Iraq’s Stray Dog Dilemma
Life on the street is tough for dogs in Iraq. And unfortunately it looks like things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. According to the Canadian Press:
Baghdad authorities killed more than 200 stray dogs on Sunday, the opening day of a campaign to cull dog packs roaming the capital that was prompted by a spate of fatal attacks on residents.
Three teams of veterinarians and police officers used poisoned meat and rifles to kill the animals, said Dr. Hassan Chaloub, an official at the veterinary hospital supervising the effort. He said the capital has no dog shelters.
When I first read this, shades of the recent Chinese pre-Olympic dog purge went through my mind. But… sad as it is to hear of hundreds that dogs are being killed in the streets of Baghdad, it sounds like this time it’s not just a case of politicians run amok:
Thirteen people died in August alone in the capital after being attacked by dogs, according to Baghdad’s provincial council, which is overseeing the campaign.
People in some neighbourhoods have been too frightened to go outside when the dogs are present.
“For many days, people, including me, could not go to work in the morning because of these dogs,” said Jinan Abdul-Amir, who lives in the Sadiyah neighbourhood in southwest Baghdad.
[Related sidebar: the fellow finishing the tile job in my kitchen today just got a call from his girlfriend - she can't leave the house because there is a large, aggressive stray dog in her garage. I told them to call the police - this is not a situation you should deal with on your own.]
It would be nice if there was a shelter for Iraqi dogs. But I imagine that what with the IEDs, suicide bombings, rapes, kidnappings, power and food shortages, random gunfire and other human-related violence, the residents understandably have more pressing issues to deal with than saving stray dogs.
What can we do? Well, Operation Baghdad Pups was recently organized through SPCA International. The group’s stated goal is to bring stray dogs from Irag to the U.S. Each dog must have a pre-arranged home to go to before it is vetted and transported. This sounds like a good thing but I decided to do a bit of checking.
And look what I found….
In May of this year the New York Times published and article called An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies about Richard J. Gordon, who was a key player in the development of e-commerce. According to the Times:
While Amazon.com and eBay were still fledgling enterprises, the companies that Mr. Gordon founded in the early 1990s were already laying the groundwork for electronic transactions conducted with credit cards — a development that opened the doors to the first generation of e-commerce start-ups.
And if the Internet is for porn, as the hit Broadway show “Avenue Q” asserts, perhaps it was only natural that many of Mr. Gordon’s early clients were purveyors of X-rated entertainment.
What’s this got to do with Baghdad Pups? Well, again from the Times:
As the Web has evolved since the early days of e-commerce, so has Mr. Gordon. Although he fashioned his early career around credit card transactions and helping Internet pornographers, he has more recently adopted an ecumenical approach to business as the shepherd for an altogether different endeavor: a Christian charity.
Until last week, Bold New World, his Los Angeles-based Web design firm, had a lucrative contract to design sites for the American Bible Society — the 192-year-old philanthropy based in Manhattan whose mission is to make a Bible available to every person in the world.
Bold New World has also created the Web site for a charity called SPCA International, which fights animal abuse; it helps members of the armed forces bring dogs home from Iraq. That charity has been stirring controversy in the animal-rights world because it owns no animal shelter and is unaffiliated with older and more established societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Hey – I don’t care if you make a fortune in pornography (as long as it doesn’t involve minors). And I really don’t care if you want to raise money for give a bible to every person in the world. But I do care if you operate a big bucks charity and mislead your donors about where the money they donate is spent. And Mr. Gordon certainly has a questionable history:
IN 1979, six years after being honorably discharged from the Navy, Mr. Gordon found himself on the bad end of a bust. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested him after finding him hiding in a closet of a friend’s apartment in Washington, D.C. On a living room table were four round-trip Concorde tickets to Paris.
According to a 1981 review of the case by a federal appeals court, New York State authorities had been investigating accusations that Mr. Gordon, who then lived outside Albany and ran insurance and financial planning companies, had dipped into customer funds. When he learned of the investigation, according to the court documents, Mr. Gordon closed his businesses and fled Albany, planning to go to Europe.
He was ultimately convicted in 1980 of mail fraud, interstate transportation of a stolen check and making a false statement to a bank. He served more than two years of a seven-year sentence in federal prison in Danbury, Conn., and Lompoc, Calif.
After serving his sentence, Gordon went on to become a pioneer in web-based credit card transactions. From the Times:
He appears to have created and run many companies in the ’90s, though they were all related and shared office space, according to Mr. Peisner and other former employees. In addition to Electronic Card Systems and a related entity, Electronic Authorization Systems, Mr. Gordon was involved with magazine publishing, long-distance telephone service and an interior decorating company, among other pursuits.
In 1999, to take advantage of the dot-com gold rush, Mr. Gordon combined many of these companies into a single entity, CreditCards.com, according to a company press release at the time. But the company was having financial problems. Former employees say they remember paychecks occasionally bouncing and leased furniture being repossessed.
According to documents filed with the bankruptcy appellate panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Mr. Gordon brought in new partners from Nashville in 1999 and borrowed several million dollars from them, using his stock as collateral.
The documents, filed as part of litigation relating to business disputes at the company, say that when Mr. Gordon could not pay his partners back, they removed him. The company is now called iPayment and is based in Nashville.
Gordon may have been dumped, but he walked away from the litigation with $2 million in funds and many of his business relationships still intact. Among them was Paul Irwin, the head of the American Bible Society, and from 1996 to 2004 — chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.
In his two decades preaching animal rights, Dr. Irwin, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, turned the Humane Society into the largest animal welfare charity in the world. But his tenure was also pockmarked by scandal.
USA Today reported in 1987 that the society spent $85,000 renovating Dr. Irwin’s vacation cabin in Maine. A decade later, a judge ordered the organization to pay $1 million to the Humane Society of Canada for soliciting donations in Canada and then transferring funds to the United States.
It was toward the end of his tenure, in April 2003, that Dr. Irwin first hired Mr. Gordon. Tax returns for the Humane Society show that the organization paid $881,000 to Mr. Gordon’s new venture, Exciting New Technologies.
In May 2003, according to a press release at the time, Mr. Gordon also hired Dr. Irwin’s son, Christopher, as director of business development at Exciting New Technologies. The younger Mr. Irwin could not be reached for comment, and it is not clear how long he worked there.
So, Paul Irwin, who was a key player in moving HSUS to its current business model of soliciting funds in the name of saving animals to drive direct mail campaigns used to raise money to lobby for the end of all use of animals… is the face behind SPCA International? And a convicted felon is one of his business associates? Lovely… According to the Times:
Mr. Gordon’s company designed the SPCA.com site, and James D. Winston, a longtime business associate of Mr. Gordon, is listed on tax documents as the organization’s executive director. SPCA International declined to make Mr. Winston available for an interview.
It’s not clear how much Mr. Gordon profits from his work on SPCA International. But the chief executives of petsupplies.com, an e-commerce partner listed on the SPCA.com site, and Pet-Togethers, an advertiser on the site, both say their company’s financial relationship is not with SPCA International but with a separate entity, the SPCA Foundation.
According to California corporate records, the foundation was registered as a for-profit company last August by Mr. Gordon’s lawyer, Mr. Woodlief.
As for SPCA International, Mr. Gordon appears to have no operational role there. Even so, the group is involved in a range of initiatives. Every few weeks, the SPCA International selects a “shelter of the week” from around the world and then asks for money for that shelter.
Four of five shelters that were awarded this distinction over the past two months say that they received a $1,000 check and a plaque for the honor — but not a percentage of any donations. The fifth shelter, Welfare of Our Furry Friends, in West Sacramento, Calif., says it received $48.
Hmmm… What percentage of SPCA International’s ‘Shelter of the Week’ proceeds do you suppose $48.00 represents? Given the shady background of key staff and the apparently tiny percentages of their funds that go to actually helping animals – we do not recommend that you you’d have to be a`fool to donate to SPCA International or their subsidiary, Operation Baghdad Pups.
What can you do to help? Donate your money – or your time – (or both) to a reputable local shelter or rescue group. There isn’t a single one who’s not in need of both.
What about the heart-breaking situation in Iraq? Given the circumstances, Iraq’s stray dog population obviously needs to be controlled. And considering the degree of violence and hardship the Iraqi people already have to deal with on a day to day basis – a humane death is, unfortunately, the only option available for most of these dogs. While I’d prefer to see them euthanized in a more humane way than being shot or poisoned – it’s difficult to say what else can be done. In a country where many of the schools, hospitals, streets and utilities have been destroyed by war — is it reasonable to ask people to fund shelters, capture/euthansia, or trap/neuter/release programs?