Agency rescues abandoned pets in New Orleans

(U-WIRE) AUSTIN, Texas – As New Orleans residents evacuated their city last week for shelters in Texas and other states, they were forced to leave behind all their non-essential possessions including, in many cases, their family pets.

While human evacuees have been bused and resettled on a massive scale, their canine and feline counterparts have not been a priority for the major relief agencies, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, overseeing the evacuation process.

The Dallas-based Texas Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that around 300 pets were moved from animal shelters in the path of the hurricane to shelters in the Houston area on the Sunday before the storm made landfall.

An additional 100 of those animals were then moved by the SPCA to the Dallas area where they have been sheltered or taken in by area foster homes.

Those 300, though, represent only a fraction of the many Louisiana shelters that were not able to evacuate before the storm.

“There could be untold thousands of animals still left in the area,” said SPCA spokeswoman Maura Davies.

To round up the cats and dogs left behind in shelters or in private residences the Louisiana SPCA created a Disaster Animal Response Team that was dispatched to the New Orleans area on Friday.

The Louisiana SPCA has rescued at least 300 animals directly from the disaster zone according to the organization’s Web site.

While rescued people have been evacuated to outlying areas and states, pets found by rescuers are not being taken out of Louisiana.

“We are trying to keep the animals as close to their original locations as possible so that pet owners will be able to locate them more easily when they return,” Davies explained.

While the Louisiana SPCA has focused on rescue operations for abandoned animals, with the aid from the Humane Society of the United States, the needs of pets whose owners successfully evacuated them to Texas but are currently unable to care for them have become the responsibility of the Texas SPCA and its affiliated local animal aid organizations. Those organizations are looking for places to house the pets until their owners can take them back.

Davies said that the Dallas-area SPCA had no trouble finding more than 60 foster homes for all of its 100 animals.

“We’ve been just overwhelmed by the local response,” she said.

The number of pets remaining in Houston is unclear because so many have been moved through or into the city in recent days.

To deal with the housing needs of so many displaced pets, the HSUS has set up a hotline for individuals who would like to offer their homes as a foster home.

Calls are being routed to the Louisiana SPCA disaster team which has been acting on requests to rescue specific animals in the New Orleans area, said Humane Society spokeswoman Rachel Querry.

The Texas SPCA recommends making food and monetary donations to the HSUS to aid animal relief efforts.

In Austin the effect of pet refugees has been minimal, because most of the evacuees here have not had the option of traveling with their pets.

The Humane Society of Austin reports that it has taken in 75 pets so far and is looking for temporary foster homes for the animals.