Archive for March, 2008

The sounds of chain saws

March 10, 2008

It’s ironic… last summer I complained long and hard because a neighbor was having his land timbered. Starting in April (I think), the chain saws and heavy machinery would start their engines at 6:00 am and as it was just down the hill, it was loud. I shuddered every time a tree fell (for that matter, the earth shuddered).

Well, during the tornadoes, this neighbor had very little tree damage. Your’s truly with her high and mighty tree hugging ideals had a LOT of tree damage. And now the chain saws are back. 6:00 am. buzzing away for most of the day.

The country is not a quiet place- at least not anymore. Between chain saws and tractors and 4 wheelers the sounds of machines are everywhere. Then there is the sound of nature. Nature is NOISY. The birds start before the sun comes up, wind whips thru the trees, horses neigh, roosters crow… Back in the day, when we had peafowl, we were the scourge of the neighborhood, as my peacock would “cry” at odd times throughout the day, starting early. A peacock’s cry sounds like a woman screaming. It’s eerie!

At night, the noises continue- birds give their final squawks, wind in the trees, owls hooting or fighting, then the coyotes start howling. During calving season we really keep an ear out for the coyotes- they know when a cow is down, and at her most vulnerable.

Summer nights, add to the noise, the cacophony of crickets and frogs. I often don’t sleep well in summer from all that noise. Plus the air is thick. Faulkner always found a way to make a southern summer sound sultry and sexy (a little alliteration anyone?)- for me, it’s oppressive- especially when you add to the heat and noise the smells. The heavy perfume of a Magnolia- the smell is thick like syrup.

Ahhh… but summer is not near, yet. In fact, winter has not gone, yet. Friday we got snow- lots and lots of snow- by Saturday morning, there was over 4 inches on the ground. Kids got breakfast and then dug out their ski pants, jackets and gloves- raced to the garage and found their sleds and whooped it up all morning. I grabbed the camera and explored the beauty- deep long shadows in the snow- heavy wet snow on branches, jonquils peaking up thru the snow, creeks coming to life as the snow melted. And my horses- they were so happy- we played and played and played- even as it slowly turned to mud and muck.

All in all, we needed that- a complete release from the emotional impact of the tornadoes. Maybe, now that I’m a bit refreshed, I can start to refocus on helping those who need it. And stop focusing on how our government is denying claims left and right, and not helping anyone. It is sad to think that the government we all pay our taxes to, the government who is supposed to be kind and generous to people in need- and seems to help those in other countries- ignores it’s own. The heart is gone from this country- although I have to admit, the people on a local level are incredible.

And so it goes. FEMA seems to be a dismal failure, insurance companies (with a few exceptions) are a joke (or worse, corrupt)… It’s not like the people who are asking for help are expecting to have their lives converted or life long handouts. For the most part, these are hard working, honest people. They just want the system to work. The insurance they paid for to pay them when there is a problem, the government they voted for/they paid taxes to, to help instead of saying “oh you had insurance so we don’t help you”- but what the hey- the insurance isn’t paying- these people are getting screwed by everyone.

It’s amazing to read, or even be told by FEMA, that the only way we’re going to get help is through the Faith Based and Volunteer Community Groups. If this is the case, why did FEMA even appear? Photo ops? Feel good press? Well, all it did was tick off the people who needed the help and didn’t get it.

And why the press isn’t picking up on this really stymies me. As one friend says, if you really want to see what’s going on in the US, read the European or New Zealand Newspapers. Hmmm….

End of rant! (at least for today)


A little levity and a little karma

March 1, 2008

This is the conversation I just had with The Horse:

Dear All,

For over 3 weeks, I have been working hard in Williamson County, TN trying to find support and funding for farms and animals effected by the tornadoes that ripped through here on Feb. 5 & 6 (please see Article # 11360). There has been little laughter and a lot of tears.

So, I cannot begin to tell you just how much I appreciated reading the article “What’s New in Horse Trailers” when my new issue of The Horse came in the mail today. Especially after the tornadoes, I have begun to realize that my 16 foot custom stock trailer isn’t enough. I really need a gooseneck, and a truck to go with it. And so, I read your article with great interest. I was fascinated to read that “steel is easier to repair; holds its shape under duress (tinsel strength)…” Tinsel strength? And from there, I got the giggles. 3+ weeks of stress, trauma, frustration and exhaustion were erased with the thought of fancy show horses being carried around in sparkely Christmas decorations!

Thank you- I needed that laugh-

Vivi Miller

ps- the phrase you’re looking for is TENSILE STRENGTH of which one Wikipedia definition is:
The maximum stress a material can withstand.

And I received a WONDERFUL reply- just got to love the great folks at The Horse!

Hi Vivi

While we’re glad to give you a laugh, we deserve 50 lashes with wet tinsel left over from the holidays!

Thanks for letting us know. We’ll fix it in the archive.

Keep up the good work!


Kimberly S. Brown


The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care

PO Box 919003

Lexington, KY 40591-9003

Without humor, I’d be sunk! So, many thanks to all of you who keep me laughing and help me realize the wonderful things that have come from this tragedy- because even though this has been a horrible ordeal, there have been some incredible moments- I’ve met some incredible people- both on the internet and even my own neighbors that I didn’t know. There are blessings.

That said, yesterday I ran into one of the survivors. She has had a rough time as her mother sold the family house, and they had bought some brand new double wides to put on a really pretty piece of property they had. The double wides had just been delivered but not set up and the tornado destroyed them. Short version is that the mobile home manufacturer is claiming this woman and her mother owe them for the trailers, FEMA isn’t helping at all because they weren’t “displaced” (they had rented the family house until the end of February, but now have to move out) and as the trailers hadn’t been set up and weren’t able to be lived in, this lady hadn’t put insurance on them – anyway, it’s a mess. Her grandfather’s farm was destroyed in the tornado and she was concerned about the animals getting out. So I was trying to help her find fencing supplies and hay.

I received a phone call from a wonderful man, a farmer, who lives in this area, who had just finished replacing ALL his cattle fencing. And in doing so, had carefully rolled the old fencing up, stacked the posts, and had 2 unused rolls of barbed wire. So I called the lady and asked if she & her grandfather could use USED materials, and she said yes- so I put the nice farmer and this lady in touch with eachother.

Turns out, years and years ago, the lady’s stepfather had been extremely kind to this nice farmer after he had roof damage from a storm on some of his buildings. He had shown compassion and had reached out to help. This act of kindness wasn’t forgotten by the farmer, and that is why he reached out to help after the tornado, not realizing until the lady called him that she was the step-daughter of the very man who’d helped him years and years ago. I had no idea when I paired the farmer with the lady. But the story gave me goosebumps!

Yes, there is Karma. And it is good.


exhaustion sets in

March 1, 2008

along with the stomach flu going around my house. I’ve taken to not being anywhere near my family- sad state of affairs! But between David & the kids all acting like volcanoes, well, do you blame me?

Over the past few days, I’ve done some mental gymnastics to try and find out how response time and agencies can respond better. To date, I have heard no complaints about the first responders- the fire department, medics, police etc who arrived on the scene and started looking for people immediately after the tornadoes came through. And I’ve also found out that DART WAS on the scene, but cleverly disguised as Animal Control (if I’m repeating myself, forgive me- it’s been a really long long long few weeks). Therefore, no one actually knew that their animal was being rescued by the actual agency that was supposed to do the rescuing.

so my first suggestion is to make sure that agencies are identifiable.

Then, I was told that DART didn’t get to all the large animals because they didn’t know there was a need. Hmmm… Well, that’s because:
1) the tornado victims were traumatized
2) the tornado victims didn’t have electricity or phone service
3) the tornado victims didn’t know who to call – animal control deals with small animals, who do you call for large animals?
4) cell phone coverage is spotty under normal circumstances- with towers down a lot of cell services just didn’t work.
5) there was mass confusion and a lot of roads were just closed due to trees either across them or trees that uprooted entire sections of road.

so my next suggestion is that the agencies that are supposed to be first responders NEED to get out into the community and let the people know who they are, how they can be reached and what to do in an emergency. There needs to be some sort of way to communicate too- for human emergencies people who could call out were able to call 911- but what do you do about your animals? Maybe the dispatchers need to be trained to ask if there are animal emergencies as well. Sounds a little callous, but seriously, if little joey is lying under a destroyed house and emergency services CAN’T get to him because there is a herd of terrified cattle in the road, well, what’s going to happen? So if dispatchers can ask things like: are you in a rural location, can you tell if EMS can get to you, is there any livestock out, etc.

Because the Large Animal need was never fully appreciated by EMA and DART, the next step wasn’t taken in the Animal Response department, which was to ask for aid from TN EMA, which then asks for aid from HSUS.

On the reverse end of that, when I went to ask for aid from HSUS, I received the following letter:

Hi Vivi,

Thanks for your message. I’m glad to hear that you and your farm made it through the tornadoes unscathed and that you were able to assist other horse owners. I consulted with our disaster services folks who let me know that we did assist with tornado impacted animals and people in Macon County, TN. We can only respond when asked by government officials and weren’t asked to assist in Williamson County. Unfortunately, we don’t have relief funds available to assist private individuals. We typically make donations to animal care organizations that assist us directly with rescue efforts (i.e. take in animals we rescue from disaster areas). I would suggest reaching out to local community and animal welfare groups to see if they have any resources or disaster funds set up to assist individuals in Williamson County.

Best wishes,

Stacy Segal

Equine Protection Specialist

The Humane Society of the United States

To which I replied:

Hi Stacy,

I appreciate you getting back with me. And I can understand your/HSUS’ position, but I do have a problem with it.

Williamson County dropped the ball. On all accounts. They didn’t ask for any disaster aid- for humans or animals- and we had to really throw a hissy fit to get any help at all. By one account, our county DART was not activated, so there was absolutely NO response for animals. Another account holds that while all DART members were mobilized in the state, the Williamson County DART is not “official” and therefore not held to the same standards as “official” DARTs… Either way, the supposed Co-Director works in this county and should have been fully aware of the extent of the damage, just from a personal level.

Due to the lack of “official” animal first responders or DART,there was a huge problem with everything from expensive fox hunters to endurance horses, to cattle, to mules, to goats all getting out and wandering some busy roads. Or getting cut, damaged or killed by dangerous debris.

There were two groups that did respond almost immediately to animal needs on Wednesday morning after the tornado and they were:
the Williamson County Animal Control, who took dogs and cats; and
my friends and I, who arrived with stock trailers, basic husbandry kits, halters and such to deal with large animals. One of my friends is married to a vet, who came along and tended to animals.

I have not heard from any animal welfare groups, and people here are beginning to worry that Animal Control is going to put all the Tornado Animals to sleep. I heard from our supposed director of our county DART, 10 days AFTER the tornado- she wanted to sell tornado victims hay at $9.00 a bale. We’re in the middle of a drought- our State Ag Department is not doing anything to help (although North Carolina’s is helping them), nor is it helping with Tornado relief. Those of us who could, brought in tractor trailer loads of hay from out of state this fall and loaded our barns for our own animals- now some of those animals no longer have a barn to call home or hay to eat. It’s heartbreaking to see grown men cry over lost hay, especially after they’ve lost everything they own.

We are a volunteer group. Many kind people in our area have donated a roll of livestock fencing here or Tposts there… but that is just a drop in the barrel. One woman, for example, lost 2 miles of post and rail fencing (and her house, barn, trailer, truck, etc)- there’s no way we, as a volunteer group, can afford to help her with post and rail. She also lost her hay-

The organizations that have helped have had grants for emergency vet care, boarding, transportation, etc. Those organizations would be AVMA, UAN and Merck. PetSmart Charities has donated cat/dog food, kennels, dog houses, kitty litterboxes, etc. Heck, I just purchased 67 bales of bermuda (100# bales) out of my own pocket and have been delivering it at 10 bales per person to those in need. Just to get some temporary relief. I can’t afford to do that again, though.

What we, and others throughout the state who’ve been effected by tornadoes, need is hay, fencing, supplies to rebuild barns. Since there have been no animal welfare groups jumping in to lend a hand, we have set up a separate fund through United Way specifically for Farm and Animal relief. That would be:

Fairview Area Storm Relief/Farm & Animal Needs
United Way
209 Gothic Court
Franklin, TN 37067

If you are still unable to help, then I would like to have HSUS come here in a few months to sit down for a debriefing. Unfortunately, killer tornado producing storms will continue to happen, and next time I want to be prepared. Since HSUS runs the NDART, I would personally like your (or a NDART/HSUS Rep) review of what we’ve done as community volunteers with NO TRAINING and NO HELP from any of the animal first responders or from the Williamson County Disaster Animal Relief Team in this area. I would like for all of us to figure out what we can improve upon for future disasters. And I would like to think that HSUS would want to investigate why the Williamson County DART failed to mobilize.

Since the area of Williamson County that was hit by the tornado is low income/rural poor & poor agriculture, my neighbors and their animals were IGNORED by the very people we pay taxes to protect us. Some of the people who live here do belong in the higher end of the horse world (fox hunting, endurance racing, showing, carriage club, quarter horse, Arab, sport horse breeding, etc). Some of the people who live here raise show quality cattle or show quality goats. Many do not. But because this area is not the wealthy section of the county, the people and the animals are ignored. So, I want to have protection, education, training and supplies for when the next disaster strikes this area.

Thank you for your time,

Vivi S. Miller

And then I got an email from Dr. Linnabary, who I believe is Director of TN DART through the TN Dept of Agriculture:


Please accept this letter as an explanation of the Tennessee Disaster Animal Response Team (TN DART) during the tornadoes of February 5, 2008. I have an email that you wrote criticizing the Tennessee and Williamson County response to both the drought and the tornadoes. First, let me say that I will recommend your visiting the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) website for information on the drought: . There was a drought task force which had weekly meetings and many conference calls in order that the drought issues are addressed as completely and timely as possible.

The tornadoes which raked Tennessee caused damage in 15 counties. There were some counties more heavily hit than others with some counties having a Presidentially Declaration of Disaster. If provided in the declaration of emergency, federal funds are provided for reimbursement of costs of certain emergency operations and low cost loans provided to the citizens for rebuilding their homes and businesses. Without the Presidential Declaration of Disaster, people in some tornado affected counties usually depend on donations of goods and services through certain non-governmental organizations and certain governmental agencies.

As for the response to the tornado damage in Williamson County, I believe from the reports that the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency did as they were called on to do and they responded in an excellent manner. They called out their DART which worked with large and small animals alike. Each of these teams had experienced personnel and veterinarians who provided immediate care to the injured animals. I believe that there are both large and small animals currently being cared for by the county DART. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Operations Center communicated with each of the affected counties frequently during the response period and early recovery and the counties which needed assistance was provided specific aid as called for by the county. The Tennessee DART was requested only by Macon County. We deployed the Wilson County and Hamilton County DARTs as well as an HSUS team.

Finally, I think that it is important for people to understand that there is a plan by which we operate during disasters. It is called the “Tennessee Emergency Management Plan” or TEMP. The TEMP is compliant with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA disaster operational guidelines called, Incident Command System (ICS)”. The ICS defines the protocols and procedures under which all emergency management agencies work. For purposes outlined in this letter, the county EMA and county governments manage disasters within their counties. Should they need state assistance; the state will assist where they are needed. Likewise, where the state requires assistance in the disaster, the governor makes a request for aid from the federal government. Usually, a Presidential Disaster Declaration is made in order for federal agencies to be mobilized. This exactly how Williamson County and the Tennessee governments acted in this disaster. To learn more about disaster management, I recommend your taking the basic ICS classes online through the internet at: . I will also invite you to be a part of the Williamson County DART. I’m sure that they would be happy to have you as a concerned citizen and responder.


Dr. Linnabary

My reply…

Dear Dr. Linnabary,

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to email me with this explanation. I would like to offer an explanation of my comments that you must have read in my scathing letter to HSUS, not as an argument, but so you can see where I got my information and conclusions from and in hopes that in the future you can make sure that the Government Agencies involved are all on the same page.

I would like to say, I realize there is a TEMP and ICS. My mother is in the Coast Guard, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security. One of my friends, who’s home and farm were destroyed by the tornado, is a registered nurse and a registered First Responder. I’m sure she would have been called to action if she hadn’t had the tornado rip through the middle of her house. When I found her she was in the middle of her yard holding the lead lines of 4 draft horses, unable to really move, while 2 more were trapped in her collapsed barn.

After the tornado, on Wednesday morning, friends & I went out in the field acting as First Responders for large animals in need. We arrived with horse trailers, stock trailers, halters, lead lines, friends with chain saws and brawn, and even brought a Vet with us. We were able to get the two horses trapped in the barn out and treated by the Vet we brought with us. We were able to get all 6 horses contained and moved off property to foster locations. We were able to get other loose animals contained. And we started to identify the needs of many people in this area.

Once we realized there was a need on a larger scale, and we didn’t see anyone filling it, we started researching what was available. One of my first places to research was TN Dept of Agriculture and the TN State Veterinarian’s office. I have dealt with both offices in the past and was comfortable negotiating their websites and calling them on the phone for more information.

Just for the record, during the drought this fall, I called the TN Dept of Agriculture every other week to see if there was going to be any aid for farmers and animal owners in TN. I was given the names and phone numbers of the people in the Clarksville area who were arranging for tractor trailer loads of hay to come in. I was also told to call my local FSA, which I did but the Farm Bill wasn’t passed until late in the fall and the current drought was not addressed in it. Also, through experience, I know that much of the aid to farmers is in the form of low interest loans, not grants- although I did research NRCS grants and had my local NRCS agent come out to walk my property and discuss what was currently available. As no aid seemed to be forthcoming from the TN Dept of Agriculture during the drought, I brought in 1200 bales of horse hay from out of state (one load from Upstate New York, another load from West VA), and obtained international cargo containers to hold my hay. And I proceeded to field phone calls from people who could no longer afford to feed their horses and cattle. Quite a few horses went to auction at pennies on the dollar, and I know of cattle that was sold off early or, in at least one case, sent to KY to another farm to wait out the drought. We all made disaster plans in case our wells and ponds went dry.

In the process of researching what aid was available for Tornado Victims, I found the information about how to join DART and what courses were required- all of which are available online. I actually started the first course one night but never finished due to questions I had, and the more pressing needs of the local farmers and animal owners here.

The information I had, and from where I drew my conclusions about the County and State response to the tornadoes came from a number of sources, including from a conversation with you via phone. I believe that call was on either February 13 or February 14, in which you told me, after pulling up some information on your computer, that DART had NOT been notified of any need in this area, and in order to get DART involved I would have to start with Williamson County E.M.A. and make the requests for aid myself. At the time I contacted you, and I was given your name, number and email address by The State Veterinarian’s Office, I was unaware that Tony Fortner and Animal Control were part of Williamson County DART. I was very aware that Tony and Animal Control were being incredibly helpful with small animals, and at least one horse who had been trapped under a tree and ended up with a limb through a rib.

I had called FEMA earlier that week, on 2/11/08, to ask why Williamson County had not received the Presidential Declaration of Disaster and what I could do as a citizen of Williamson County to help my county get that Declaration. I spoke with Drema, id#XXXX, and was told that Williamson County EMA had not requested Federal Aid, therefore Williamson County had not received the Declaration. Drema suggested I call Williamson County EMA to help push for the request for Federal Aid, and also suggested I contact my State Representatives. That information was passed around to as many people as possible in order to contact State Representatives, which I believe was accomplished. I had also written an email to Governor Bredesen and my husband had emailed President Bush. I did think it a bit odd that Williamson County EMA had not requested Federal Aid as I had read in the Tennessean that Governor Bredesen had requested that, I believe, 23 counties be Declared Disaster Areas.

I had also been in contact with both Mike Smith and with Dwayne Perry at the Williamson County Agriculture Extension. I believe I spoke with Mike on Tuesday the 12th, and Dwayne was not in the office that day. I spoke with Dwayne the following day, and emailed him my spreadsheet of people with farm and animal needs. Dwayne told me he was going to talk to some of his resources and friends to see if a private donation of materials could be made to one or two extremely needy people. This was not an Ag Extension project but a personal favor Dwayne was asking of people he knew. We also talked about the fact that Dwayne had personally helped one local farmer, Jimmy Jones, the Saturday after the tornado, along with members of Tn Cattleman’s Association. Neither Mike nor Dwayne made mention of DART in Williamson County, even though they were both aware that I was trying to get help for the farmers and animals who were tornado victims, and that I was trying to bring in hay and needed a place to store it (I was hoping the Ag Center would allow me to do just that, even if it were a tractor trailer parked in their parking lot).

On Friday, February 15, late in the afternoon, I received a call from Melinda Barrington. She informed me she was Co-Director of Williamson County DART, along with Tony Fortner (which is the first I’d heard that Tony was anything but a neighbor and Animal Control). She told me she was in charge of Equine needs- and I explained that horses weren’t the only animals effected, that we had cattle, goats, mules, and possibly other large animals, as well as small animals with needs. She requested that I email her the same spreadsheet of people with farm/animal needs, that I had sent Dwayne Perry. I made sure she understood that the list I had sent Dwayne was the very very neediest and most urgent cases I had been able to identify so far, as Dwayne had requested that information to try and secure a private donation. She was fine with that. She then proceeded to inform me she had hay. I was thrilled and asked her how we could get it to those who needed it. At that point, she told me that she could only donate it to the very neediest tornado victims, all others had to pay $9.00/bale. I asked her how to determine who was the very neediest tornado victim when people had just lost their homes, barns, vehicles, all their belongings and she was going to charge them $9.00 a bale for hay? She did reiterate that she would donate it to the neediest but had to recoup money where she could. I asked her what kind of hay this was, and she told me it was an orchard grass/timothy mix- a nice horse hay. Again, I reminded her that other animals were involved and that no farmer was going to feed his cattle $9.00 bale hay. There was a reporter sitting next to me in my car while this conversation took place, and SHE was appalled that a supposed Disaster person was charging OUTRAGEOUS prices for hay to disaster victims.

I sent the email later with the spread sheet, and I will copy it here, followed by Melinda’s response:

On Feb 16, 2008, at 8:57 AM, Vivi Miller wrote:

Hi Melinda,
Thanks so much for getting in touch with me. I hope we can help the animals and farmers in need- which is most of them… This is the rural poor community in Williamson County, and the community is also a proud community. Therefore it has been difficult to get people to admit to what their needs are. The list I’m attaching is preliminary, and consists of the neediest members I’ve been able to identify so far. There will be more. I am going back out into the field again today and may try to do a door to door. I’m sorry if I seem a bit scattered, I took this on by myself (I do animal rescue/foster work in “real life” and have been affiliated with a sanctuary out of Cookeville in the past), and the response has been overwhelming. I find it hard to simoultanously be at home on the computer/phone begging for supplies and also in the community delivering, helping with issues, moving animals, etc. And still be a mom and wife and take care of my critters & the 4 legged & winged tornado victims on my farm.

Enough excuses! attached is the preliminary list. I’m still assessing hay needs, round bales for cattle seem to be more immediate than horse hay, but there was a LOT of horse hay lost. Sorry if I was dismissive about your horse hay, but I think a decent quality grass hay can still be purchased in the $7 range at Farm Depot & Will Co Farmer’s Coop, so you can see why I balked at $9 a bale. If you need resources for less expensive hay, I have some that I know from this fall & just haven’t had time to contact.

Thanks- Vivi

ps – when this is all “over” is there a chance we could all sit down and do an assessment of response, need, and what farm/animal volunteers should do/be trained for when the next disaster strikes? Thanks-

—– Original Message —-
From: Melinda Barrington
To: Vivi Miller
Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2008 9:30:13 AM
Subject: Re: Fairview Area Animal/Farm tornado relief


Thank you. You have done good work. The system for animals in need has already been set up thru the State. It is call D.A.R.T. (Disaster Animal Response Team) Tony Fortner of Animal Control and I are Co-Directors in Williamson County.

Tony is in the field today making assessments.

Please email me anything that you get and I will make arrangements with Tony and the Ag Center.

Thank you,

Melinda B

It was after this response from Melinda that I started getting really mad. I contacted the news media, and a few reporters have been investigating this story. One reporter tried to contact Melinda- and this is what she emailed me:

Melinda’s cell phone won’t take messages…her office number isn’t picking up and her home number isn’t in service.

On 2/20, I received another email from this same reporter, as follows:

So…I finally talked to some folks with the Dept. of Ag today.

And apparently they say ALL DART teams in the state were mobilized after the tornado…problem is Williamson County’s DART team isn’t really “official.” He says the team is just starting up and therefore isn’t held to the same responsibilites as other teams.

Additionally, upon more research into Disaster Aid provided to animals after the tornadoes, I came across “The DART Report,” and I am attaching that report to this email. Please note, there is no mention in “The DART Report” about dead animals in Williamson County. There was at least one horse and 6 dogs that I know of that were killed in the Williamson County Tornadoes. I am also copying the first paragraph of “The DART Report,” as follows:

Tennessee Storm Animal Emergency Response
Situational Report as of 02/22/08

On Feb. 5, 2008, the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) was fully activated at 6:30
p.m. upon confirmation of storm damage. Department of Agriculture emergency coordinators
were notified and reported for duty. To date, Macon County is the only county in the affected
areas to request animal emergency services.

As you can see, I did look for DART, or any similar organization, from the beginning. I’ve actually been in contact with Melissa Riley at Wilson County DART (she invited me to join THEM!) to see if we could help them, as I was under the belief there was a need for a foster farm for donkeys from Macon County. We shared information, especially about the availability of grants, such as: AVMA- has a grant for Vets who worked on Tornado victim animals, I spoke with Dr. Heather Case, who was extremely helpful.
UAN (United Animal Nations)- grant available thru 2/29 for disaster vet care, transportation and boarding
MERCK- disaster grant for vets who worked on Tornado Victim animals for medicines and supplies
FarmAid- grant on a case by case basis for farm aid for Tornado victims.

My point in telling you all this is not to argue with you, as I have stated, but to point out that I did follow the right path and was told by the very agencies who should have known better, that 1) Williamson County EMA had dropped the ball and 2) Williamson County DART basically was not operational. So I hope you can understand why I was a bit peeved by Melinda Barrington’s comments and offer of “help” and by the Humane Society of the United States email to me. As I pointed out in my email to Melinda Barrington, hay was for sale at the local feed stores in the $7/bale range. I purchased an orchardgrass/timothy mix hay from West VA this fall (100# bales, second cutting) for $7.50/bale delivered. And while I realize fuel has gone up, it has not gone up so much to raise the price/bale $1.50, especially to tornado victims. I believe it is against the law to price gouge during a disaster, but I could be wrong.

By the way, I have spoken to Mike Thompson at Williamson County EMA today. I had called that office many times and the phone just rang and rang and rang. Today was the first time I had actually gotten through. He is aware of this problem and I hope he can find out why the phone never picked up or went to dispatch. I hope my experience was an isolated case (or cases, as I tried probably 3 times a week to reach WCEMA).

I am hoping to take the required courses so I can be a DART team member and actually know what I am doing, instead of flying by the seat of my pants. There have been a number of things that have concerned me about the fact that untrained volunteers (although we did have one vet with us) responded to animal needs, especially large animals needs. Concerns like the spread of disease and other bio-hazards, liability, the possibility that we could get hurt (luckily we all had a good deal of basic husbandry skills and supplies) or could make a hurt animal worse. These are risks that are taken even by professionals, but I am fully aware that a well intentioned volunteer can cause more problems than they can do good.

If possible, when the dust has settled, I would really really like to have a meeting of all concerned to discuss what happened and how to make it better. I made this request of Melinda Barrington (and was dismissed, see above) and I made this request of HSUS.

Thank you for your time,


Vivi Miller

The next day, I received an email from a volunteer who was trying to help with some dog/cat issues and she’d contacted HSUS on her own. Being a wonderful volunteer who wanted to make sure I was up to date with all the info, she sent me the following:

Leighann McCollum, TN State Director for The Humane Society of the United States, sent me an email regarding livestock needs for Wm. County. She suggested contacting Purina for hay and large animal feed. She and Dr. Linnabarry, Tn Dept. of Ag., say that the reason that Wm. is getting no assistance is due to the fact that Williamson County was ever declared a Presidentially Declared Disaster. This needed to release funds for disaster relief. You probably know all this, but I just wanted to let you know what I was told through email.

Just wanted to let you know what I was told.

Now, by this point, I realized that information was getting mangled. Williamson County had been declared on 2/12, and was eligible for federal aid and disaster relief. So, I thought Dr. Linnabary should know that there was mis-information going around. So I emailed him again:

Dear Dr. Linnabary,

Not that I want to beat a dead horse, so to speak, but I just received an email from one of the volunteers here. She has been in communication with Leighann McCollum, whom I know is copied on this email. I am copying part of the email I received below, and if you can get through some grammatical mistakes, I think you’ll see that mis-information is being perpetuated by the very agencies that should know better. In that I am referring to the fact that Williamson Country received the Presidential Declaration of Disaster on 2/12/07.

Again, the reason I bring this to your attention is to make the system better and help it run smoother.

Thank you for your time,


PS- the “she” in the following refers to Leighann McCollum, and I am aware she may have been misquoted, but it is still important to see where some of the concerns are.

She and Dr. Linnabarry, Tn Dept. of Ag., say that the reason that Wm. is getting no assistance is due to the fact that Williamson County was ever declared a Presidentially Declared Disaster. This needed to release funds for disaster relief.

and I almost immediately got the following response:
I can’t tell who wrote this email to you but it did not come from me. Dr L was copied on a message to Lxxxx Lxxxx who is the only other person I’ve corresponded with in Williamson Co. And agreed with the response.

I would appreciate not being accused of sending inaccurate information if you are relying on someone who has obviously paraphrased.


Ewwwww… someone seems to have an ego problem. She totally misses the point that this isn’t about US or HER or whatever, but about better communication so we don’t spend our time spinning wheels and we can spend our time helping animals.

So I apologized….

Please note, I did say you might have been mis-quoted. And if this is not your information, then we have therefore identified where the mis-information is coming from, IN THIS CASE. Obviously, Lxxx Lxxxx misinterpreted the information you emailed her. I have corrected her by letting her know that Williamson Country received the Presidential Declaration of Disaster on 2/12/08 (and for those of you who are sticklers, please note that I had mistakenly written “07” instead of “08” in the first email).

I’m not trying to throw blame here- but I am trying to help all concerned get a grip on how the information we all send out is being interpreted. Myself included, but I am not a part of any government agency or large non-profit. Those of you who are in those organizations are held to a higher standard than a volunteer like myself.

There is a sense of frustration and hopelessness in this area as more and more people get turned down by FEMA. Many of the insurance agencies are really being awful (I won’t name names), and if people qualify for the SBA loan they can’t afford it. The same goes for the USDA federal disaster loans. I realize they are all low interest loans, but that only works for people who can afford to borrow the money in the first place.

So, Leighann, the purpose here was not to blame you and I apologize if it came across that way.


And my apology doesn’t seem to have been accepted (or she really DOES have an ego problem):

Vivi- for your review, below is the exact email that was sent to Lxxx Lxxx. I hope you will understand why I felt that your accusation that “mis-information is being perpetuated by the very agencies that should know better” is an unfair statement, even when prefaced by “maybe she was misquoted”.

Hi Lxxxx. The Humane Society of the United States deployed our disaster relief team to assist with tornado impacted animals and people in Macon County , TN. We spent almost 2 weeks doing rescue and recovery in the disaster zone. We must comply with state regulations and can only respond when asked by government officials. Since Williamson County did not request ESF16 or state resources, HSUS was not deployed to that area. Unfortunately, we don’t have relief funds available to assist private individuals. We typically make donations to animal care organizations that assist us directly with rescue efforts (i.e. take in animals we rescue from disaster areas). Since your request is regarding livestock, I would suggest reaching out to the local Farm Bureau to see if they have any resources or disaster funds available to assist individuals in Williamson County . There may also be funding available through the Farm Services Agency. You can find additional information for requesting assistance from the state at the following link:


OK, I don’t know if anyone caught this, but I re-read Leighann’s original email to Lxxxx a few times… and wondered what the heck ESF 16 is. So I googled it. And was just about to write a scathing email to Leighann when I received the following from Dr. Linnabary:

To all,

We could continue this thread of “he said/she said” for a long time and without positive results. An ancient Hebrew tradition was to place on a goat the transgressions of the people then leading the goat to the desert to die with the transgressions. Let me be the scapegoat here and you can send to me all of your problems and I will ceremoniously deposit them in the “desert”. It does more harm than good to dwell on “who said what” especially in the light that we have so much work to do getting the storm affected communities back to some degree of normality. We also have to work within the guidelines provided by county and state governments. Where the communication breakdown occurred will be reviewed in the county and state after action reports and some of you will have an opportunity to make statements for the AARs.

As it is stated in the optimist’s creed, let’s “forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements of the future”. No doubt that we had our first trial of the TN DART program and we did make errors. So let’s define those errors and make corrections in the plan – both state and county. It will be important for everyone to take part in their county DART and make it as functional and interactive with the county EMA as possible. I’m certain that we all share the same goals in caring for disaster affected animals and agriculture.

For those who need hay, feed and supplies to help restart, they will be dependent on their counties for help. Perhaps some donated products will be available. Unfortunately and ultimately, disaster affected people have to depend on themselves and neighbors for help. Another suggestion is to contact the local VOAD representative for aid.

This may come across as negative but be assured that I intend it to be a positive note. But speaking from experience, she said/he said discussions do little accept burn valuable time and energy and sometimes relationships.
Dr. L.

He had a good point, although I did take the time out to ask him to take some info to the table when they all have their AAR:

Thank you Sir,

I appreciate your taking the reins on this and putting it to rest. And while I say that, I would like to beg your forgiveness and indulge me a few comments- not in derogatory comments, but comments to help make things better for now and the future, for humans and for animals. I am assuming (and I do know the meaning of that word) that the AAR will be for Relief Agencies to review how the system works, not for people like your’s truly to make suggestions. Therefore, I give you my suggestions:

The email that was sent to a volunteer had the phrase:
Williamson County did not request ESF16 or state resources

I am pretty sure the reason why the volunteer mis-interpreted the email is because she had NO IDEA what ESF16 means. Quite honestly I don’t either, although I guess it is some Emergency code. I took the time to google the term, and and the only “definitions” I could find were for a New Jersey Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring table ( or that it is a registered pesticide (product info sheet attached, so you can show people at the AAR).

I realize that it is important to be able to communicate efficiently and quickly in a disaster and post disaster situation, and the use of code words and multitudes of initials is great for inter-agency communication. But volunteers in a disaster are often community members with little or no emergency training. We don’t speak the lingo, we don’t know the hierarchy, in many cases we’ve never heard of the county agencies that are supposed to help. What we do know is the layout of the land, the people who live in it, the resources and potential hazards inherent in the area and as members of the community we bring with us a level of trust that isn’t found for “some government agency.” So I suggest, that when an agency of any kind communicates with us, they do so in a way that WE can understand. And do so with caring and feeling as we are exhausted, traumatized and getting the brunt of the survivors’ angst and helplessness. If we mis-interpret a communication, then we all run the risk of that mis-interpretation getting out in the general public and raising the level of frustration the people have with the Government and with Aid Agencies.

I also want to point out another thing that should be discussed at the AAR is public awareness of emergency and disaster procedures, and communication in the very early stages of a disaster. I mention this because I had been told that while DART was out helping small animals, they weren’t aware of all the big animal issues, and I may be wrong but I believe the information was coming to DART through Williamson County EMA. For example, without getting into a he said/she said situation, I believe the fact that Williamson County EMA didn’t know about the all the animals in distress and need, because 1) the homeowners/animal owners didn’t have any effective way to communicate and 2) the homeowners/animal owners had no idea who to call to get help for their animals. In some cases, where cell phones worked, some people called their local vets, other’s called friends to help. To date, even the people who’ve been helped by DART have no idea who or what DART is. They just think Animal Control came to their rescue- or 3 women with trailers, halters, lead ropes and a vet showed up magically. Cell phone coverage is spotty even during the best times in this area- after the tornado it was horrible. Only certain service worked in certain areas and it wasn’t the same service in each area. This part of Williamson County is very hilly- in fact, it’s been compared to West VA with the hills, hamlets, hollows, streams and trees. If someone is not familiar with the area, it can be daunting. It still surprises me that everyone was found.

After people are settled, and life starts resuming to normal (which I am guessing will be a year or more around here), I would like to suggest that DART and other organizations get involved in the community. Maybe they can hold a meet & greet, go to schools and talk to children, have seminars and get locals involved in disaster preparedness. This could go a long way to improved community relations and, better, improved quality of life for animals. And maybe this is somewhere HSUS can get involved in this community and help us with prevention and preparation, and even train people in the event DART can’t make it out to an area- so that basic emergency husbandry care can be given (although I have to admit some of my neighbors did an incredible job patching up horses that looked like Voodoo dolls- and did it with duct tape).

Just my two cents for the future and for the good of the animals.


I also emailed him a while later letting him know just how “wrong” it is that the State Director of Disaster Animal Response Team is out sacrificing goats – I did it with a laugh and a wink and got a “point well taken” response in return.

I am glad he stepped in, because I was gonna let Leighann and HSUS have it with both barrels. Maybe I’m being foolish, but I think it’s incredibly arrogant of Nationally Known Aid Agencies to think we, the common people in the midst of a disaster, have ANY idea what they’re talking about when they start throwing initials and numbers at us. I do like the concept, though, that she actually had no idea what she was saying and she’s actually referring to the New Jersey people who are studying some sort of wierd turtle.

Yup. That’s my story… and I’m stickin’ to it. I’d love to see the headlines on that one – “HSUS ignores tornado ravaged animals to study muddy turtles in New Jersey”

sorry to make you sit through my gripe and growl here- but if I don’t get this stuff off my chest, it effects how I help everyone- and I find it’s much better to be patient, calm, understanding and compassionate when dealing with traumatized humans and animals than it is to be angry and frustrated. I actually learned that trick when I brought Beamer, my now 5 yr old belgian/qh pmu, in when he was 4 months old. When he got scared, I’d put my forehead on his forehead and just do some yoga breathing. He’d calm right down. And match my breathing. Found it worked with my children when they were babies too… To this day, when Beam gets upset and I’m around, he comes over and we breathe together. Pretty cool. Now if I could just get him to go into lotus position, I’d have my fortune made!