Responding To Katrina

As our Hurricane Katrina response heads into its 20th day(9/22/05), our Disaster Animal Response Teams continue their quest to rescue stranded pets while we brace for the potential arrival of Hurricane Rita. Here's the latest update on what's happening in Louisiana and Mississippi, along with new photos and a video of our teams on the ground:

Three weeks after Katrina struck the region and the flood waters rose in New Orleans, our rescue teams are doing all they can to reach stranded pets in time. We've rescued nearly 6,000 pets and other animals so far. Many animals are in remarkably good shape, but others are severely dehydrated or have wounds or chemical burns. For some, we are arriving too late to help. While individual National Guardsmen and military units have helped us, the federal government has refused to formally make animal rescue a top priority.

The temporary animal shelter at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana, remains at capacity. To make room for new rescues, we've transported more than 1,500 animals out of the facility to other shelters. Our top animal sheltering professionals are finding the task of running the massive facility to be the most challenging assignment of their lives. Despite the federal government's lack of response in helping with rescues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Public Health Service have been a tremendous help at this facility, as have officials from the state of Louisiana. We're still in need of volunteers to help with the task of managing what has become the nation's largest animal shelter!

Amid the stress and hardship here, our staff and volunteers are witnessing the most incredible reunions of pets and their people—more than 400 so far. At our temporary shelter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a bell near the entrance is rung each time an animal is reunited with her owner. When that bell rings, cheers and applause break out through the facility.

While our on-the-ground response remains our top priority, we have begun looking toward the future. Yesterday, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The HSUS announced the creation of a reconstruction fund to rebuild animal shelters damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Each organization is donating an initial $2.5 million, for a total of $5 million. We hope to eventually build that fund to at least $10 million.

To stay on top of everything that's happening in the region, please bookmark and be sure to visit it frequently. We are adding new stories, information, and photos every day.

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