Volunteer vets head efforts to rescue pets in Katrina aftermath
Thursday, September 08, 2005
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A North Hills veterinarian is driving to Louisiana tomorrow with antibiotics, dog and cat food, kitty litter, portable kennels and other items to care for animals caught up in the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Jennifer Wooderson is part of an ever-growing army of animal organizations, veterinarians and individuals who are mobilizing to help the flood's animal victims.

The reach-out to animals has two fronts: There are concerns for the animals and for the human victims who are searching for pets, and there are concerns that the animals pose health and safety risks to humans.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
A dog is leashed by a rescuer yesterday in New Orleans.

The four-legged victims of Katrina include 28 horses and mules that have been rescued from the New Orleans' French Quarter, where they had worked pulling carriages.

At least two of them have died, despite the efforts of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and other volunteers who are working at two animal-triage areas -- one at a coliseum on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and another at an exposition center in Gonzales, La.

Staff and students of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine are heavily involved in the rescue and care efforts. LSU graduates, including Wooderson, who graduated this year, are driving from all over the country to join in the work. She was a lifelong Louisiana resident until July, when she joined the staff of the Bradford Hills Veterinary Hospital in Marshall.

Wooderson will deliver supplies donated by veterinarians and vendors as well as items donated by clients of the North Hills veterinary hospital. A fund has been set up for cash donations. When she gets to Baton Rouge, Wooderson will be donating her veterinary services.

"The animals that are coming in are in terrible shape," said Wooderson, who has been in contact with LSU staff and with rescue workers. Cuts and lacerations have become badly infected because, for days, the animals have been in the bacteria-laden water contaminated with fecal matter, chemicals and corpses.

The animals themselves pose hazards to humans.

The decomposing bodies of dead horses and cows are adding to the health problems in the hurricane area. Hungry dogs running at large are known to "pack up," like wolves, and can become dangerously aggressive in their hunt for food.

Other organizations working at both animal triage sites include the LSU AgCenter, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Louisiana Animal Control Association.

Other veterinarians are coming to the aid of Katrina victims through the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The AVMA has deployed four medical assistance teams to the Gulf Coast. Each team has 50 to 70 members, including veterinarians, technicians, epidemiologists and toxicologists, trainers and animal handlers. Their work includes decontaminating living animals and disposing of the dead.

Animal rescue workers are also trying to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Among the thousands of crushing images from last week's deadly hurricane, one brought the anguish home to many: a tearful little boy torn from his dog while being shuttled to safety.

It tugged at the heartstrings, prompting people from around the country to hunt for both the boy and his dog Snowball in hopes of a reunion. They've been scouring shelters, posting notes on the Internet and making phone calls to track them down.

One woman set up a Web site to help people pair up pets with their owners. Another set up a reward to encourage someone to come forward with information on Snowball's or the boy's whereabouts.

"Everyone wants to know about Snowball," said Laura Maloney, executive director of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The boy was among the thousands sheltered at the Superdome after the hurricane. But when he went to board a bus to Houston, a police officer took the dog away. The boy cried out "Snowball! Snowball!" -- then vomited in distress.

The confrontation was first reported by The Associated Press. Authorities say they don't know where the boy or his family ended up.

Jean Jones, 56, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., runs puppymillrescue. com and launched another site, katrinafoundpets.com, to help pair Snowball and other lost pets with their owners. She also started a reward fund, which hit $3,000 yesterday, hoping money might persuade people to help out.

Many of the animals -- dogs, cats, ferrets and birds -- that police collected at the Superdome were herded into a stairwell until the human evacuation was complete. Of the 50 animals rescued from the Superdome on Sunday, not all survived.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.)

Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2005 @ 05:30 CDT


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