Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated communities in her path, and nearly three weeks after Rita struck, there is good news. Over eight thousand pets have been rescued, treated and are being cared for in temporary shelters and hundreds of pets have been reunited with their families. Thousands more animals who are too frightened to allow rescue teams to approach them are still receiving field care through feed and water stations. The Louisiana State Veterinarian has vested full authority in the Louisiana SPCA to continue ongoing rescue and shelter operations and certify any other animal protection organizations and individuals to assist in these operations.

Relief, rescue and recovery operations are winding up in the Lake Charles region of Louisiana, which is located about 320 km (200 miles) northwest of New Orleans near the border with Texas which was hit by Hurricane Rita.

Based upon our experience and that of many others, we know that prevention saves lives. No where is this more evident that by comparing the actions of government officials in Louisiana and Texas. In the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in history, a multimillion dollar rescue was mounted after Hurricane Katrina devastated communities in her path. In the wake of Katrina, tens of thousands of dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals, birds, horses and farm animals were and are still at risk, and continue to suffer from a wide range of physical and psychological trauma.

However, by learning from the hardship inflicted on people and their animals in Louisiana following the aftermath of Katrina caused by the refusal of government officials to allow evacuees to take their pets, the same federal officials and both state and local officials in Texas encouraged people to take their animals before Rita struck and in doing so saved lives. Government officials in Texas estimate that over 20,000 pets and approximately 10,000 horses and farm animals were evacuated or taken to safety before Hurricane Rita made landfall.

Local and state animal protection organizations in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are now assuming full responsibility for coordinating all rescue, relief and recovery operations. Earlier this week, the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near New Orleans which provided a haven for thousands of animals closed its doors. The Louisiana SPCA has moved into a warehouse in Algiers which is being used as a temporary shelter.

In their latest update issued on 2nd August 2005 NOAA/National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center called for a 95% to 100% chance of an above normal 2005 Atlantic hurricane season which lasts for another six weeks. Hurricane season is officially designated between 1st June and runs until 20th November. The updated outlook calls for the remainder of the season to be extremely active, and the agency expects an additional 11 – 14 tropical storms, with 7–9 becoming hurricanes, and 3-5 of these becoming major hurricanes.

During the 2004 season, four destructive hurricanes made landfall in the United States over a seven week period resulting in more than CAD $ 47 billion (USD $ 40 billion) in damage and placed the lives of millions of people and animals at risk and caused extensive environmental destruction. Damage estimates for the recent hurricanes already exceeds $ CAD 450 billion ($USD 380 billion).

The recovery and rebuilding phases now involve providing foster homes, temporary shelter, reuniting lost pets with their families, finding new homes for animals that couldn’t be reunited with their families, and rebuilding shelters and wildlife centres. Out of state animal protection organizations who are fostering lost pets have agreed to keep them until late November in order to offer the best chance possible to reunite them with their families, and after that date they will try and find the animals new homes. There are also plans for an aftermath assessment to analyze the effectiveness of the disaster relief efforts, and to encourage disaster preparedness through planning, education and legislation.

While the news media focused on the dramatic and daring crisis intervention and rescues, absent from much of the public debate, was the role of global warming in the creation and ferocity of hurricanes. The Humane Society of Canada along with many others believes that more careful environmental planning is needed to reduce to whatever degree is humanly possible one of the primary driving factors which increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, namely global warming.

Before he left office, US President Clinton signalled a willingness to sign international agreements pledging a commitment on the part of the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Given that the United States was responsible in 2001 for producing an estimated 24% of all green house gases, it is regrettable that as one of his first acts in office, US President Bush reversed this commitment to his own people and the international community.

Canada, the United States and all nations of the world need to redouble our local, regional and international efforts to address the serious environmental challenges, and their inescapable consequences, that place all of us in unnecessary peril.

Scientific experts agree that over the past three decades, while the number of hurricanes each year has remained about the same, the average strength and ferocity, spawning more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes which are the most powerful, have nearly doubled. Human and animal populations along the Gulf coastlines have increased over the same time period, meaning that the danger to all life and property from a Category 4 Hurricane like Katrina, and a Category 5 Hurricane like Rita (which fortunately made landfall as a Category 2) have increased dramatically.

Hurricanes form in the ocean when areas of low pressure draw in area from surrounding areas of high pressure, and moist air warmed by the heat of the ocean rises through the storm which in turn causes a greater suction effect. Rain begins to fall, and through a repeat of the same process can be drawn back up again, and if this cycle is not broken, then once the moist air reaches wind speeds of 119 kph(74 mph), a hurricane is formed; with a calm eye and winds which can extend for tens of miles outwards in all directions. The longer a hurricane stays over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the stronger it becomes, and since ocean heat fuels the power of hurricanes, many scientists believe that global warming is responsible for the increase in powerful tropical storms and hurricanes.

Coral reefs, the undersea forests of the ocean, occupy less than 1% of the ocean depths, and provide food and habitat for more than 25% of all marine life. The complex ecosystems are extremely fragile and very sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and can easily be destroyed, taking decades to recover. Ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are now the second highest on record.

The Humane Society of Canada promoted and supported the release of The Great Warming, a three hour documentary that aired on the Discovery Channel last year, narrated by Alanis Morrisette and Keanu Reeves.

The Humane Society of Canada continues to work in partnership with The American Humane Association. These field reports have been filed by Dick Green, their Animal Emergency Services Program Manager and Veteran Volunteer Responder.

Log 25 - 9 October 2005
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Log 01 - 31 August 2005