Operation Baghdad Pups: A Puppy Ratchet Update!

See latest update here!

UPDATE: Last week we detailed this special tale about puppy Ratchet. Well, this special pup just got a reprieve from the U.S. military and could be headed for Minnesota by the weekend. Some US Senators and about 50,000 petition-signing dog lovers prompted the military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi pup an Army sergeant is trying to get to her Minnesota home. But, due to a slow release on the part of the military, Ratchet missed the flight that would have gotten him out of Baghdad. Luckily, Operation Baghdad Pups will be trying again as they make a special trip back to Iraq this Sunday to try to retrieve him.

Thanks to Mary Jane Smetanka of The Star Tribune who is continuing to cover this touching story.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a tiny 4-week-old pup after fellow soldiers in Baghdad rescued him from a pile of burning trash, sent her mother a short e-mail Wednesday when she heard the news.

“I AM THRILLED THAT RATCHET IS GOING HOME,” she wrote.

But Beberg’s mother, Pat, said she won’t relax until the dog is in the hands of Operation Baghdad Pups. The branch of SPCA International, which was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq, has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States. “It’s wonderful,” Pat Beberg said. “But until he’s in the hands of the Operation Baghdad Pups people, we still have to be a little reserved and cautious.”

Gwen Beberg has described the puppy as a comfort during a rough year in Iraq. She is supposed to return to the United States next month, and she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park before she was transferred to a new base in Iraq last week. But a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport. Military regulations prohibit soldiers from adopting pets in Iraq.

Pat Beberg learned that Ratchet’s departure from Iraq had been cleared when Sen. Amy Klobuchar called her cell phone as she was driving to the dentist. She hopes Ratchet’s case might get the military to reconsider its policy against pets. “I want to make sure that other soldiers do not encounter this,” Beberg said. “[Gwen] is using a puppy to handle stress. Isn’t that so much better than popping a handful of pills?”

Ratchet’s case has ignited a firestorm of interest on the Internet. By Wednesday afternoon, petitions demanding clemency for the dog had been signed by more than 50,000 people around the world, and the pup’s story was posted on almost 27,000 websites. Supporters called congressional offices and Army headquarters this week demanding that something be done to save the dog. The offices of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also pushed for the dog’s release.

Northwest Airlines has offered to fly Ratchet from Kuwait to Minneapolis. Beberg’s parents would keep Ratchet until Beberg leaves the Army early next year.

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Such a sad tale.

A mutt named Ratchet has helped Gwen Beberg survive Iraq. Now, will Ratchet survive?

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg isn’t having an easy year in Iraq. When the Spring Lake Park native bonded with an abandoned puppy found whimpering in a burning trash heap in Baghdad, she wanted to make sure the black-and-white mutt named Ratchet made it home with her.

On Oct. 1, Beberg placed 6-month-old Ratchet on an Army convoy to the Baghdad airport, where he was to be flown to her parents’ home in Minnesota by a rescue group called Operation Baghdad Pups. But the dog was taken away by an Army officer before it reached the airplane. Beberg’s family and Operation Baghdad Pups officials now fear Ratchet will be shot.

Beberg’s sorrow has become an international cause célèbre, with online petitions signed by almost 8,000 people worldwide, bloggers taking up Ratchet’s plight and a story in a London newspaper.

Beberg, who is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this month, also has signed one of the Internet petitions.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg befriended puppy Ratchet while serving in Iraq. The U.S. military confiscated Ratchet as Sgt. Beberg prepared to fly home from Baghdad Airport. Operation Baghdad Pups, a program run by SPCA International, is pleading with the U.S. Army to allow Ratchet to fly out of the country – amid fears the dog awaits almost certain death if left behind.

Gwen’s mom, Pat, has been trying everything to get Ratchet home safely, noting how much this would do for her daughter’s mental health.

“There are a lot of ways of being scarred other than the physical,” Pat Beberg said. “My daughter has had a really tough time over there, living in those circumstances, and the dog has been just a godsend to her.”

Pat Beberg has called the offices of Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for help, but it’s not clear what will happen. She also said it is not clear where Ratchet is, but he apparently is still alive.

“We’re all sending e-mails back and forth,” she said. “Everyone is working on this. I know the military has its rules, but I think it could be some very positive PR if they were to revise and review that ruling … The military is very concerned about post-traumatic stress and high rates of suicide. When my daughter called here a week ago, she had trouble talking on the phone. She’s devastated.”

Go learn more about Operation Baghdad Pups, a quite special organization.

Terri Crisp, program director of Operation Baghdad Pups, said the group has gotten 56 dogs and cats that had been adopted by military personnel out of Iraq. As a part of SPCA International, the group uses donations to fly the animals to the U.S. on commercial and private airlines. On Oct. 1, the group had flown to Baghdad to get Ratchet and 14 other animals after suspending operations during the heat of summer. Crisp said the group has tried to keep a low profile so there’s no “ruckus” over the Army’s no-pet rule.

“There are commanding officers there who are animal lovers and recognize that these animals make a difference,” Crisp said. “We’ve had high-ranking officials bring out animals themselves.”

Ratchet, she said, has been the only animal confiscated once the evacuation process had begun, but at least 36 other animals that soldiers were trying to get out of Iraq have been destroyed.

“To me, it’s totally senseless, because they took away something that could help soldiers, and this just causes more trauma for them,” Crisp said.

Humane Society Legislative Fund Endorses Obama-Biden

Senator Obama is featured in book about puppy mills, A Rare Breed of Love, with this photo of him holding Baby, the three-legged poodle rescued from an abusive puppy mill operation.

Press Release: Humane Society Legislative Fund Endorses Obama-Biden

One of the guiding principles of the Humane Society Legislative Fund is that we evaluate candidates based on a single criterion: where they stand on animal protection policies. We don’t make decisions based on party affiliation, or any other social issue, or even how many pets they have. We care about their views and actions on the major policy debates relating to animal welfare.

It stirs controversy to get involved in candidate elections. But we believe that candidates for office and current lawmakers must be held accountable, or they will see the animal protection movement as a largely irrelevant political constituency. In order to have good laws, we need good lawmakers, and involvement in elections is an essential strategy for any serious social movement, including our cause.

While we’ve endorsed hundreds of congressional candidates for election, both Democrats and Republicans, WE’VE NEVER BEFORE ENDORSED A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. We have members on the left, in the center, and on the right, and we knew it could be controversial to choose either party’s candidate for the top office in the nation. But in an era of sweeping presidential power, we must weigh in on this most important political race in the country. Standing on the sidelines is no longer an option for us.

I’m proud to announce today that the HSLF board of directors — which is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans — has voted unanimously to endorse Barack Obama for President. The Obama-Biden ticket is the better choice on animal protection, and we urge all voters who care about the humane treatment of animals, no matter what their party affiliation, to vote for them.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been a solid supporter of animal protection at both the state and federal levels. As an Illinois state senator, he backed at least a dozen animal protection laws, including those to strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty, to help animal shelters, to promote spaying and neutering, and to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  In the U.S. Senate, he has consistently co-sponsored multiple bills to combat animal fighting and horse slaughter, and has supported efforts to increase funding for adequate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal laws to combat animal fighting and puppy mills.

In his response to the HSLF questionnaire, he pledged support for nearly every animal protection bill currently pending in Congress, and said he will work with executive agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to make their policies more humane. He wrote of the important role animals play in our lives, as companions in our homes, as wildlife in their own environments, and as service animals working with law enforcement and assisting persons with disabilities. He also commented on the broader links between animal cruelty and violence in society.

Obama has even on occasion highlighted animal protection issues on the campaign trail, and has spoken publicly about his support for animal protection. In reaction to the investigation showing the abuse of sick and crippled cows which earlier this year led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, he issued a statement saying “that the mistreatment of downed cows is unacceptable and poses a serious threat to public health.” He is featured in Jana Kohl’s book about puppy mills, A Rare Breed of Love, with a photo of Obama holding Baby (shown above), the three-legged poodle rescued from an abusive puppy mill operation, and his political mentor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is the author of the latest federal bill to crack down on puppy mills.

Importantly, Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) has been a stalwart friend of animal welfare advocates in the Senate, and has received high marks year after year on the Humane Scorecard. Biden has not only supported animal protection legislation during his career, but has also led the fight on important issues. He was the co-author with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the 108th Congress on legislation to ban the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen. He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully passed the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On the Republican ticket, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has also supported some animal protection bills in Congress, but has been inattentive or opposed to others. He has voted for and co-sponsored legislation to stop horse slaughter, and voted to eliminate a $2 million subsidy for the luxury fur coat industry. But he has largely been absent on other issues, and has failed to co-sponsor a large number of priority bills or sign onto animal protection letters that have had broad support in the Senate.

The McCain campaign did not fill out the HSLF presidential questionnaire, and has also not issued any public statements on animal welfare issues. He was silent during the downed animal scandal and beef recall, which played out during a high-point in the primary fight. Yet he did speak at the NRA convention earlier this year, and is the keynote speaker this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance rally—an extremist organization that defends the trophy hunting of threatened polar bears and captive shooting of tame animals inside fenced pens.

While McCain’s positions on animal protection have been lukewarm, his choice of running mate cemented our decision to oppose his ticket. Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States.

Palin engineered a campaign of shooting predators from airplanes and helicopters, in order to artificially boost the populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunters. She offered a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf as an economic incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more of the animals, even though Alaska voters had twice approved a ban on the practice. This year, the issue was up again for a vote of the people, and Palin led the fight against it — in fact, she helped to spend $400,000 of public funds to defeat the initiative.

What’s more, when the Bush Administration announced its decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Palin filed a lawsuit to reverse that decision. She said it’s the “wrong move” to protect polar bears, even though their habitat is shrinking and ice floes are vanishing due to global warming.

The choice for animals is especially clear now that Palin is in the mix. If Palin is put in a position to succeed McCain, it could mean rolling back decades of progress on animal issues.

Voters who care about protecting wildlife from inhumane and unsporting abuses, enforcing the laws that combat large-scale cruelties like dogfighting and puppy mills, providing humane treatment of animals in agriculture, and addressing other challenges that face animals in our nation, must become active over the next six weeks to elect a president and vice president who share our values. Please spread the word, and tell friends and family members that an honest assessment of the records of the two presidential tickets leads to the inescapable conclusion that Obama-Biden is the choice for humane-minded voters.