Hurricane Katrina Pet Rescue Unleashed

Reports of animal rescues and relocations are increasing. As pets are relocated to other states it allows more animals to be rescued and housed in the disaster zone. I hope you will donate via the links above to help the animals. These agencies are the best ones to assist and are the ones coordinating the larger efforts.

The best way to help is to donate. Don’t take it upon yourself to go down to the disaster zone without being requested or trained by a sanctioned agency.

The animals will begin to exhibit signs of stress in upcoming weeks. I have articles elsewhere on this site that explain normal changes. Also, you’ll find complete listings in the Animal Disaster Preparedness Booklet.

Ultimately, the lesson from this disaster is the reminder to not be apathetic. You need to have preparedness plans and kits for both your family and pets where ever you reside.

Here are some updates and articles of interest:
PETSmart Charities will be holding an adoption drive at the end of this week specifically oriented toward Hurricane Katrina Animal Victims. Check with your local stores for details.

Pet Rescue Article September 14, 2005

American Humane Association:
14 September 2005
We have a new friend in the shelter section of our Rescue Rig. She’s been with us since last night, a black cat with a white chest and white whiskers who we’re all calling “Key Kitty.”

We received a Fed Ex package a few days ago at our staging area at Lamar-Dixon. Inside was a key and a note, asking the American Humane Association to please go save a cat that had to be left in an apartment when her family evacuated.

With only the hand-drawn map on the note to guide them, our rescuers took off to find the animal. The street address wasn’t even listed on the city map, but we kept looking. Finally, we got to the spot a four-story apartment building. We knew we’d have to be extra care, you never know how the storm has compromised the structure of the building. Team leader Holly Phalen and our volunteers went inside, shining flashlights through the dark hallways of the empty building. Finally a tiny kitten met us at the door of a unit. She’d been living alone without a supply of food and water for nearly two weeks.

Seeing how the teams responded to the cat was no different from the care and love I’ve seen them express over and over again since we got here. They hugged and pet this kitten, trying their best to let the animal know she’d be safe now. Everything would be alright.

I called the phone number the Key Kitty’s family had included in their letter and told the woman who answered that someone in New Orleans was anxious to say hello. As if on cue, the kitten meowed into my cell phone. The woman’s response reminded us all again just why we’re here.

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – The passengers aboard the 737-800 aircraft bound for San Francisco were not just buckled in, with their seats locked in the upright position. They were vaccinated, microchipped, photographed, and crated.

Every row in the coach section of the Continental plane was draped in clear plastic and its armrests lifted high, so that the baggage handlers could load some very precious cargo: More than 120 animals from the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, where the Louisiana SPCA and The HSUS have been sheltering animals rescued by the thousands from New Orleans and surrounding areas.

Just days earlier, these dogs and cats were homeless, found either wandering the Big Easy with no known address or surrendered by devastated owners who are too burdened with the business of rebuilding a life to care for an animal at present. But today, as each animal’s crate was weighed and loaded onto the conveyor belt, at the Metropolitan Airport, these dogs and cats were among the most fortunate in Louisiana.

Thanks to the generosity of Texas oilman and businessman T. Boone Pickens, and his wife, Madeleine, these animals had a one-way ticket to the Marin Humane Society in Novato, California, where Bay Area residents will be able to contribute to the post-Katrina recovery by simply adopting a dog or cat.

“When a disaster of this magnitude hits, an act of generosity like this really shows you who your friends are,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

The Preparation
Airlifting 120-plus animals across state lines takes more than the support of a Texas businessman with a net worth of $750 million. It takes the muscle of volunteer animal handlers, the logistical planning of field managers, the blessing of state officials, the practiced hand of veterinarians and vet techs, the paperwork of administrative volunteers, the oversight of animal disaster experts, and the sober eye of truck drivers.

And that’s just to get the animals to the airport.

Once the state gave the Louisiana SPCA permission on Saturday, September 10, to send non-owned and surrendered animals from Orleans Parish to other parts of the country, the work was really just beginning. Field officers at the Lamar-Dixon facility, including The HSUS’s Dave Pauli and Louisiana SPCA’s Laura Maloney, had to weigh offers from shelters around the nation and decide where to send animals for adoption. Then they had to figure out how to get the animals there, no small feat when a shelter is located thousands of miles away, such as the one in Marin County, California.

The Pickens’ offer today to pick up the transportation tab with Continental—which provided the jet to Marin County at cost, or nearly half the usual $80,000 price tag for a 737-800 plane—sent the Lamar-Dixon compound into action. Everyone from volunteers to veterinarians had just a few hours to prep more than 100 animals for a four-hour trip to San Francisco.

The first step was to identify animals who could make the trip. Legally, officials could only send dogs and cats from Orleans Parish who were not obviously owned. For Dr. Randy Elkins, a veterinarian with the Commission Corp Readiness Force, a disaster team under the Department of Health and Human Services, that meant selecting animals with no collars and no tags.

“The animals could not be taken out of homes or taken out of a backyard,” he added.

As a back-up precaution, and in case any animal may have an evacuee owner looking for them, each animal was also photographed. Their photographs will be posted on

Once identified as candidates for transport, the animals had to be vaccinated for rabies, kennel cough, parvo, heartworms, and other parasites and viruses. They were also given a topical treatment for fleas, and injected with a microchip, just under the skin on their back, so that they could be scanned and quickly matched with their paperwork. The entire process took place in a shaded corner of the Lamar-Dixon facility, with the kind of clockwork efficiency usually reserved for deploying soldiers for overseas battle.

The animals were then re-crated and placed in a holding area to wait for the long-bed trailer truck scheduled to whisk them to the Metro Airport. Among the lucky travelers was a shaggy, two-toned Great Pyrenees with arthritis.

The Complication
Volunteers wasted no time loading 50 dogs onto the trailer, including the Great Pyrenees, a cold-weather breed intolerant of heat. Secured in neatly stacked crates on each side of the trailer, the dogs flexed their vocal chords, sending out a chorus of barks; high-pitched yips from the miniature pinschers and deep, guttural woofs from the Rottweilers.

Sára Varsa wasn’t paying any attention to the call-and-response barking. The Wellness Care Team manager at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C. was focused on the truck’s air-conditioning, which wasn’t functioning properly, and on the Pyrenees with his thick clouds of fur.

Despite one man’s promise to fix the AC quickly, Varsa decided, to unload the truck and free the old Pyrenees, worried the dog would literally die in the Louisiana heat.

“It’s a humane decision,” confirmed Elkins. “We’re taking him off…We’re going to adopt him out here (at Lamar-Dixon).”

Once the dog was free of the trailer, Varsa checked the aging Pyrenees’s gums for signs of heat exhaustion. The animal displayed none.

Varsa’s fears may have been premature for the Great Pyrenees, but her concern provided immediate benefit to 38 other animals, who hitched a ride on the second, much larger air-conditioned trailer-truck that pulled up to the holding area, courtesy of the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio.

The Liftoff
At the Metropolitan Airport, Madeleine Pickens stood outside a fence gate leading to the tarmac as the trailer full of animals arrived from Lamar-Dixon. Dressed crisply in green khakis with a Western belt, a black polo shirt, and a visor stamped with a country club logo, Pickens looked the part of a Texas multi-millionaire, but acted more like a veterinary technician. She off-loaded crates onto the sweltering tarmac, comforted the nervous animals awaiting boarding, helped weigh the dogs and cats inside their carriers, and then placed the crates onto the conveyor belt bound for the cool comfort of the jet.

Continental flight attendants and managers, people not usually found sweating on concrete tarmacs amid the piercing roar of jet engines and barking dogs, also worked to load the animals for the trip. What’s more, airline ground crews agreed to pump cold air into the cargo hold, where the large animal crates had to be placed, to keep the dogs comfortable as they awaited liftoff from the airport.

Even a producer and crew from Court TV, arrived on the scene in Baton Rouge, only to set aside their cameras to attend to more immediate concerns: the watering and feeding of dogs who had to wait their turn on the weight scales.

Several Houston-based flight attendants, professionals who have perfected the social art of welcoming passengers, absolutely bubbled over their four-legged charges. Annette McClure was the first attendant on the tarmac to welcome the animals from Gonzales, but within minutes, she sprinted off to the first class section of the plane with a scruffy black poodle in a worn blue carrier, exclaiming, “I found mine already!”

She wasn’t offering to adopt the pet right there on the spot—although every Continental flight attendant and crew member personally selected an animal for adoption on the first Pickens-sponsored flight to California on Sunday, said airline spokesperson Lisa Schoppa. McClure was merely selecting an animal for special first-class attention. The flight attendants have developed a habit of uncrating friendly animals and playing with them during the flight. This lucky poodle would likely get the run of the plane, much like a terrier on Sunday’s flight, who perched between the pilots on the way to the West Coast.

“This is just so out of the ordinary,” said McClure who surrendered her day off to water and provide a steady supply of Milk Bones to her dog-heavy passenger list. “That’s why we’re so excited.”

The Commitment
With all the pets safely unloaded from the Wild Animal Orphanage trailer and from the Connecticut Humane Society’s sleek animal bus, which arrived later in the afternoon, Madeleine Pickens stood in the first class section of the plane, cooling down with a bottle of water. Her day had started early with a phone call from Marin Humane Society and ended with a quick trip to Baton Rouge to prepare these pets for a new life in the Bay Area. It was a long day, and streams of perspiration ran down her face proving it.

But Pickens said she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I suppose like most people, you’re watching television and seeing the crisis happen, this natural disaster, and people are on the roof and they can’t escape because they don’t want to leave their animals behind, and (you’re) just saying, ‘I want to do something. What can I do?” Pickens said while holding a jittery, adorable black-and-white rat terrier.

“I thought about it for a few days, and all of a sudden, it hit me,” she continued. “I can do something. Why don’t I just get an airplane and help airlift them out? So that’s what my husband and I did.”

She didn’t have to work hard to convince T. Boone Pickens to support the cause. Madeleine Pickens merely posed a question to the oilman, who cares for a Papillion named Murdoch.

“When I saw this man refusing to leave behind his dog on the roof, I said (to T. Boone), “What would you do, sweetheart, if they said you could leave but you would have to leave your dog?’ He said, ‘I’d ask them to throw me an inner tube, and we’d see what we could do’,” said Pickens, herself an owner of a 15-year-old Jack Russell.

“And that’s the way we feel. I’d throw my dog on my back to swim out. Neither one of us would leave our pets behind,” she added. “So many people in America feel the same way.”

The Pickens have already sponsored two plane trips to take rescued animals to California shelters, including the one carrying 120 passengers, and have another scheduled. Madeleine had no idea how many trips she and her husband are planning to fund, but she hoped the military would take the hint and start transporting animals in their massive cargo planes.

“Louisiana has just got so many thousands of dogs who are homeless right now,” she said. “We need to find homes for them.”

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.

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.

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.

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  1. Check out Cajun Clickers – Katrina Pet Rescue Project for how one computer group is helping the pet rescue efforts.