The story about Rita, the Hurricane Katrina refugee who is just now returning to her New Orleans home, is a reminder of the negative impact that Katrina is still having on the animals there. In fact we found this story just this week about the second generation of Katrina’s homeless and abandoned pets:
In New Orleans advocates struggle to deal with animals whose owners can no longer care for them, and with the offspring of cats and dogs lost in the hurricane. Like Hank, a purebred golden retriever, is typical of the second wave of pet problems here in the 21 months since Hurricane Katrina hit.
The first crisis was those pets who were lost, abandoned or killed in the storm and its immediate aftermath.
Now there are pets like Hank, who stayed with his New Orleans East owners for the first 10 months after Katrina, which submerged their home in 7 feet of water. After moving several times and struggling to rebuild their lives, Hank’s owners realized they could no longer cope with owning a dog.
So they surrendered Hank to Animal Rescue New Orleans, or ARNO, a grass-roots group that cares for animals left behind or separated from their owners. ARNO was founded shortly after the storm and survives on donations from volunteers, private sources and other nonprofit groups.
Hank bounded with joy as ARNO shelter coordinator Robin Beaulieu entered his pen recently. Hank flipped onto his back for a tummy rub.
“He loves to be petted and groomed,” Beaulieu said.
The dog has lived at ARNO for the last eight months while he awaits a new home.
Animal advocates say many pet owners living in trailers and tight on cash while they rebuild flood-damaged homes opt to give up their animals because they don’t have space or can no longer afford to keep them.
“So many people out there need help with their pets,” said Charlotte Bass Lilly, ARNO’s executive director.
Beaulieu estimated that the number of families surrendering their pets to shelters had gone up between 45 percent and 60 percent since Katrina. Laura K. Maloney, executive director of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said some of the animals up for adoption by her agency could be the offspring of animals separated from their families since the storm, but many were pets relinquished by their owners.
According to LA/SPCA statistics, about 259,400 families owned pets in Orleans Parish before the storm. As many as 104,000 pets were left behind after Katrina; about 15,000 were officially rescued. An estimated 3,000 have been reunited with their families, and at least 88,700 remain unaccounted for, Maloney said. Thousands of the pets unaccounted for are believed to have died.
ARNO and other animal-advocacy groups believe that many strays on the streets are “Katrina pets” and their fourth- or fifth-generation offspring. And many have not been spayed or neutered.
Bass Lilly said that unscientific counts by ARNO volunteers who manage the group’s 3,000 feeding stations throughout Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes estimate that as many as 40,000 cats and 5,000 dogs are on the streets.
“There are still dogs out there with collars,” Bass Lilly said.
Although stray or abandoned animals were not unique to New Orleans, “what makes it different is that these animals are homeless, with no food, water and no garbage to forage. They’re basically in a stress situation.”
University of Pennsylvania researchers surveyed six areas of Orleans and St. Bernard parishes on behalf of the LA/SPCA six months after the storm and found that “relatively few” homeless animals remained.
Maloney said that feeding stations were not “in the best interest” of stray animals and made it more challenging to capture them.
“We are taking animals that are left there, and we are sustaining them,” she added. “That really doesn’t solve our problem. We are helping create more homeless kittens and puppies, and we need to stop.”
ARNO’s food sites cover a 685-square-mile radius, Beaulieu said. Volunteer trappers capture the animals for sterilization. Feral cats are trapped, neutered and released.
Bass Lilly said that over the last nine months, her group had found new homes for about 200 animals a month. And since Katrina, the volunteers had helped reunite between 50 and 70 pets with their original owners, Bass Lilly said.
Reunifications are still crucial almost two years after the storm.
“Every day, animals show up,” said Laura Bergerol, a volunteer with a grass-roots online group called the Katrina Animal Reunion Team.
The animals are featured in newspaper ads, on Web sites advertising missing pets, and even on Craig’s List, said Bergerol, who is based in Palo Alto.
There are about 200 animals living at ARNO’s shelter, housed in a warehouse in Jefferson Parish. Bass Lilly said the group had a “no kill” policy.
One day last week, a cacophony of barks blended with the occasional purr as Beaulieu showed volunteer Ray Forrester how to trap five kittens he spotted in his neighborhood.
“You line the cage with newspaper and put food on it,” Beaulieu said. “The best thing to use is sardines. And Popeye’s fried chicken works wonders.”
Cats typically are trapped in cages, dogs often with a noose. It can take several months to win an animal’s confidence so that it is willingly captured.
With the population of New Orleans down to half its size, and thousands of people across Louisiana living in cramped trailers, there are fewer local takers for Katrina pets. So the group is working with partners nationwide to find new homes for the animals.
“Katrina animal celebrity is a way to make people feel they are directly helping with Katrina,” Beaulieu said.
Source: LA Times