Log 02 - 01 September 2005

I am really looking forward to getting out of the office and into the field. I’m hearing so many gut-wrenching stories of folks losing everything they own -- yet hoping that their pets have somehow survived the hurricane. As I started fielding these calls Monday, I asked myself how these callers could ever leave animals behind. But as I listen more with my heart rather than my brain, I realize that for many of these people, there weren’t any other choices.

This morning, I received a call from a woman who was frantically trying to help her elderly, disabled friend who was being evacuated from a hotel in Biloxi. The SEALS would not allow him to bring his dog. Here was a man who had lost his home and was now being forced to leave the only thing he had left behind. Conditions simply prevented him from taking his animal with him. Or the newlyweds who boarded their two dogs so they could go on their honeymoon. They were completely out of touch until Monday. Their flights were canceled and, to this day, they have no idea whether their animals are safe or whether their apartment -- full of wedding gifts -- is even there.

Today is day two for American Humane’s two teams staged in Jackson, Mississippi, that were sent out this morning to size up the situation. I just heard from Team Leader Meredith who just met the sheriff from one of the nearby counties that has approximately 20 million chickens. The farmer expects his birds will be dead by tomorrow and the remainder of the chickens will die the day after. He has no food and no fuel. Meredith and volunteer Ginger are teamed up with Jack, a member of the Humane Society of Missouri, and they visited a local zoo in the morning. The zoo contained tigers, leopards, and various exotic animals. They were out of meat, and they ran out of fuel so the generators quit and they lost their freezers. The animals were not expected to live long unless help arrived.

Water and fuel -- the two most sought after resources in the entire region. I received a call this morning from a woman who had eight dogs and 15 cats and has run out of food and water, and doesn’t have enough fuel to get the animals out. Even our teams are in a dilemma. They have enough fuel to get into the southern regions, but not enough fuel to get out -- what a mess.

But these are the types of issues we deal with in disasters and these folks are incredibly creative in finding solutions. Our strike team leader Nicholas Gilmane from the Animal Rescue League of Boston has responded to over 20 disasters -- he knows the importance of team safety, incident command, and developing a strategic plan for dealing with the situation.

Our big rig is now in Oklahoma City and should arrive in Houston by noon tomorrow. It is loaded with at least 1,000+ pounds of food and cat litter donated by PETCO. I am really excited to open up the back doors and see that food fly out to the shelters doing their incredible work in Louisiana and Mississippi. I can’t even begin to imagine what they must be going through, especially in southern Louisiana where there is so much violence and unrest.

I talked with Dr. Paula Drone this morning who is working tirelessly pulling in some of the strays in New Orleans. The scene she described sounded more like a war zone than a disaster site. And yet she and the folks from SPCA of New Orleans, along with the other shelters, have been out there every day doing whatever they can to help the animals. We will be there shortly to help.

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