In rescue of animals, much cause for praise (Original Article)

Boston Online

By Adrienne P. Samuels and Megan Tench, Globe Staff | September 9, 2005

BOURNE -- As more than 100 of Hurricane Katrina's human victims arrived at Otis Air National Guard Base yesterday, they were accompanied by some evacuees of the four-legged variety: two black German shepherd mixes; a Pomeranian; a scrappy poodle mix; a cocker spaniel, and a sixth dog of as-yet undetermined breed, all of them pets.

The decision to allow evacuees to bring pets stems from a larger concern about the fate of thousands of animals in waterlogged New Orleans and other hard-hit areas. Health officials and animal specialists fear stranded, abandoned pets could create a massive health problem by spreading disease, or by gathering together in packs to attack relief workers.

This is one reason why, while rescuers attempt to save every human they can, health officials are saying that saving animals is important, too. But there is also a sense that people who have lost everything should be allowed to bring their pets with them.

"People tend to look at this and say, 'Why are they getting dogs [while] all these people need help?'" said Brad Mitchell, director of bio-security and regulatory services for the state Department of Agricultural Resources. "A lot of these people have lost everything. People who have pets know they're a lot of comfort."

"If they don't get fed, they die and [there is] a health issue with that," he added.

The state Department of Agriculture is also enacting its emergency management plan for animals, which includes mandatory rabies shots for every animal brought to Massachusetts.

Each pet that arrived yesterday was washed with a decontaminating soap, photographed with its owner, and then tagged. An exam followed, including a rabies shot and heartworm test, before the pets were released to their owners, said Carter Luke, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Carter said owners were relieved to have arrived with their pets.

"One guy was like, 'Better than sittin' on the rooftop,' " he said.

Pets arriving from New Orleans need to be washed to clean off "that toxic soup they've been swimming in," Tom Burns, 33, of the Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod, said Tuesday.

But Nancy Hall, from the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said she was encouraged by the state of the animals that arrived yesterday.

"The dogs are really in good shape. They are a little shaken up but not anymore than anyone else who has gone through this ordeal."

Adrienne P. Samuels can be reached at asamuels@globe.com. Maria Cramer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

This article © Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.