Hurricane Katrina & Rita rescuers shift gears from rescue & reunion to rehoming
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2005:
NEW ORLEANS–All animals rescued from the aftermath of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita became eligible for adoption on December
15, 2005, following the expiration of the last mandatory holding
periods prescribed by the Louisiana and Mississipi state
“We’re setting up two new rescue centers, in New Orleans and
Gulfport,” Best Friends Animal Society president Michael Mountain
told supporters. “Rescue teams will be bringing animals there for an
official 5-day holding period in case the pets still have a local
family. After that, we’ll be driving or flying them to carefully
chosen shelters around the country to be placed in good new loving
“Best Friends is functioning as the lead agency in this
effort,” Mountain continued. “The Humane Society of the United
States, the American SPCA, and United Animal Nations are helping to
fund the rescue centers. UAN is also providing volunteer support.
The American Humane Association has offered their emergency rescue
truck to do sterilizations if needed. The Helen Woodward Animal
Center will be bringing many of the rescued pets into their
nationwide ‘Home for the Holidays’ adoption drive,” Mountain added.
Petfinder.com Foundation founder Betsy Saul on December 32
announced $460,000 in grants to the continuing rescue effort. “The
amounts range from $300 to $50,000 and the Foundation expects to
distribute even more,” to help humane societies in the hurricane
zone to rebuild, Saul said.
The expiration of mandatory holding meant that rescued
animals could be sterilized without risk of liability to the
organizations holding them if they were claimed.
In some cases the end of the holding period meant that dogs
believed to be dangerous would be euthanized. The Santa Fe Animal
Shelter & Humane Society accepted 41 dogs from the Gulf region after
the hurricanes, director Duane Adams told Anne Constable of the
Santa Fe New Mexican. Six were returned to their people, six were
adopted, two were placing in foster care, one was transferred to
another organization, nine were euthanized earlier, and of the 17
dogs left at the shelter, half had serious behavioral issues, Adams
The expiration of long in-state holding periods also
intensified friction developing since mid-October between the
Louisiana SPCA and outside rescuers. Photos of most rescued animals
have been posted at Petfinder.com, but many displaced New Orleans
residents whose pets are missing are not computer-savvy, Louisiana
SPCA executive director Laura Maloney told ANIMAL PEOPLE, and have
no access to web sites. The farther animals are taken from New
Orleans, Maloney pointed out, the slimmer are the chances that they
will be found by their people.
Further, Maloney has often mentioned since October that the
many New Orleans residents who are trickling back into the formerly
evacuated city to clean and repair their damaged homes are often
bringing pets back with them. This has resulted in reports of pets
being “rescued” from porches, yards, and even inside homes where
they were being looked after.
How many animals might remain at large in need of rescue
remains a point of dispute between Maloney and outside rescuers, as
Contrary to rumor, Maloney said, “We completed the entire
7,000 entries in our request-to-rescue data base” of animals left
behind in houses. Duplicate listings of animals reported multiple
times and reports of animals seen at large swelled some versions of
the data base used by other rescue groups to more than 13,000 entries.
The Louisiana SPCA in mid-November led a two-day census of
animals at large in New Orleans, involving representatives of nine
organizations. ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis of the data indicated that
there might be as many as 10,800 cats and dogs roaming the city,
about 40% of the estimated New Orleans feral cat and stray dog
population before Katrina. Some rescue groups projected from the
same data that the numbers of cats and dogs still loose in New
Orleans might be as high as 100,000–which would be about 40% of the
entire pre-Katrina cat and dog population of the city.
Regardless of the New Orleans situation, Best Friends
director of operations Paul Berry, development director Stephen
Hirano, behaviorist Sherry Woodard, media relations manager Barbara
Williamson, and field rescue coordinator Ethan Gurney in
mid-November reported “many thousands of former pets” at large in
Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and Plaquemines Parish,
Louisiana, along with Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison counties in
Reunions still occurring
Reunions of pets and families are still occurring, often
with difficulty. Joe, Mark, and Deborah Laustalot told Jill Nolin
of the Dothan Eagle that they recovered their chow mix Gigi, with
the help of Petfinder, only after pursuing the dog through a series
of transfers among rescue groups.
Mary Marino, 46, entrusted her cats Mia and Coco to animal
welfare volunteers before being evacuated from New Orleans by
helicopter on September 2. Coco turned up soon afterward at the
temporary shelter operated by Louisiana State University in Baton
Rouge. Searching web sites, Animal Rescue League of El Paso
volunteer LeWanna Lincoln finally found Mia at the Marin Humane
Society in California. Marino and Mia were reunited on December 1,
recounted Daniel Borunda and Tammy Fonce-Olivas of the El Paso Times.
The Humane Society of Kent County, Michigan, in
mid-December sent a dog named Dingo home to nurse Sonya Hardy, 46,
of New Orleans. Evacuated by the U.S. Army on September 1, Hardy
found Dingo on Petharbor.com on December 5. Humane Society of Kent
County director Karen Terpstra told Ed White of the Grand Rapids
Press that of about 150 animals the organization received from
Louisiana and Mississippi, the families of 35 had been located.
PETA told Associated Press that it found the families of five
of 30 animals it took from New Orleans to the PETA headquarters in
Dorothy Davies of the Sanctuary & Safe Haven for Animals in
Manchester, Michigan, told Liz Cobb of the Ann Arbor News that
SASHA had returned just four of 50 dogs it accepted to their people.
WorldHeart Foundation founder Linda Blair, star of the 1973
film The Exorcist, in mid-November achieved one of the most
publicized reunions when she returned a pit bull terrier named
Carmine to New Orleans evacuee Paula Messick in Houston. That left
Blair with another 49 dogs from the Lamar-Dixon rescue center still
“After two weeks at Lamar Dixon and in New Orleans doing
search and rescue, we returned with nearly two dozen reptiles,”
TortoiseAid International director Annie Lancaster of Apple Valley,
California told ANIMAL PEOPLE. All but seven were returned to their
keepers by the end of November, Lancaster reported, after finding
the family of Beelzibub the Ball Python in Florida.
A current concern of rescuers is removing lost and feral
animals from wreckage being bulldozed.
The Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport on
December 11 issued an appeal for “barn owners to provide homes for
the feral cats” coming out of such situations. “All feral cats will
be vaccinated and sterilized before being released to the barn
owners,” the humane society pledged.
Alley Cat Allies reported picking up 50 cats on just their
first day of a feral cat rescue at a trailer court near Kenner,
Louisiana, that was bulldozed on November 19.
Joelle Rupert of Abbeville, Louisiana, into early December
continued making hay deliveries to hard-hit farmers in Vermilion
Parish. Online appeals issued on her behalf provoked debate as to
whether animal welfare donors should be helping farmers to keep
animals who would eventually be sold to slaughter.
Economic fallout from Kat-rina and Rita included plummeting
donations to other animal welfare projects during the holiday giving
season, when many nonprofit organizations raise about half of their
Donations to Katrina/Rita relief work cumulatively approached
$50 million, with about 90% of the total going to the Humane Society
of the U.S., American SPCA, Noah’s Wish, Best Friends, PetSmart
Charities, and the Pet-finder.com Foundation.
Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center founder Pat Craig
and WOLF Sanctuary cofounder Frank Wendlund told Denver Post staff
writer Kim McGuire that donations had fallen by as much as half.
Mainstream humane societies reported declines of 15% to 25%.
Operating the Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the
Americans, and other facilities in New Orleans, the Audubon Nature
Institute cut its 2006 budget to $20 million, down by half from
recent years, and still expects to lose $9 million. Admissions
income is expected to drop from $18 million in 2004 to $5 million in
2006, concessions income is likely to fall from $10 million to $3
million, and membership income will probably fall by half, to $2
million, institute president Ron Forman and executive vice president
Dale Stastny testified to a December 6 meeting of the institute
governing body, the Audubon Commission.
Fundraising for New Orleans humane work tends to parallel the
fortunes of the Audubon Nature Institute. Audubon Zoo director Dan
Maloney and Louisiana SPCA executive director Laura Maloney are
husband and wife.
At least two organizations that took in many animals from the
Gulf region have run into trouble for alleged neglect.
In Arkansas, Baxter County District Judge Van Gearhart on
November 21 authorized the Baxter County Sheriff’s Department to
begin relocating 370 dogs who remained at the Every Dog Needs A Home
sanctuary in Gamaliel, after 104 dogs were removed and relocated in
October. EDNAH founders Tammy and William Hanson received a January
trial date on neglect charges.
On November 30 the Kansas Animal Health Depart-ment
reportedly found about 75 sick cats and 120 starving dogs at the
Miami County Humane Society, operated by Sheila Jones of Paola.
Some of the dogs came from Ednah, investigators told Garance Burke
of Associated Press.
A disappointing outcome for marine mammal advocates was the
transfer of 17 dolphins, 24 sea lions, and 22 exotic birds from
possession of the severely damaged Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport
to Atlantis, a hotel and conference complex in the Bahamas owned by
Kerzner International Destination Resorts.
Since Katrina the dolphins have been kept at four different
sites. Eight escaped during Katrina, but were recaptured 22 days