Urge Government Action to Help Hurricane Katrina’s Pets

One of the big problems facing the regions heaviest hit by Hurricane Katrina is the red tape and bureaucratic bad behavior. This is especially true when it comes to the animals and attempts to rescue them and then relocate those so that more animals can be brought in. To accomplish this temporary staging and shelter animals have to be moved out of the area.

The problem of people not wanting to leave their pets when rescued was intense. At least one group was ordered at gun point to abandon their animals. It has been a fact since the early 1990’s that people are unwilling to leave their animals during a crisis situation and disaster. Despite that, bureaucracy and health concerns continue to place barriers against families of humans and pets during evacuations and housing.

Please take a moment to protest and call or send your comments in to government officials now about the urgency of pet rescue and human-pet family need for pet friendly evacuation centers.

HSUS Update:
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Approximately 25 shelters from around the country have formally offered to take between 30 and 200 dogs and cats each from the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, where more than 1,200 animals are temporarily housed on a sprawling compound northeast of New Orleans. Another 15 or so shelters have unofficially asked commanders at the emergency facility for animals as well.

The main obstacle preventing the movement of animals out of Louisiana is a state regulation requiring that pets owned by residents must be held in Louisiana for at least 30 days. But today, during a meeting between state and federal officials overseeing disaster animal services, Louisiana state veterinarian Maxwell Lea and assistant state veterinarian Martha Littlefield gave oral approval for Lamar-Dixon officials to start shipping out all appropriate animals—with the caveat that the animals be easily tracked down by owners.

Dave Pauli, director of The HSUS’s Northern Rockies Regional Office and the incident commander at Lamar-Dixon, assured the state vets that the exported animals would be traceable. All animals leaving the Gonzales facility are microchipped and digitally photographed, he said, with their information to be placed on the website, http://www.petfinder.com/. Pauli added that he wants pets owned by Louisiana residents transported only to shelters in nearby states.

Easing the holding rules will help officials at Lamar-Dixon free up some desperately needed space. State and federal authorities had capped the number of animals allowed at the compound at 1,300, a number that Lamar-Dixon reached and exceeded in less than a week of operation. That meant if rescuers wanted to bring in 200 dogs, compound officials had to move out 200 dogs to other shelters.

But until today, Lamar-Dixon could only transport out of state stray animals and surrendered pets from Orleans Parish, the jurisdiction that includes New Orleans. All others had to remain in Louisiana.
Pauli predicted that within 24 hours or so, after officials review shelter applications and decide which animals are appropriate for transport, many more dogs and cats would be leaving the Lamar-Dixon shelter than in recent days. Somewhere between 200 and 600 animals are moved out of Lamar-Dixon daily, although some days the number has been lower. With more space freed up on Saturday, September 17, rescue teams brought in more than 400 newly rescued animals.

Executives from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The HSUS are reviewing shelter applications thoroughly to make sure that each approved facility provides first-class care for the exported pets. Shelters that pass muster will still be required to hold the animals until September 30; the shelters will then be able to “conditionally foster” the pets from October 1 to October 15, meaning that the foster parent must surrender the animal if the original owner wants to reclaim the pet. After October 16, the animals can be put up for adoption.

The HSUS will pay the costs to fly back any animal in another state who has been reclaimed by his or her owner.

Rescue Teams Still Combing the City
With more space opening up at the Lamar-Dixon facility, rescue teams in New Orleans continued their frantic race to reach stranded pets in time. One HSUS team featured the duo of Drew Moore and Jane Garrison, whom journalists and videographers have chronicled over the past week saving dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and chinchillas.

The pair made headlines on Wednesday, September 14, by rescuing a large dog from a rooftop with the help of a few National Guardsmen. The dog apparently had been trapped on the roof since Katrina passed, and was about 60 percent underweight. Moore and Garrison said that, at the time of rescue, the dog was the most emaciated they had ever seen. The dog is recovering nicely at Lamar-Dixon.

During that rescue, Moore and Garrison lost their crowbar and wire cutters, a pair of instruments absolutely vital to accessing trapped animals. The pair tried to replace both tools, but could only find a cheap, thin crowbar that was essentially useless. “I lost that (crowbar) in about an hour,” Moore said, “but I didn’t even care.”

Instead, Moore has had to rely on an old-fashioned tool for breaking down doors: his foot. This method is troublesome not only because it slows down the pair, but also because Moore’s a little accident-prone. He’s already fallen off some steps and bruised his chest, and he earlier stepped on a nail.

Imagine Moore’s surprise on Friday, September 16, when he passed by the house where he and Garrison rescued the emaciated dog and saw a box sitting on probably the only dry piece of ground in the area. Inside the box were a pair of gallon water jugs and his bolt cutters. On top of that were two litter pans and his crowbar. Moore and Garrison were back in business.

American Humane Association:
16 September 2005
Our entire team of volunteers will be in the field from now on, and yesterday we had one group devoted to water rescue, while the rest scoured their area on-foot, calling out “here kitty-kitty,” whistling, and following each animal sound they heard.

At one point, their calls were greeted by desperate meows and the team looked up to see three cats staring anxiously at them from the roof of a second-story house. Instead of spending valuable time pulling out their equipment, the team backed their vehicle up under the eaves of the building. The cats had probably sought safety from the flooding by climbing on the roof but had been stranded there for over a week once the waters receded. When our responders climbed up to the roof of the truck and reached out for them, the cats leapt eagerly to safety.

A short while later, one of the responder’s whistling was answered by a bird chirping. Our responders followed the sound to a house, which had already been searched by federal teams, meaning all they had to do to gain access was rip open the duct tape on the window. Inside, they found a parakeet in a cage, calling out loudly, as if in relief, at the sight of our team. But when Bill picked up the cage to carry it to the vehicle, he found rabbit droppings underneath. Bill told me he thought, “Now that’s strange. Parakeets don’t poop rabbit droppings.” So the team began a thorough search of the house, quietly checking behind doors and lifting furniture. Finally, they found the pet rabbit crouched under an armchair, and both the rabbit and bird were loaded into the truck.

But work at that house wasn’t done yet. During their search for the rabbit, they discovered an aquarium with a fish and a frog. The fish seemed pretty content, but the poor frog was exhausted. The aquarium had become filled to the brim with flood water, and without being able to climb onto something to rest or escape the smooth-walled container the frog had been forced to swim for days to keep from drowning.

Out on the street again, the team got information from federal emergency personnel that there was a dog in a house down the street that was in a very bad state. What our responders found at the address was a devastated house, its floor coated in several inches of mud and mold. When they entered, they immediately spotted the dog — a schnauzer that stood frozen on the couch. As if shell-shocked, the dog didn’t respond to having strangers in his house or even seem to notice them at all. He just stood where he was, staring into space. The team got him into a crate to be brought back to the shelter.

American Humane’s rescue operations are in high gear, and the entire team is in the field, working fast and furious. We have a huge list of animals that we’re racing to pull out of danger. Because of continuing crowded conditions at Lamar-Dixon, American Humane’s rescue teams were forced to “triage” (or prioritize) the animals they encountered in their operations. Only animals in need of immediate medical attention could be brought to the shelter. The teams faced many heartbreaking decisions, having to leave hundreds of animals still in New Orleans and only pulling pets from the most critical situations. We’re all hopeful, however, that as animals can be transferred into long-term shelter or foster situations, we’ll be able to provide all the homeless animal victims of Katrina with shelter, food, water, and daily care.

There are so many organizations that have opened their doors to hurricane victims. While their generosity greatly benefits the animals in the affected disaster areas, the relief and rescue efforts can put a strain on the shelters’ resources to care for animals in their own communities. Introducing, American Humane’s Second Chance Katrina Fund, which provides additional support to American Humane member agencies so that they can extend the sheltering and fostering of animal victims of Hurricane Katrina until they can be reunited with their families or find new loving homes.

American Humane is able to subsidize Second Chance with recent donations directed for Hurricane Katrina, and can now assist its member agencies with everything from transporting animals from shelters to their families that may now be relocated to other states, to helping expand existing foster programs until families have new places to live, and to paying for the medical needs of animals that were injured during or after the storm as they waited for rescue.

The Second Chance Fund can be applied to fund all or partial requests, but all applications will be given equal consideration. Agency members of the American Humane Association click here to to apply for the Second Chance Fund or the Second Chance Katrina Fund.

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. Petfinder.com 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.

Noah’s Wish:
(SLIDELL, LA.) September 18, 2005 – Noah’s Wish, a not-for-profit organization that works exclusively to rescue and shelter animals in disasters, is caring for 642 rescued animals at a temporary shelter in Slidell, Louisiana. Cats, dogs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, geese, a rat, a snake, a turtle, hamsters, a scorpion, a tarantula and one emu are among the animals that have been rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by Noah’s Wish and Slidell Animal Control. At the request of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Noah’s Wish has taken 49 owned cats from the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, Louisiana. The cats will be cared for at the temporary shelter in Slidell until they can be reunited with their owners.

Across the road from the emergency shelter Noah’s Wish has set up in Slidell, LA is a staging area for crews who are helping to rebuild the damaged towns. They are working on rebuilding railroad tracks, roads, phone lines, etc. There is also a team of people going house to house collecting the deceased victims of Katrina. A common factor in their work is they keep coming upon dogs. Some of these dogs are aggressive and are guarding the houses the rescuers need to get into. Other dogs are simply hungry and frightened of strangers. There are dogs living near the train tracks who are in danger of being hit by trains and dogs who are venturing out near roads.

Noah’s Wish has provided crews with bags of dog food and clean water. The crews have been opening the bags of food in safe areas. Just the simple act of providing food has helped greatly in calming down the dogs who are aggressively guarding houses, so that the crews can search for victims. The crews working on the train tracks and roads are placing the food away from the danger zones to encourage dogs to stay away. Feeding stations are also helping these frightened dogs get used to the idea that people who show up are friends, not enemies.

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