We Found Your Dog GiGi
As Judy and Santo Migliore evacuated on to a barge, an official threatened to handcuff Judy if she did not abandon GiGi, a 10-pound toy poodle. Judy clung to her 6-year-old dog with the apricot marks etched inside one ear and along her back. But officials stood firm and Judy was forced to leave GiGi with a St. Bernard Parish Deputy in Violet, Louisiana.
The Migliores and three of five adult children were now homeless, their former homes washed away in the levee break after Katrina. Desperate to find GiGi, they initiated an internet search from their hotel room in Lafayette, LA. They checked shelters statewide and perused Petfinders, once stumbling upon a white miniature poodle sent to a Michigan Humane Society. That lead, like others, was a dead end.
On October 7, an email arrived: "I am so sorry if this is GiGi," Dana, a rescue volunteer, wrote. "You cannot see it in the pictures, but the dog's nails are painted The dog was found either in [school] room 206, 208, or 210. Please, please accept my condolences if this is GiGi."
In the photo, a tangle of white fur rested atop a puddle of feces and blood. Patches of sunlight framed the tiny dog and a discarded cigarette butt lay by her head. GiGi had finally been found.
On October 7, Judy Migliore wrote to Ellen Little, another volunteer in the search for GiGi: "Ellen, I just wanted to let you know that my baby, GiGi, was found and that it's been confirmed she was never taken from the shelter. She died. The Pasado animal group in St. Bernard Parish found her. Once again, thank you and all the kind people who tried to bring this to a happy ending. But, now it has ended in sadness." As told to me while recording stories for SB-607 Pet Evacuation, Brenda Shoss
A white poodle, GiGi, was among the dogs allegedly killed by authorities after their guardians were forcibly evacuated during Hurricane Katrina. A lawsuit says an animal rescue worker found GiGi shot in the head. Judy Migliore and her husband spent three days going from rooftop to rooftop with their daughters and their poodle, Gidget, which she said means "small" in Hawaiian. Migliore said they called the dog GiGi. When it was time to go, Migliore said she pleaded with a deputy to let her take the poodle.
"I begged. I was crying. I said, 'Please, she'll never, never touch the ground. She'll stay in my arms.' He said, 'Ma'am, we can do it either nicely or not nicely,' and he said, 'I'm prepared to handcuff you.'
"I turned and looked at my husband and I said, 'I can't! I cannot leave her,' and the deputy I knew came up at that time and he said, 'Miss Judy, give her to me and I'll see what I can do.' I gave her to him because I couldn't and he turned and give her to the deputy and that was the last time we seen him," she said, referring to the deputy.
"I kept thinking… she going's to be terrified that I wasn't holding her, she was going to be terrified of bad weather and other dogs because of big dogs. Pit bulls, Great Danes, huge dogs… I knew she was going to be terrified… And I kept thinking, 'I'm leaving her.'"
"I live with this every day in my thoughts and in my heart because she was our baby, and there's not a day goes by that I don't think of her."
Two weeks later, Migliore said, her brother-in-law went back to the school where they GiGi, but he was turned away. One daughter went online to animal rescue sites and another daughter visited shelters. They knew the poodle would be easy to identify. GiGi was pure white, with freshly clipped nails painted red and a brown collar with a St. Francis of Assisi medal around her neck.
[Kinship Circle was told Oct 7, but it doesn't matter for purpose of recounting this horror.] On Oct 9, according to the complaint, a rescue worker informed the family that Gidget had been found shot in the head. Presented with some of the allegations made in court documents and to ABC News, Gutierrez, the attorney for the sheriff's department, said that he would like to depose the plaintiffs under oath.
Slaughter In The Streets One day. Reporters happened to be there. How many more days, more animals? Left behind. Looking for a familiar face. A scrap of food. A kind voice. Shot dead. Case dismissed. Killers walk.
Slaughter At Schools Cruelty investigator Mark Steinway reported: "Dogs were not shot in the head to quickly bring death. Shooting an animal's body cavity is one of the most cruel ways to kill."
Civil Suit Is Filed For Companion Animals Executed In St. Bernard Parish
~ Lawsuit: Katrina Pets Executed, continued ~
For nearly two years, pet guardians from the low-lying Louisiana parish of St. Bernard have accused sheriff's deputies of having wantonly killed dozens of dogs they forced evacuees to leave behind during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, without regard to the dogs' size or the potential threat they might pose.
One evacuee said her family was forced at gunpoint to leave their dog. Another said residents grew frantic when they overheard a deputy say "once everyone's gone, we're going to have target practice tonight." Court papers claim deputies were under "authorization of superiors and employers."
Two deputies have already been indicted by a New Orleans grand jury on felony aggravated cruelty to animals charges. The Louisiana attorney general's office is investigating and lawyers for a group of [animal guardians] will file a comprehensive complaint in Louisiana federal court seeking class action status for their clients.
For the first time, St. Bernard Parish sheriff's office has acknowledged to ABC News' Law & Justice Unit that an internal investigation is underway. Sal Gutierrez, a sheriff's office rep, defended the department's handling of a difficult evacuation. Gutierrez said shells found in schools didn't necessarily come from weapons issued to deputies. He called orders to kill dogs from superior officers "false" and said if the investigation revealed wrongdoing, the St. Bernard sheriff would take disciplinary action. If false claims have been alleged in the lawsuit, he said he'd consider countercharges of defamation of character. He said that he and the sheriff were animal lovers.
In December, the sheriff's office released a statement that any actions taken were done with "the utmost care, caution and belief of necessity," according to New Orleans City Business newspaper. But Gutierrez told ABC News that until the internal investigation was done, he could not adequately answer charges.
"I can't tell you we don't have a renegade or two," Gutierrez told ABC News. "If you're talking about a rabid dog roaming the streets trying to attack, that's understandable to try and find and euthanize a dog," said plaintiff attorney Randall Smith. But, he said later, "some of them were poodles, miniature dogs, tied up…no way a threat to anybody."
One of the key pieces of evidence in the civil case is expected to be video footage shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Leeson Jr., who said he witnessed dogs shot while filming in the area after Katrina for the Dallas Morning News. "They shot the dog I was trying to help right in front of me," he told reporters at the time. On his video gunshots can clearly be heard.
Mike Minton, a former sergeant from the St. Bernard Parish sheriff's office, acknowledges shooting dogs but says it was done for humane reasons. Gutierrez told ABC News that Minton was "let go" from the department and was "no longer an employee." Minton, one of two deputies indicted in December on animal cruelty charges, did not return a call from ABC.
It Was Massacre, A Shooting Gallery
~ Lawsuit: Katrina Pets Executed, continued ~
"It was a massacre. It was a shooting gallery," said Mark Steinway, co-founder of the animal rescue group Pasado's Safe Haven. Steinway was among those who discovered the animals' bodies at three school evacuation centers, gathered evidence and urged the Louisiana State Attorney General's Office to launch an investigation. "We documented as best we could as a crime scene," he said. "It was obvious [the dogs] had been chased. There were so many rounds of ammunition and holes in the walls, so many random shots to body cavities and legs, areas where you know animals were trying to get away from these guys."
Steinway described one harrowing discovery he made in the one of the parish schools that he said exemplified the wantonness with which the animals were killed. "Somebody carefully tied up these two dogs in one of the rooms and shot them, and didn't even shoot them at close range in the head to put them out of their misery," he said. "They backed up and started shooting, with a shotgun started firing. Pellets all over the floor, bullet holes in the wall. It was a slaughter."
Please Do Not Shoot Her
Some said they waited to evacuate for good reason. One woman's daughter had just had a major surgery. Another had medical issues that prevented him from driving and an elderly father too weak to drive. Waters rose rapidly.
On 8/28/05, officials announced St. Bernard's High School as a shelter of last resort. On 8/31, officials moved residents out of school shelters to Algiers Point ferry landing. Before leaving, many desperately scrawled messages on school walls: "There is a very nice dog in there. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel," read one message. Another: "Call me please. I want my pets back." And, "In this room are 6 adult dogs and 4 puppies. Please save them! Kit."
Everybody, We're Under Water
Plaintiff John Bozes said his black Labrador, Angel Girl, had saved his family's life. Floodwaters had reached the door top in his home, he told ABC News. "I walked to the door right there, I go to put my hand on the knob to open it, she got between me and that door and nudged me back. Then I saw water coming through the top of the door and I said, 'Oh boy, we're in trouble.'"
"Everybody, we're under water!" he hollered to his family, who climbed through the attic to reach their roof. They were evacuated to St. Bernard's High School, where they were told to evacuate without animals. "It was a mandatory evacuation – we either go to jail or get shot, or we leave our pets behind."
Then, he said, he and other animal guardians heard a deputy say, "Man, once everybody's gone, we're going to have target practice tonight."
"There was so much commotion after that statement," he said. "We stood our ground: We're not leaving them. Next thing you know, we either leave or get shot." Bozes' father, Paul, said he thought about Angel Girl often. "If I see that boy or man who shot her, they better have a lot of people around to keep me from hitting them."
"These are animals," John Bozes said, "but they have brains just like you and I. They have feelings like we have… Tough animals, wonderful animals, lovable animals. And to have somebody shoot for no reason at all, I don't think no animal in that school would have hurt somebody, especially Angel. She was too lovable."
John Bozes and his sister were separated from their three dogs — Angel Girl, a pit bull Honey and a Husky mix Bullet – when they were evacuated. The dogs were taken to Beauregard Middle School and St. Bernard's Parish High School. "Bullet, the Husky mix, was found dead in the corner of Beauregard Middle School," according to the complaint. "The cord from the Venetian blind on the nearest window had been tied to Bullet's collar. Angel Girl and Honey were found together, also in a corner. Angel Girl had been tethered to the Venetian blinds on a nearby window. Honey was not tied, but lay at Angel Girl's side."
Plaintiff Joyce Stubbs was told she couldn't bring dogs Max and Lucky when evacuated from Beauregard High School, so "she poured bottles of water and soft drinks into a large ice chest for her dogs to drink," claim court documents. "She also put out a lot of food where the dogs could readily access it."
"Stubbs and her children spent a long moment saying goodbye to her dogs. A Sheriff's deputy approached them and pointed a shotgun at her son's face and threatened to shoot him if they did not leave the dogs. He also pointed the shotgun at their small dog Lucky," the complaint reads.
Her Name Is Angel
John Bozes, Senate Testimonial
My name is John Bozes. I am a former resident of St. Bernard Parish and I am here to ask you to pass the Pet Evacuation Bill so that when there is another disaster, our pets can travel safely with us to designated shelters and not be left behind to perish because of improper emergency planning.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Southeast Louisiana, leaving St. Bernard Parish a waterlogged marshland. A very large percentage of residents did not evacuate to shelters outside the parish because we did not want to leave our pets behind and were told we could not evacuate with them.
About my medical situation at the time, I had just been released from the hospital and couldn't drive because of my medical condition. The other occupant of my home, my elderly father, is no longer licensed to drive. I had been disabled for three months and was without the income to even fill my vehicle with gasoline, let alone charter a vehicle to transport my family and pets. Obviously, public transportation was not a pet-friendly option. Later I came to find that although some generous gas companies were offering free fuel, this was not widely known nor broadcast through media. It seems that this was yet another flaw of the emergency broadcast system.
My 2-1/2 year old black lab, Angel Girl, was a hero who saved my family. If she had not woken me from sleep, my family would've drowned. The water was over the roof when she led us out the door. After the levee breach, my father, sister and nephew's girlfriend were boated from the roof of our Violet, LA home thanks to brave residents who took us to St. Bernard High School. My brother-in-law and nephew stayed back with 4 dogs and 8 birds.
That Tuesday night, my brother-in-law Gene and his son Robert Christopher – along with our family's four dogs Angel Girl, Bullet, Daisy, and Honey – were boated to PGT Beauregard Middle School. Gene saw other animals there and thought pets were safe until water went down. On Wednesday, St. Bernard Sheriff's Office Deputies ordered us to leave the school. We were forbidden to take pets. A St. Bernard Sheriff's Office Deputy assured us "your pets will be rescued." I wrote a note on the school wall pleading for Angel's safekeeping. I wrote "she is a good girl." Others wrote similar notes with contact information, hoping that the Deputy's word would be kept.
One week after Hurricane Rita evacuations, my sister Carol, her family, and I were in a hotel. A dear friend searching for Angel advised me to watch CNN that evening at 10:00 pm. We saw Anderson Cooper break a story called Dog Killings at Three St. Bernard Parish Schools. The crew first filmed room 203 at PGT Beauregard Middle School. What we saw was devastating.
The camera trailed rescue teams as they opened the door. The first dog seen was my sister's husky mix, Bullet. Bullet had not been rescued as promised. Bullet was dead. In the next room, the camera showed my Angel Girl and Honey, both shot to death and lying in their own blood.
The next Saturday my sister Carol, her husband Gene Hamm, and I returned to St. Bernard Parish for the first time. We stopped at PGT Beauregard Middle School and went to the room where Gene was forced to leave our dogs. The sight was beyond words, my worst nightmare. When I saw my beloved Angel in a pool of her blood, I knelt beside her, crying. I asked, "Why did this happen and who did it?" On my knees in her blood, I told her I was sorry that I was forced to leave her and couldn't save her. I kissed Angel's forehead. Carol and Gene also spoke to their dead dog Bullet.
I still have nightmares about what happened and I picture this all too often in my head. I still lay awake at night crying because Angel Girl was all I had.
This bill must be passed so that our pets can be rescued alongside their human family members and not murdered by unprepared law enforcement agents or people who do not like animals nor understand our family bonds with them. Also, the bill will ensure that well-meaning rescuers do not misplace our pets in other states where name tags and paperwork have gone missing during the chaos.
Before I close, I would like to call attention to the three empty leashes that I carry today. They represent my family's three dogs, killed in St. Bernard Parish. It is for the love of these dogs that I am here today.
Excerpts From Dallas News Video
St. Bernard Parish is home to an unknown number of dogs left behind in the Katrina exodus. Dallas News photojournalist David Leeson has covered Katrina…
Sgt. Andrew McRae tells Dallas News reporters: "Unfortunately a lot of people's pets are wandering around here. We're trying to gather them up, give them food and water till [rescue groups get them].
"They're shooting 'em three blocks down," a reporter says. "Not us," Sgt. McRae replies.
Reporters are next seen in their truck as a dog who looks like a gold lab mix crosses their path. We see another vehicle approach, with two armed men.
"They just killed that dog man," one reporter says [about a gold lab they'd just seen]. "This place has gone crazy," reporter Leeson mutters. "They followed him all the way up and shot him."
We hear a gun shot. One reporter says: "They shot that one too [referring to a different dog]." The video cuts to an interview with Sheriff Mike Minton, who says: "This is really better for that dog. Where's he gonna find food? It's more humane for that dog."
A reporter asks: "So how many dogs [have you shot]?" Minton looks away, laughs: "Enough."
"There is 1 very nice dog in there. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel," read one message. Another read, "Call me please. I want my pets back." And, "In this room are six adult dogs and four puppies. Please save them! Kit."The camera trailed rescue teams as they opened the door. The first dog seen was my sister's husky mix, Bullet. Bullet had not been rescued as promised. Bullet was dead. In the next room, the camera showed my Angel Girl and Honey, both shot to death and lying in their own blood.
The next Saturday my sister Carol, her husband Gene Hamm, and I returned to St. Bernard Parish for the first time since Katrina. We stopped at PGT Beauregard Middle School and went to the room where Gene was forced to leave our dogs. The sight was beyond words, my worst nightmare. When I saw my beloved Angel in a pool of her blood, I knelt down beside her, crying. I asked aloud, "Why did this happen and who did it?" On my knees in her blood, I told her I was sorry that I was forced to leave her and could not save her. I kissed Angel's forehead. Carol and Gene also spoke to their dead dog Bullet.
Blood In SBP Streets And Schools: Timeline
Timeline Of Events ~ In a pathetic epilogue to the saga of murdered companion animals in post-Katrina St. Bernard Parish, all charges are ultimately thrown out due to "lack of substantial evidence."
Oct 2005 ~ Dallas News photojournalist videotapes St. Bernard Sheriff's Officers shooting dogs on the streets: The street killings are a separate case from the school shootings, however the same law enforcers from the same agency are implicated in both cases.
10/10/05 ~ Pasado's Investigator Documents Carnage: Mark Steinway videotapes dead animals as found. "The dogs were not shot in the head to quickly bring about death. Shooting an animal in the body cavity is one of the most cruel ways to kill an animal."
Oct-Dec 2005 ~ Attorney General's Office Interviews Witnesses: A request is submitted for a photo line-up from St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens.
Oct-Feb 2006 ~ Pasado's Records Witness Statements: Details are documented from evacuees forced to leave animals at St. Bernard schools.
2/26/06 ~ Evidence Gathered: Pasado's investigators coordinate evidence for Attorney General's Office, including shell casings for forensics specialists and transport of bodies to LA State Veterinary Teaching Hospital for necropsies.
Mar 2006 ~ A Witness Steps Up: Pasado's can't divulge source, but may know about school "shooter."
Apr 2006 ~ Photo Lineup Of Deputy Sheriffs Is Sought: St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens does not respond to Pasado's request for records and photos of 300+ officers and the Attorney General is apparently not empowered to obtain this data. So Pasado's files a public records request, under a state law similar to Freedom of Information Act.
Apr-Aug 2006 ~ Nationwide Action Campaigns Initiated: Pasado's asks people to write St. Bernard Sheriff for a photo lineup of officers who served on day animals were shot. A Kinship Circle action alert urges the same, along with efforts to investigate and seek conviction of those involved in the massacre.
Jun 2006 ~ SBP Sheriff's Office Denies Repeat Requests: Ongoing request for photos of Sheriff Deputies on duty during animal massacre are rejected because they are "personnel records" and "protected information."
Aug 2006 ~ Attorney Takes Civil Case: New Orleans attorney Eileen Comiskey lists six plaintiffs for a suit filed in civil district court that names as defendants Sheriff Jack Stephens, the Department, a deputy and sergeant.
Oct 2006: A civil case is filed in Federal Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
2/14/07 ~ St. Bernard Deputies Plead Not Guilty In Dog Street Shootings: Orleans Times Picayune / Chalmette, LA (AP) — St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputy Clifford "Chip" Englande and former deputy Michael Minton pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals in a case dating back to Hurricane Katrina. Minton, who has left the Sheriff's Office, and Englande, a sergeant reassigned to administrative duties, are accused of shooting dogs in the days following Hurricane Katrina.
Jan 2008 ~ Case Closed? The street shootings case against Michael Minton and Clifford Englande is closed, due to "lack of evidence."
Kinship Circle Action Alert Archive
2/26/06 ~ Katrina Dog Shooting Case Stalled
Dear Sheriff Stephens,
I write in goodwill, with hope and respect for communities rebuilding in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. However, I am distressed about the lack of legal action in the execution-style shooting of 33 dogs and cats inside St. Bernard Parish Schools last October.
As you know, rising floodwaters forced families to take refuge at these schools. Upon further evacuation, people were ordered to leave their pets behind. They scratched notes on school walls: "Please save our dogs. We love them."
But despite the presence of food, water, collars, ID tags, and contact information, these companion animals were later found tethered and shot at close range. Amid the carnage, investigators spotted shell casings consistent with the type law enforcers use.
Grieving families have patiently awaited answers. Yet the case appears to be at a standstill.
Pasado's Safe Haven, the animal rescue group that gathered evidence for the Attorney General's Office, requested photos of Sheriff's Deputies associated with St. Bernard Sheriff's Office in the wake of Katrina. The Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, told Pasado: "For reasons I cannot reveal, I was unable to procure photos to show any of the evacuees."
Pasado investigators, who gathered shell casings for forensics specialists and transported bodies to Louisiana State Veterinary Teaching Hospital for necropsies, now seek photos directly from the St. Bernard Sheriff. They have filed a public records request, utilizing a state law similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Sheriff Stephens, please respond to Pasado's request with a photo lineup of all St. Bernard Parish Deputy Sheriffs. Photos are vital in helping evacuees identify potential suspects.
I urge you to grant Pasado's request for public records, as part of your comprehensive effort to investigate, prosecute and seek the conviction of individual(s) involved in the brutal shooting of companion animals.
Thank you for your cooperation in a disturbing case that has gained international attention.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack A. Stephens
2 Courthouse Square / Chalmette, LA 70043
504-271-2504, fax: 504-278-7716 email@example.com
Copy Comments To:
Sheriff Jeff Wiley, President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
Courthouse Building, Houmas Street
Donaldsonville, LA 70346
225-473-8687, fax: 225-621-8322, 225-621-8323 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheriff Sid Hebert, 1st Vice President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
300 Iberia Street, Ste 120 / New Iberia, LA 70560
337-369-3714, fax: 337-365-5582 email@example.com
Copy Comments To:
Sheriff Greg Champagne, 2nd Vice President
Louisiana Sheriffs Association
15045 River Road / Hahnville, LA 70057
985-783-6237, fax: 985-783-1008 firstname.lastname@example.org