(This column is in response to dozens of queries about the welfare of animals following Hurricane Katrina, and how to help people and their pets.)
The loss of human life and property as a result of Katrina is unspeakable. But at least one survivor still had something to hold onto, quite literally. On camera, as she held her soggy kitten close to her chest, she said, “No, I did not lose everything. I thank God for what is sparred,” as she petted her cat, while tears streamed from her eyes.
At the airport in New Orleans one man muttered repeatedly, he saved my life. He was talking about his dog. Now authorities were asking him to give up his dog. He refused. And they refused to transport the man to a shelter. It’s uncertain how that stand-off ended. It was a scene that was played over countless times.
As of press time, the Houston SPCA had accepted 900 animals, including hundreds belonging to people staying in the Astrodome, where pets are not allowed. 263 pets were delivered to Houston from the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LA SPCA) when the evacuation warning was first announced. Many of those animals have now been dispersed to other cities in Texas.
Also at press time plans were made for humane groups to be allowed to enter the city to attempt to rescue as many pets as possible. Alice Sarmiento, spokesperson at the Houston SPCA is hoping for and expecting thousands of animals to be delivered to the shelter. “Everyone seems to agree that the greatest chance of reuniting people with their pets is to have the animals in one central location,” she says. “People aren’t going to be able to travel around to look for them.” The animals will be housed in auxiliary kennels, and foster homes. The website petfinders.com is assisting to hook up people through the Internet.
Louisiana State University School Agriculture Center at the School of Veterinary Medicine is also providing temporary housing and vet care for more than 600 pets. About 300 of these animals are pets who were being treated for illnesses in vet hospitals; others are pets being boarded for ‘safety’ at clinics in and around the Crescent City. The remaining 300 plus are animals belong to local residents being sheltered in places where animals are not allowed. The school is not charging for vet care, according to the Dean Dr. Michael Groves.
Sadly, the death toll on animals in New Orleans will likely be staggering. Thousands evacuated, but left their animals behind. If they didn’t drown or starve, and somehow escaped their homes, the prospects of scavenging for food in the city is not likely to be an easy task.
Elsewhere in the hurricane torn region the news isn’t quite so dismal for animals. Organizations, including Noah’s Wish and the Humane Society of the United States are well organized and have set up make-shift shelters. According to Noah’s Wish, setting up their headquarters in Slidell, LA, they’ve saved hundreds of pets. The process of reuniting people with their animals is well underway. The American Veterinary Medical Association VMAT Teams (working with FEMA) have been deployed in record numbers. Local vets are also volunteering their services, even when their own clinics have been destroyed.
People need your help, and the following listing is most certainly is not meant to imply you shouldn’t contribute to the Red Cross or other legitimate organizations which fund human assistance. Humane assistance is important too. Companion animals are family to many; and entire families require assistance. If you are so inclined here are some verified and legitimate options:
American Humane Association: www.americanhumane.org. Or mail American Humane Association, 63 Inverness Drive East, Denver, CO 80112.
American Kennel Club Canine Support and Relief Fund: www.akc.org/news/hurricane_katrina.cfm or mail a donation to AKC Companion Animal Recovery Canine Support and Relief Fund, c/o American Kennel Club, 5580 Centerview Drive Raleigh, North Carolina 27606. You may also call 800-252-7894.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2005 Disaster Relief Fund): www.aspca.org/disaster, or call 212-876-7700, ext. 4516.
American Veterinary Medical Association Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams: www.avmf.org, or call (847) 925-8070. AVMF supports state and Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) training and equipment for deployment in times of disaster. Make donation to AVMF AVMA Medical Assistance Team, 1931 N. Meacham Rd., Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173.
Cat Fanciers’ Association (Disaster Relief Fund and the newly formed CFA Gulf Sore Fund): www.cfainc.org, 732-528-7391. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc., P.O. Box 1005, Manasquan, NJ 08736-0805.
Code 3 Associates (Code 3 Associates, Inc. is dedicated to both professional disaster response for animal rescue operations and to training individuals working in animal related law enforcement throughout the country. Also works with EARS “Emergency Animal Rescue Service – from the United Nations): www.code3associates.org, 303-772-7724; Code 3 Associates, P.O. Box 1128 Erie, CO 80516. EARS: www.ears.org.
Houston TX SCPA: www.houstonspca.org; 713-802-0555.
Humane Society of the United States: www.hsus.org, or call 800-HUMANE-1. Or send check to, HSUS Disaster Relief Fund, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association: http://www.lvma.org, or call 800- 524-2996. Make donations to the Dr. Walter J. Ernst Jr. Memorial Foundation, 8550 United Plaza Boulevard, Suite 1001, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, Make note on your check that the contribution is for “Hurricane Katrina Relief.”
Noah’s Wish (an animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to rescuing following disasters): www.noahswish.org, or call 530-622-9313, or send a donation to Noah’s Wish, P.O. Box 997 Placerville, CA 95667.
North Shore Animal League: http://www.nsalamerica.org, or call 877-4SAVEPET.
Perhaps the organizations with the most immediate needs are the Houston SPCA and Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine (you can donate to Vet school through the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association) Other affected city shelters will require help as well. A Mobile, AL shelter site is at www.mobilespca.org.