Saturday, July 24, 2010

Making sure Animals are protected when a Hurricane strikes again .

In just seven furious hours on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina demolished much of the Gulf Coast. Promptly after the disaster struck, a massive animal rescue and relief effort was launched. The HSUS and many other groups responded immediately, saving and caring for more than 10,000 lost and terrified animals.

A herd of elk cross debris-filled Highway 23 in Myrtle Grove, La., southeast of New Orleans, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005. The elk were part of a sightseeing attraction on the side of the highway. The area was devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A dog scavages for food in a flooded street in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans a month ago, hundreds of animals were left behind as the city was evacuated.

A dog sits on the last piece of dry ground on North Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans as Hurricane Rita reflooded parts of the city on Friday, Sept. 23, 2005.

Residents of Gulfport, Miss., walk past a dead sea lion from a nearby aquarium as they survey the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005.
Adeline Perkins carries her dog, Princess, followed by Lynell Batiste with Timmy, as Kewanda and Ulysses Batiste swim through floodwaters in Lacombe, La., on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005.

Chuckie Glenn (left) and Holly Olivieri help family members evacuate pets from a grooming shop in Chalmette a few days after Hurricane Katrina. They were later forced to leave the pets behind, but eventually able to retrieve nearly all of the animals in the year after the storm.

One of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina was the importance of planning for the care of pets during evacuation and other phases of a disaster.
There were haunting stories of people who chose to ride out the hurricane at home rather than abandon their animal companions, in the process risking -- and in some cases losing -- their lives.
Others reluctantly left pets behind in hopes that they'd survive, only to learn later they had died or disappeared, some of them taken by animal rescue teams.Last fall, in a bid to prevent this kind of thing, state lawmakers ordered a system to evacuate and shelter people with their pets and service animals, such as guide dogs. Major beneficiaries of the program will be elderly, indigent or infirm pet owners who need public help leaving town before a big storm.
Act 615 of 2006, pushed to passage by state Sen. Heulette "Clo" Fontenot, R-Livingston, for the first time allows the state to help evacuate pets, according to veterinarian Dr. Becky Adcock, spokeswoman for the Louisiana State Animal Response Team, a network of volunteer groups working with parish animal control officials to make the new law work.

In another first, pets are now part of the focus of post-disaster search-and-rescue teams, Adcock said. "They can put the animals on the (rescue) boat now," she said.

With Act 615, pet owners who depend on government assistance to leave town ahead of a hurricane can count on state help to evacuate and provide safe places for their animals.

Previously, state shelters accommodated pets of evacuees staying at places where they couldn't bring the animals along.
Housing pets separately

Pet evacuation plans include:

-- Picking up people and their pets at designated locations.

-- Driving them to central locations where volunteers and public employees will gather information about the owners and tag their pets. Some parishes, such as Plaquemines, have plans to microchip pets.

-- Moving pets and their owners to safe shelters out of the hurricane zone -- people in buses and animals in climate-controlled trucks provided by the state to ensure they don't get overheated.

Service animals, like seeing-eye dogs, by law are allowed to stay in shelters with their owners.

But otherwise pets and owners will be housed separately, in facilities close enough together so owners can attend to their animals twice daily.
Pets whose owners aren't well enough to make the daily trips will be temporarily cared for at state prisons by staff and inmates.
Such a huge pet evacuation -- something never before done anywhere in the U.S. -- will require setting up "mega shelters" and running them with lots of volunteer help.
But people like Dr. Carol Foil of the Louisiana State University Veterinary School, one of the leaders of the state's animal response team, said there won't be enough room to shelter every evacuated animal.

"Our main message is anybody who has any of their own resources should make plans for their own animals," Foil said.

City of New Orleans emergency preparedness director Jerry Sneed, among those on the front lines of the operation, agrees, urging pet owners able to afford it to arrange transportation and out-of-town accommodations for themselves and their animals, such as with friends or relatives or in pet-friendly hotels and motels..

"All we want to do is take care of those that have no other means to get out," said Sneed, who expects upwards of 20,000 people to line up for the help. The Louisiana SPCA predicts there will be 10,000 companion animals evacuated from New Orleans alone.
'It has to be done'
Deano Bonano, Jefferson Parish deputy chief administrative officer for emergency operations, predicted that as many as 15,000 residents will seek assisted evacuation. Getting the job done will cost the parish in employee overtime and purchase of equipment to process and tag pets and owners, Bonano said.

Federal reimbursements for those expenditures might be possible if a hurricane hits Jefferson, but the government will pay nothing if a storm doesn't strike, Bonano said. "We may do this three or four times in a season without getting a hurricane, but it has to be done."

Before Katrina, the Louisiana SPCA's message to pet owners was "leave your pet in a safe place," said Heather Rigney, the agency's disaster preparedness coordinator. "Now we realize there is no option but to evacuate one way or another. A lot of people would rather die (than leave their pets behind)," she said. "To them, that's their child, a member of their family."

In Katrina's aftermath, many pet owners came back to find their pets gone, later discovering they'd been rescued by people who took them to other states, where they were given to new owners.

Rigney said this time around, only national animal groups credentialed by the SPCA and carrying identification issued by the state will be allowed to take part in post-storm pet rescues. That way "people can't come in under the guise of kindness and walk off with pets for parts unknown," Rigney said.

Read statements from the witness's here 

People that where forced to leave their beloved animals to die after hurricane Katrina

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