October 2006: To Help a Neighbor


In October, 2006, it began with a call to NHA Executive Director, Mary Pat Boatfield.  Sumner County Animal Control Officer, Tim Anscheutz requested NHA’s assistance in removing almost 300 dogs, puppies and cats from a puppy mill.  Fifteen years of cruelty investigation experience in a prior agency had given Executive Director, Boatfield a perspective on what the upcoming weeks would hold.  A quick mental survey of available NHA credentialed staff indicated four had worked in Louisiana and had experience with handling traumatized animals, as well as operating an emergency animal shelter.  An additional sever had no or limited disaster field experience, but were credentialed through state and national training programs and familiar with animal shelter operations.


The elements for successful evacuation and relocation of companion animals after a natural disaster include prior training in the Incident Command System, disaster planning before the event, access to appropriate equipment, a method to document animals evacuated, management of various skilled volunteers and appropriate veterinary care.  These same components can provide an excellent organizational structure in which to carry out seizures involving a large number of animals in a cruelty case.


The incident would overwhelm Sumner County Animal Control resources so the situation was deemed serious enough to involve the Sumner County Emergency Management Agency and the utilization of the Incident Command System.


Operation Animal Hope in Sumner County began with a planning meeting led by Sumner County Emergency Management Agency Director, Ken Weider.  The first major concern to address was where the animals would be house that would allow for safe sheltering, cleaning, grooming and veterinary services.  Dr. Bryan Bondurant offered his vacant Gallatin veterinary clinic for the site.  In addition, Dr. Bondurant would provide over the next two weeks an untold number of unpaid hours in animal emergency surgeries, laboratory testing, general veterinary care and the responsibility for the scheduling of other community veterinarians to provide daily care for the dogs and cats.


Additional key members participating in the Sumner County Operation Animal Hope were Sheriff Bob Barker, Major Don Linzy, Animal Control Officer Anscheutz, and Sumner County Sheriff’s Office Detectives, Chris Tarlecky and Shirley Forrest.  In addition, Becky Frye and Carol Martin from TLC Grooming, Hendersonville, as well as Sumner County resident Terry Kurdy provided many hours of volunteer service.


The HSUS dispatched their Disaster Animal Response Team and equipment from Maryland, FL and other states.  In addition, neighboring organizations, Humane Association of Wilson County, Rutherford County PPAWS Animal Control, Williamson County Animal Control, Sumner County Humane Society, Graham Animal Clinic, Volunteer Equine Advocates and many others answered the call for help.


Sumner County Assistant District Attorney, William G. Lamberth, II, would negotiate the relinquishment of the animals on the sixth day after seizure.  The monumental early release of the animals would pave the way for happy endings as the dogs and cats would be adopted out without months of holding as evidence in the case.  District Attorney Lamberth’s involvement in prior animal cruelty cases has shown him to be tough on animal abuse.


NHA staff provided many 10-14 hour days of staffing the emergency animal shelter, as well as on site animal handling at the time of seizure.  The NHA Rover unit provided spays and neuters as well as vaccinations and microchips to the soon to be adopted pets.


The hard work was worth seeing the animals placed in new loving homes.