Slidell rooftop rescue
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2005:
The first widely publicized post-Katrina animal rescue was
managed as a Labor Day photo op for Sahara star Matthew McConaughey.
McConaughey helped to evacuate anesthesiologist James
Riopell, 50 dogs, 18 cats, and two hamsters from the roof of the
Lindy Boggs Medical Center in Slidell, Louisiana, isolated for a
week by high water.
“A day before McConaughey’s mercy mission,” a press release
recounted, “another helicopter trying to rescue the animals and
their guardian crashed outside the hospital.”
While awaiting rescue, “The doctor euthanized some animals
at the request of their owners, who feared they would be abandoned
and starve. He made a small gas chamber out of a plastic-wrapped dog
kennel,” wrote Mike Stobbe of Associated Press.
“The bigger dogs were fighting it. When I saw that, I said
‘I can’t do it,'” said Lorne Bennett. His wife Valerie Bennett had
offered boat rescuers her wedding ring and her mother’s wedding ring
to save their four dogs, Stobbe reported. They were eventually
among the saved.
McConaughey and Riopell were featured on the Oprah Winfrey
Show–but other rescuers were still kept out of the disaster zone by
police and the National Guard. A Noah’s Wish team had been awaiting
the go-ahead right there in Slidell since August 29, according to
Kim Campbell Thornton of Newsweek. After authorization came, the
Noah’s Wish team, assisted by volunteers from the House Rabbit
Society, reportedly took in 269 animals in five days.
Winfrey later paid for newspaper ads to help direct displaced
people to Petfinder.com to look for their lost pets, Louisiana SPCA
executive director Laura Maloney told Tribune Media Services
correspondent Steve Dale.