Hurricane Katrina: Hurricane Heroes Scheduled Tonight

Just a note to let you know that Animal Planet will air, Hurricane Heroes tonight. Check your local listings for times and stations.

On the animal rescue front, more stories about animals are hitting the pages of papers around the nation and are getting air time on the television. Some of the lost dolphins from Mystic Marinelife Aquarium were recovered and brought into temporary holding pools. Lone dolphins face many risks and many have lost, or if born in captivity, never developed hunting, foraging and protective skills necessary to survive in the wild.

Free health check-ups for pets of displaced families are being offered in a cooperative effort between HSUS and the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association).

“The HSUS/AAHA Katrina Pet Wellness Program provides financial assistance for basic veterinary wellness checkups of pets displaced by the storm. Managed through the AAHA Helping Pets Fund, the program offers reimbursement to veterinary practices of up to $125 per pet for the following basic treatments:

• Physical examinations
• Vaccinations
• Heartworm medications
• Short-term supply of chronic medications

Program assistance is available only through veterinary practices that are accredited by AAHA. Click here for a complete directory of the more than 2,900 participating AAHA-accredited hospitals.

Hurricane survivors needing veterinary care for your pet, click here to learn more about the program guidelines.”

American Humane Update:
15 September 2005

“Every day since Katrina hit has been non-stop for our rescue teams, and the past few days have been no exception.

We received a call from the ATF to assist in an evacuation: a man with eight dogs, eight cats, and three birds had been stranded in his house by flooding and was refusing to leave without his animals. Our rescuers met up with the ATF team in New Orleans and I was given incident command of the entire operation. The area had been submerged for so long that the stagnant water had become a toxic sludge of human and animal waste and trash, chemicals, gasoline, and who knows what else. The stench was so bad that our teams had to rub Vick’s drops under their nostrils in order to breathe, and even with waist-high rubber waders and boots, we avoided direct contact with the water.

To reach the house, our team joined the ATF in three amphibious military vehicles. Once we arrived, I climbed to the roof of the vehicle I had ridden in and hopped from roof to roof like a frog on a lily pad to speak to the man stranded inside. After the trauma of the hurricane, flooding, and being so cut off, the poor man was overwhelmed to find his house surrounded by military vehicles and emergency personnel, so it took a long time of conversation and coaxing to gain his trust. But even then, he was too terrified to leave even with his numerous animals and was worried he’d be separated from his animal “family.”

Instead of forcing the man to evacuate in his fragile state, I worked out a compromise with him that if he allowed us to make sure the animals were healthy and not in need of immediate attention, we wouldn’t demand that he leave his home. Despite all they had been through, the animals appeared well-cared for, and the man was not in need of supplies, so our teams moved on.

Next on our list was a request from a woman in Hawaii to rescue two cats from a home. The woman’s sister had been evacuated from New Orleans and was unable to return for her cats. Now at a shelter in Houston, the woman couldn’t reach us directly so all her communications were being relayed by her sister. No one knew how long she would have to be separated from her home and friends and neighbors, but she knew she didn’t want to be separated from her cats a day longer than necessary. It took a full day and a dozen phone calls to ascertain the location of the woman’s home and coordinate our operations from there.

The house was locked and all the lower level windows were barred. Without a key, gaining access was tricky as we wanted to leave the house undamaged, and not opened.

After phone calls back and forth between us, the woman in Hawaii, and her evacuated sister in Texas, our job was made easier by learning there was a ladder in the crawl space below the house. I climbed to an upper-level window and thanks to so much water damage from the hurricane I was able to wiggle and pull off the bottom of the window sill and pry the window open.

We caught the first cat with minimal difficulty but couldn’t climb down the ladder carrying the crate. But Graham fashioned a rope out of sheets and safely lowered the cat’s crate to the ground. When the second cat proved to be impossible to catch climbing straight up the wall and leaping over our heads to avoid capture we made good use of a laundry hamper. With the cat contained, we still faced the challenge of transferring it to a crate to be securely transported. I found a Tupperware-type lid, which I slid beneath the laundry basket, tipped the hamper over, replaced the Tupperware lid with an open crate and tipped the hamper again. The cat safely ended up where he needed to be and we were able to bring him to the shelter.

Back at the Lamar-Dixon, the rest of American Humane’s responders spent the day assisting shelter ops in Barn 5. Despite the fans that had been rigged up all throughout the stables to keep the animals and people cool, the work was grueling. With the heat and humidity here, our clothes become soaked through with sweat just standing still in the shade let alone racing around non-stop trying to keep the dogs fed and watered, and their cages clean. Meredith spent so many hours washing food bowls and toys, her clothes and shoes (and feet!) were so saturated, it will probably take an equal number of days for them to dry…”

14 September 2005
“EARS continues to operate the pet-friendly shelter in Jackson, Mississippi in conjunction with the Mississippi Animal Rescue League. A team of EARS volunteers are caring for more than 100 animals – including dogs, cats, rabbits and birds – belonging to evacuees and animals rescued from points south. The pet-friendly shelter is serving as a staging area for supplies to be delivered to rescue teams that are operating in Hattiesburg and the hard-hit coastal regions to the south. Veterinarian Sophie Grundy is providing medical care for the shelter animals, as well as those staying in local hotels with their owners. Read about Dr. Grundy’s experiences in her online Disaster Response Diary.

EARS is also operating an animal shelter in Monroe, Louisiana, which is housing dogs, cats, birds and one ferret belonging to some of the 800 evacuees who are staying at a shelter nearby. The Monroe community is very supportive of the animal shelter. Midwest Regional Director Cora Tyson is serving as Incident Commander at the Monroe shelter. Accompanying her is journalist Greg Eans who is maintaining a blog of his experiences.

We continue to deploy volunteers to both shelters and expect to deploy more very soon. Volunteers should not deploy unless requested to by UAN headquarters. Volunteers traveling to the shelters must have their tetanus shots and are strongly advised to have their hepatitis shots. According to the Louisiana State Veterinarian’s Office, there have been several animal bites sustained in the two large animal shelters in the Baton Rouge area. They advise that if an animal bite wound should occur, immediate medical attention should be sought and the offending animal segregated for a minimum of 10 days and observed for the signs of rabies. Rabies is not common in Louisiana, but precautions should be observed.

Please note that animals are not available for adoption at either the Monroe or the Jackson shelters.

Today, UAN president and CEO Jennifer Fearing begins a five-day trip to the area, to meet with others coordinating relief efforts and visit the EARS shelters. On the logistics front, UAN is helping to procure much-needed supplies for the State of Louisiana to use in its evacuation and recovery efforts. AVID, our partner in nationwide community microchipping events, provided 2,000 microchips with lifetime registrations; UAN has purchased vital medical supplies for animals coming out of the disaster area in Gonzalez, Louisiana, where we also sent in cages made generously available through PETsMART Charities. We continue to provide support as requested.

UAN’s partner, Code 3 Associates, is engaged in water rescue operations in the New Orleans area. EARS’ partners at the Ramona-based Emergency Animal Rescue are also involved with a swift-water rescue team in the area. They have brought hundreds of animals from the ravaged New Orleans area to the massive Gonzalez staging area.

UAN has also been involved with the collection of thousands of requests from evacuees for their animals to be rescued. has gone live with a database that aims to fully inventory all rescue requests, sheltered animals and found animals. It is the sincerest hope of all involved with this relief effort that as many families that can be reunited are. The last thing any of these hurricane victims need is the trauma of losing their companions.

We continue to coordinate response efforts with several other organizations providing animal disaster relief – including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Colorado-based Code 3 Associates, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, the Louisiana SPCA, the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University, and the American Humane Association. Daily conference calls and in-field meetings are occurring between these organizations. The animal rescue and shelter operation in Louisiana is coordinated by the Animal Evacuation and Recovery Command Center located in the Louisiana Department of Agriculture Building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. By all accounts this is the most coordinated humane relief effort ever.”

Noah’s Wish:
15 September 2005
“We would like to apologize about the lack of regular updates. It is still very hard to communicate with the “outside” world. There are no land lines, and cell phones are only working part of the time. Gasoline is getting easier to find.

Noah’s Wish is going to be holding each pet for a minimum of 30 days from the day they come in. The state is requiring that all animals be held 15 days, but our policy is to hold animals for at least 30 days. This allows time for owners to hopefully be reunited with their pets. The only animals we have released are those who were in the Slidell Animal Control shelter at the time of the storm who were already available for adoption. There were a few pets released directly to our shelter by their owners, including 7 Maltese who have been placed.

We appreciate the numerous offers to foster, but at this time, we are keeping the pets in one central area. When we do begin to place pets into foster care, we will be trying to foster locally only. The damage to Slidell was severe, with parts of the city simply wiped out. The people and the pets in this area have been through so much as a result of this disaster. Some of these pets might need to be fostered for 6 months to a year. It’s important to keep these pets local so that their owners can visit them. Thank you for understanding that if your house had been literally ripped from its foundation, that you would want your dog, kitty or even your hamster close enough to visit, and not hours away.

We will eventually start doing adoptions, but not until we have tried to reunite every pet back with their family. Noah’s Wish tries to shelter pets with the intention of returning these pets to their owners. We know that some of those little faces in the pictures are adorable, but many have owners who love them dearly. The reunions we have witnessed are heartwarming, and remind all the volunteers just why we are sheltering these pets. You might not understand how much these pets need their families, until you see the eyes of a depressed dog suddenly light up, and his tail that only politely wagged at strangers start wagging at warp speed at the sight of his family. Please be patient while we try to match these pets back with their families.

When we do start to adopt, we will be working with shelters, rescues and individuals. There have been people who have lost their pets in this hurricane who have expressed a desire to adopt. Sadly, this disaster has been hard on pets as well as people, and despite owners best efforts, their pets didn’t survive. Noah’s Wish will be trying to help those owners wanting new pets to adopt after we have determined which pets need new owners. Owners who are able to come are coming to visit their pets daily.

There are currently two mobile veterinary clinics on site working with Noah’s Wish. The Capital Animal Care mobile veterinary clinic from Washington, DC arrived on site last week. The majority of the pets coming in have arrived healthy and have stayed healthy. However the teams are prepared to do most surgeries. The mobile clinics have treated problems such as skin diseases, worms, as well as the surgical issues mentioned in the previous update. Our veterinary team is working to make sure all incoming pets are vaccinated. Noah’s Wish is committed to spaying and neutering as many pets as possible.

We are offering to spay or neuter pets being reunited with their owners, at no charge to them. The mobile clinics have been averaging around 15 spays and neuters a day. All adopted dogs and cats will of course be altered before adoption.

Our veterinary teams have been great, but there have been a few pets we felt would be better cared for at the Louisiana State University Veterinary Hospital. These pets included a Pekingnese with an eye that was close to ruptured, a dog who had been hit by a car, several dogs with broken bones, a dog with a heart murmur, and a Dalmatian with seizures. Everyone over at the LSU Veterinary Hospital has been wonderful. The pets there are getting great care. Because Noah’s Wish has a policy of keeping a careful paper trail, including photos on each pet entering the shelter facility, we will be able to reunite the owners with any pets we send to LSU Veterinary Hospital.

A mobile groomer brought his truck all the way from Ohio to assist with grooming. With his assistance and the assistance of the volunteers, all the pets coming in have been groomed and had their nails trimmed. Grooming is being done for more than just making them beautiful. Many of these animals have been swimming in what the media has been calling a toxic gumbo. It is important to get these chemicals off their skin as soon as possible.

Noah’s Wish has been in St. Tammany Parish working with their Animal Control agency. Noah’s Wish volunteers have gone over to help clean and walk dogs at the shelter. We have also been distributing food and helping with rescue requests in Pearlington, MS and in Waveland, MS. We have been working with Sam Bailey in Pearlington, MS. We have sent coordinators and volunteers to assist him with the pets in that city. Both of these cities are within half an hour’s drive of Slidell, LA.

We have had over 700 animals come through the shelter since the start of this shelter operation. There are still 520 on site, the difference in numbers is that some have either been reclaimed, sent to LSU Veterinary Hospital or have been adopted. The majority of the pets are dogs, then we have cats including mothers with babies. We also have pets such as rabbits, ducks, turkeys, geese, parakeets. As communications allow, we will try to get a better animal count posted.

There are 150 city employees who have lost their homes. We are housing many of their pets for them. They are able to continue with their work of taking care of their human families, and their city while we watch their pet. During the day, they wander in on breaks or lunch hours to walk their dog, help clean a cage or just sit and pet a cat. You can see the change in them as they walk in stressed and after a few minutes of being around the animals, they are much more at ease. We just want to say thank you to these wonderful city employees who have been so helpful. They have helped us with man power, equipment, laundry, finding us large fans, arranging for current housing. They have been a huge help to running this shelter operation.

As mentioned in a previous update, the Animal Control building in Slidell was destroyed. It had 5 feet of water inside and needed to be condemned. When volunteers helped to salvage what they could, there was only 2 pick up loads of useable equipment. Noah’s Wish is committed to helping raise the money to rebuild this shelter and stocking it with the needed supplies. The shelter will be rebuilt on higher ground to the highest possible standards so that it will be better able to withstand hurricane force winds. The shelter will be rebuilt with the intention that it will be opening and functioning as an emergency shelter for pets if needed in future disasters. Noah’s Wish is committed to helping the pets long term in the communities we help in. We understand that helping in a disaster means more than just showing up for the first few weeks. There are long term needs, and Noah’s Wish addresses those. This is just one example of how we help pets long term in the affected areas. The shelter could apply to FEMA for assistance, but getting help could take up to a year to get the assistance needed to just break ground. Slidell’s pets and people are not able to function that long without an animal shelter. Again, we just want to say thank you to the entire staff at Slidell Animal Control. Damian, Horace, Billy and Dave have really gone the extra mile to help the pets in their city. Their love for these pets shows.

We just want to thank everyone who has been so helpful in running this shelter operation, both on site and off site. We have had around 125 volunteers on site at all times. The pets are getting lots of attention and are well taken care of. Everyone is functioning as a team. There are volunteers from 25 states, and 8 volunteers from Canada. We would like to say a big thank you to the BC SPCA and their province for releasing part of their staff members to help. It’s great to be able to cooperate with our Northern neighbors. Alley Cat Allies has been very helpful in giving advice on mobile feeding stations and trapping.

We have teams working off site from CA all the way to a team in NY. Without these off site teams helping to coordinate the logistics of this operation from communicating with volunteers, to coordinating supplies to getting out the thank you notes, we would not be able to run as smoothly.

Thank you to each of you who donated money, supplies or time. We would not be able to help the animal victims of this disaster without your dedication and kindness. Pets who have been reunited with owners have been able to go home with supplies and food. Food and supplies are being delivered to residents in Slidell, LA, Pearlington, MS and Waveland, MS. Mobile feeding stations have been set up for the pets we have been unable to trap. Each of you who are donating time, supplies or money is assisting Noah’s Wish in our efforts to provide not just short term care, but will help us continue to assist these pets and their family’s long term as well.

The cards, letters and emails coming in are mood lifters and are shared with the volunteers. The volunteers are spending long days up to 14 hour shifts to keep this operation running as smoothly as it is.

There are a lot of questions coming in regarding what is happening in New Orleans. Because communication is poor right now due to a lack of the technology we normally rely on, there are a lot of rumors being passed around. We do not want to add to the confusion by commenting with information that might be incorrect or is out of date. In a disaster, the situation can change on an hourly basis. The best place to contact if you would like information on the situation in New Orleans is the Office of the Louisiana State Veterinarian. They have the latest information and are monitoring the situation.”

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