Haraz N. Ghanbari  /  AP
U.S. Army flight surgeon Capt. Devry Anderson, of the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, holds a terrier named Chip after it was rescued with its owner Sept. 2 in New Orleans.
updated 9/6/2005 6:34:33 PM ET 2005-09-06T22:34:33

In Katrina’s disastrous wake, animals are suffering alongside people, many lost, disoriented and on the brink of death. Humane organizations, dog clubs and veterinary associations are working frantically to help rescue stray pets and free those trapped by the floodwaters.

Volunteers are also struggling to find pet-friendly shelters for people who evacuated with their dogs, cats and birds, and reunite people with their lost pets.

At Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana SPCA, the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, and the Louisiana Animal Control Association are working with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine to set up and coordinate shelter for animals affected by the hurricane.

“We’re taking in animals that have been evacuated, we’re taking in displaced animals, and we’re trying to get back into the city of New Orleans to rescue some of the animals that had to be left behind,” says Dr. Rebecca Adcock, a spokesperson for the LVMA. “At this point, we have several hundred animals and are expecting over a thousand animals to be coming in.”

Vomiting and diarrhea caused by stress, heat and dehydration are the main health problems pets are facing at this time, says Adcock. As they come in, dogs are being vaccinated against respiratory diseases and all animals are being vaccinated for rabies.

Cats seem most stressed by the situation.

"Because of the stress factors involved, we’re trying to handle the cats as little as possible," says Adcock. "They’re the ones that are probably the most traumatized by this, so the main thing we’re trying to do is to get them cool and calm and not feeling quite so panicked about everything."

As far as getting back into New Orleans to rescue more animals, Adcock says volunteers are simply waiting for permission from police to enter the city. Volunteers with haulers are available to evacuate horses, and animal control officers and veterinarians are standing by to help with small-animal rescue.

Adcock says rescuing pets will help people as well.

“The situation we’re seeing is there are people down there who won’t leave their animals,” she says.

Animal shelters flooded
Animal disaster-rescue organization Noah’s Wish is operating out of Slidell, La. When Noah’s Wish director Terri Crisp and her team arrived in Slidell on Wednesday, the animal shelter was flooded with about 10 feet of water, rendering it unusable. A meeting with Slidell mayor Ben Morris produced a large warehouse with a huge lot behind it for use as a temporary animal shelter.

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“They’re going to be able to have thousands of animals in this facility,” says Patricia Jones, media coordinator for Noah’s Wish. “They’ll have cage spaces for cats and small dogs inside the warehouse and in the lot they’re going to set up tents with chain-link dog runs for the larger dogs.”

That much space will be essential as rescuers get on with the work of rounding up stray dogs and cats. Loose dogs are everywhere in Slidell, left behind when their owners evacuated.

“Law enforcement officers, as they go around, are cutting dogs loose that they’re finding tied up, so Terri tells me there’s a lot of catch-up to do,” says Jones. “The good news is that we have a facility, we have about 25 veterinarians that are coming in to help, and about 400-plus trained volunteers coming in to help.”

As animals are brought in, they’ll be registered in a database to help facilitate reunions with their owners.

Response teams ready
The Humane Society of the United States has disaster animal response teams stationed in Mississippi and Louisiana.

“What we’re already finding and what’s going to get worse is stray animals,” says Melissa Seide Rubin, HSUS vice president of field and disaster services. “We’ve also gotten a lot of people calling us that their pets need to be rescued. They had to evacuate and left their pets behind.”

Many New Orleans residents who fled with their pets to the SuperDome were forced to give them up, according to local news reports. Police told reporters the animals were taken from their owners, but authorities didn't know what happened to them after that. One young boy who was forced to give up his dog, Snowball, became so distraught he cried to the point of vomiting, the Associated Press reported.

Some people who did evacuate with their animals have found that more efforts have been made to accommodate pets than in past disasters. The LVMA is putting up pets at Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette, La.; LSU in Shreveport, La.; the Monroe Civic Center (small animals) in Monroe, La.; the Ike Hamilton Center (large animals) in Monroe; the Farmer’s Market in Alexandria, La. Evacuees staying in Red Cross shelters may take pets to these locations for housing, but must feed, water, walk and medicate their pets themselves.

Businesses are assisting as well. According to Houston resident Anne Page, radio reports indicate that many hotels and motels in the Houston area have waived no-pets policies or pet weight limits, and boarding kennels have waived requirements for inoculation records.

Some boarding kennels are heavily discounting or taking animals at no charge for people staying in Red Cross shelters or with family or friends who cannot absorb the pets into households already crammed with extra people.

Nonetheless, rescuers are facing a situation that Adcock describes as overwhelming. “We just are afraid that things could get worse before they get better, but we’re trying to be brave for all the people who we know who lost everything,” she says.

© 2013


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