FOR SOME pets stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, help has arrived thanks to the Humane Society of the United States.
Members of the HSUS National Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) entered New Orleans alongside staff members of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) on the morning of Sunday, September 4th.
It’s a major turning point for pets and other animals stranded in the city, which had been closed off to animal rescuers from several rescue organisations and charities by federal and state authorities who had been closely controlling access in attempts to handle the confusion and danger that has beset the city.
As HSUS rescuer Diane Webber put it earlier in the day, "It may be too late for some. It may be just in time for others."
The desperate calls being taken at the HSUS’s emergency call centre in Washington showed there is no time to lose: Hundreds, possibly thousands of companion animals, left behind by owners who could not take them along, wait for their owners or for rescue - in bathrooms, attics, bedrooms, office suites, hospital corridors - wherever their desperate owners believed they could survive a few days on their own. The lucky ones have food and water for a few days. However, their luck won’t hold for too many days longer.
"Please break in when you get somebody over there," one caller to the HSUS hotline pled. The caller was one of many forced to leave their animals behind as they fled Katrina’s approach.
"Please help, my neighbour was feeding the cats but she fled when the looting began," a second caller implored. "Could you just help get some medicine to my pet?" another person asked. "I will get my keys to your team," a man told one HSUS responder. "Just get in there and get my cat, please."
HSUS responders also heard from people associated with the situations at Lindy Boggs Hospital and Mercy Hospital, where dozens of staff members’ pets were being housed on the upper levels. At one of the hospitals, reportedly, there is just a single doctor caring for all of the animals;
according to callers, he committed himself to staying behind to provide care after rescue workers evacuated patients and staff members late last week.
Late last Friday night, HSUS rescuers, working with members of the Humane Society of South Mississippi, picked up 42 cats and 89 dogs in Gulfport, Mississippi - survivors of a 30-foot storm surge that hit the facility where they had been housed. The animals were driven to a staging area and temporary shelter in Jackson, where they were evaluated and treated. Eventually, these fortunate animals will be transferred to the care of animal shelters around the country.
Calls of Compassion
Those staffing the HSUS telephones have also answered calls from thousands of compassionate people, offering practical assistance, volunteering to go to the impact zones, and adding their funds to those already collected by The HSUS since Katrina’s ruinous strike -- funds that will be poured into our relief efforts as they unfold in the days ahead.
More than a few of those who contacted The HSUS wanted to know about Snowball, the dog taken from a little boy trying to board a bus at the New Orleans Superdome last Thursday.
Unfortunately, his fate, like that of so many other beloved companion animals, hangs in the balance.