LOS ANGELES TIMES
Thursday September 08, 2005
Time Is Running Out for Stranded Pets
* Thousands of dogs, cats and other animals left behind by hurricane evacuees are slowly dying as rescuers struggle to save them.
Half his house, near the
In recent months, Block's father and two sisters died of cancer. Now, with $116 in his pocket, Block is hoping to start a new life somewhere else with his dogs.
"It's what I live for," Block said as he nuzzled and petted his three canines. "My girls."
These are tough times in the
That's as true for the thousands of human survivors who still haven't fled their ravaged city as it is for the hundreds of dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other pets that have been left behind to fend for themselves. Some are still grimly hanging onto life. They sit forlornly on the rooftops of flooded homes, slowly starving to death as rescuers in boats ignore them, looking for people instead. Some have even tried swimming to boats, only to be rebuffed.
Many other pets didn't make it, and their bodies now lie in pools of scummy water or by the side of highways. Even those lucky animals whose owners refused to part with them, come hell or high water, have been suffering right alongside their masters.
Like so many of the problems in this frazzled city, the scale of the abandoned-animal crisis caught even experienced players off guard.
"It was obviously worse than anyone imagined," Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the
The society has about 250 workers in the storm-hit area "as part of a team that we're controlling," including workers from
"We were on the ground Tuesday, the day after the hurricane hit, but we were excluded from going in by state and federal authorities for the first several days," Pacelle said. "We've received 2,000 e-mails and phone calls from people who evacuated from
Pacelle said there may be 50,000 pets trapped in
Earlier during the crisis, rescuers had been ordered to save people but leave their pets. But "that works against the larger imperatives for disaster relief because people will not leave without their pets, and many people will go back in to get their pets," Pacelle said.
Animal rescue workers slog through the water and muck carrying crowbars to pry open or smash their way into houses where pets are believed to be. "I've been bitten, scratched, had [my] head cracked open," said Jane Garrison, a volunteer rescuer from
Many animals, cats especially, won't come when called, so Garrison and others spend hours peering into unfamiliar nooks and crannies, cooing and soothing and finally grabbing. If they can't find the escaped animal, they'll put out a bowl of food and water and make note of the location. They've crawled into houses surrounded by fire, and pulled dogs off rooftops that are sagging and about to collapse.
"The suffering is overwhelming," Garrison said. "Sometimes they have food left, but all their water is gone. Every second is critical."
The good news is that so far, most of the animals left indoors seem to be alive.
More aid may be coming. Information is available on the Internet at katrina.petfinder.com. The ASPCA also has a searchable online database to help reunite pets with their owners. Volunteers who want to help can register on the society's website.
Several temporary animal shelters have been set up around southern
One such shelter in
Besides pets, the flooding has damaged some of
After seeing how Hurricane Andrew nearly leveled
At the edge of the French Quarter on Wednesday morning, Steve Dey, 39, was hand-painting an impromptu street sign that he hoped might draw some help.
Dey and his wife, Dewanda, 38, have been looking after the pet dogs of two elderly neighbors who fled the city a couple of days ago and are now barred by disaster officials from returning.
Since the hurricane struck, Dey has seen many instances of human beings not at their best. "The people around here, they love their dogs more than they love their fellow man, and rightly so," said Dey, who manages a small grocery store in the French Quarter. "Sad thing is, the animals around here are better behaved than the people. They're trained. They're not violent. You can walk 'em around without leashes."
By late Wednesday morning, a faint hope had arisen as a handful of residents, feeling deserted by authorities, chartered a bus to take them and their pets to
As they waited, a detachment of U.S. Army soldiers arrived to say that the federal government would fly people and their pets for free to any destination they chose.
Capt. Jamie Uptgraft said he and his men had spent the last two days rounding up animals and persuading their owners to leave the devastated city. "As long as they're in a cage, we'll take 'em," he said of the pets.
That was welcome news to Chris Buchner, 46, and her husband, Charlie Lilly, 46, who were lugging their two cats, Rose, 18, and Lucy, 5, with them in cages, along with their luggage, as they headed toward the arranged pickup point on the edge of the French Quarter.
The couple said they had spent days hiding in their home, afraid to come out while thugs roamed the streets firing guns.
"We really thought we'd come to the end because it was Armageddon out there," Buchner said.
Johnson reported from