Mardi Gras Brings Relief To Katrina-Affected Pets

by : bagginsisking

Imagine being part of the staff of the Louisiana SPCA when Hurricane Katrina struck last August 29, 2005. Two days before, when the word came that the storm had shifted and was heading for the city, preparations were made for evacuation. On August 27, 263 animals were loaded into rented air-conditioned vans and driven by staff members to the Houston SPCA. This wasn't the first evacuation for many. It's part of life near the Gulf Coast, the storm warnings are sounded, and thousands of people nail plywood over their windows, maybe move precious objects into a closet on the second floor and head out of town. Some make a mini vacation out of it and visit a new area as tourists. Everyone expects the storm to hit somewhere else or not to be as bad as predicted. And then the unthinkable happened.

We saw the pictures, we read the stories and heard the reports. The animals in residence at the Louisiana SPCA were safe in Houston but there were thousands left behind in people's homes or strays in the street. They must be rescued. The Hurricane hit on a Monday, on Tuesday the staff planned the rescue efforts with the state officials and secured a temporary shelter about 60 miles north of New Orleans. By Wednesday, the LA/SPCA was rescuing animals in the suburbs and rural areas surrounding New Orleans. It took several more days to get into New Orleans due to the flooding and looting and when they did they were struck by the numbers of pets that had been left behind, many in the care of neighbors but as the city flooded and residents turned aggressive, many more people evacuated leaving behind the neighbor's cats and dogs they'd be feeding and watering. Staff and volunteers rescued animals from fire escapes and flooded houses, they left food for animals in the streets and dealt with the frantic phone calls pouring in to the LA/SPCA, and other rescue operations such as Noah's Wish.

At first, the search and rescue was targeted by address but it quickly grew into thousands of frantic calls and daily address lists were made and updated by midnight each night. Staff and volunteers got up at 5 or 6 a.m., headed into New Orleans, spent the day rescuing animals and made it back to the temporary shelter between 7 p.m. and midnight bringing in animals who were scared, maybe hurt or malnourished and each had to be reviewed for injury and soothed. In all, the LA/SCPA and over 1000 staff and volunteers from as far away as Italy helped to save more than 8,300 dogs, cats, horses and more from the New Orleans area.

But they need your help. The New Orleans shelter is gone. They are operating in temporary quarters now, an old coffee warehouse and retrofitting it to meet the needs of an animal shelter. They continue to operate their spay/neuter program on a limited basis and need to get the public animal health clinic reopened.

"Hurricane Katrina was devastating for our community, for both animals and people, but as we rebuild and recover we have to move from that place of loss to a place that improves the lives of animals for years to come," says Laura Maloney, Executive Director of the LA/SPCA. "Support from individuals and organizations all over the country are instrumental in helping us recover and rebuild."

Part of that rebuilding and recovery is coming from outside help. Hurricane or no hurricane, Carnival season is here and was officially kicked off on January 6 with Twelfth Night celebrations. Jennifer April, of Baggins' Best Biscuits located in Doylestown, PA, has launched an effort to help the animals by creating a Mardi Gras themed dog treat of which part of the proceeds will benefit the LA/SPCA. "As part of the healthy diet trend many Americans are moving toward, many are including their pets in this lifestyle change too. This is healthy for everyone and may translate into fewer vet bills later as years of toxins aren't building up in your pet's organs. Plus, I used to live in New Orleans, and I run a dog treat business, so I hope to give back a little to New Orleans and the pets through my treats."