Post-Katrina conflicts & rescues go on

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2006:

BATON ROUGE–A Louisiana source involved in undercover law
enforcement against illegal animal fighting alerted ANIMAL PEOPLE
late on February 21, 2006 that state attorney general Charles Foti
had begun investigating Humane Society of the U.S. fundraising and
expenditures in connection with Hurricane Katrina.
Named the lead agency for animal relief by the Fed-eral
Emergency Management Administration, HSUS raised more than $30
million for Katrina aid, and had as many as 200 workers in the
disaster area in September and October 2005.
HSUS confirmed the report within 24 hours, but Foti’s office
said nothing until spokesperson Kris Wartelle acknowledged the “basic
beginning of an inquiry” to Robert Travis Scott of the New Orleans
Times-Picayune on March 16. “She said Foti has made no accusations
of wrongdoing, and declined to give more details,” Scott wrote.
“There’s no question that cockfighters, hunters, and others
in Louisiana are constantly looking to damage our credibility,” HSUS
president Wayne Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE on February 22. “Since
they cannot compete with our message that cockfighting is cruel, they
attack the messenger.”

“HSUS welcomes the opportunity to document our
Katrina-related expenditures,” added vice president of
communications Nick Braden. “We have spent or committed upward of
$20 million, and are certain to spend millions more in Mississippi
and Louisiana in the foreseeable future.
“We have been careful not to liquidate all of the assets in a
matter of months,” Braden said, “because this situation requires a
long-term commitment to help the animals and to rebuild the animal
care capacity in the Gulf region. We will continue to update our
list of expenditures and commitments related to Katrina relief at our
web site,” Braden promised.
The HSUS web site as of February 22, 2006 listed “$8 million
committed to direct Katrina expenses, $1 million for ongoing field
projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, $5 million committed to a
Katrina reconstruction fund, $2 million provided or committed to
agencies that have helped rescue, shelter, or reunite Katrina
animals, $1.5 million committed to reunion efforts, $1 million
committed to spay and neuter programs, $500,000 spent on disasters
that have hit since Katrina, [and] $1.5 million committed to grow
HSUS staff.”
Itemized lists of activities under each heading did not
include a breakdown of costs.
The posted sums for many projects differed from those given
to Scott of the Times-Picayune. Scott’s breakdown included “$5.5
million on direct operations, $7 million in reconstruction grants,
$1.3 million in reimbursement grants to humane societies and rescue
groups, $500,000 in partnership with Louisiana State University and
the Dixon Correctional Institute toward an assessment for a permanent
facility for animal care and sheltering, and $4.5 million to help
get the Louisiana SPCA back on its feet.”
Many smaller organizations were bitterly critical of HSUS for
closing rescue centers at Gonzales, Louisiana, and Hattiesburg,
Mississippi, in mid-October, after Louisiana state veterinarian
Martha Littlefield quit accrediting out-of-state vets and asked
outside relief groups to stand down.
Animal Rescue New Orleans, formed after the HSUS withdrawal,
took in 2,000 animals during the last three months of 2005, then
“trapped 300 dogs, over 200 puppies, and 610 cats,” while
maintaining 2,800 feeding stations, said cofounder Jane Garrison.
“On February 1, we held a meeting in New Orleans to find residents
to lead ARNO,” Garrison e-mailed. “Nearly 200 people showed up. On
February 15, ARNO shifted to new resident leadership,” planning “to
continue a food/water program for animals on the streets, rescuing
dogs and cats, and neutering feral cats.”
Companion Animal Network founder Garo Alexanian of New York
City in mid-March 2006 made his third trip to Louisiana since
Katrina, hauling nine tons of hay donated by Gif Foster of Foggy
Bottom Farms in Geneseo, New York. “We delivered the hay to
Gulfport, Mississippi, where there is little hay for farm animals,
and also to Fireside Rescue in Carriere, Mississippi. They have two
dozen rescued donkeys and horses, not to mention a dozen Katrina
dogs,” Alexanian told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Upon arriving in New Orleans, we were surprised to find
that the packs of dogs we saw on previous visits had moved on from
their previous hiding areas, as those areas now had lights,
generators, mobile homes, work crews, etc. The animals had
migrated into areas where there is more shrubbery and less activity.
The week we had was not enough time to re-find the packs and trap
them,” Alexanian said.
“So we thought about taking animals from the Louisiana SPCA’s
new shelter in Algiers [to adopt out back in New York], as we had
heard rumors that they were euthanizing animals like crazy. They
informed us that so far they had little need to euthanize,”
Alexanian continued.
“The Louisiana SPCA put us in contact with St. Bernard Parish
and Plaquamines Parish. Word got around to Jefferson, St. Johns,
and St. Charles. Working with the Southern Animal Foundation, the
Humane Society of Louisiana, and ARNO, we vetted all the animals
and loaded them up. We had fitted the truck with over 40 cages
borrowed from New York City Animal Control, the North Shore Animal
League, and the Carolina Humane Society. We installed a 110-volt
alternating inverter so we could run six box fans in the truck. We
brought back a total of 43 animals, 34 dogs and nine cats,”
Alexanian recounted.
“Having realized that the need for the Gulf Coast in 2006 is
transport, transport, and transports,” Alexanian added, “we have
approached some of the same partnering groups about how to continue
these transports once a month at least through the summer. The North
Shore Animal League has stepped up to the plate again, and it looks
like monthly transports will become a reality starting in April.”

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