Call goes out to help storm's animal victims

Cape Cod Times


In the shadow of the human suffering from Hurricane Katrina, a rescue effort is unfolding simultaneously for millions of pets, livestock and wild animals that have been injured, lost or displaced by the storm.

"There were an untold number who are left behind," said Cape Cod Veterinary Association president Dr. Thomas Burns late last week.

While veterinarians and rescue workers in the area will eventually need everything from cat litter to bandages, the most urgent need now, as with the human rescue effort, is money, he said.

The 62-member Cape Cod veterinary organization is coordinating a drive to raise money to help assistance teams sent to Louisiana and Mississippi by the American Veterinary Association, he said. Their efforts will likely shift to collecting supplies this week, and the association plans to organize an airlift from Cape Cod to the Gulf Coast area, he said.

The American Veterinary Association has sent four teams of volunteer veterinarians and technicians, known as veterinary medical assistance teams, Burns said. It is the first time in the 11-year history of the program that all four teams have been deployed at the same time, he said.

The teams work within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. All training, preparations and equipment are made possible through charitable support. But once called upon by a federal agency, the teams are supported by federal resources, according to the group's Web site.

Burns and other veterinarians and technicians were all set to receive animals from hurricane victims this week at Otis Air Base.

The medical team was preparing to wash and decontaminate dogs and cats who may have been swimming in a soup of toxins in the New Orleans flood waters. They were also getting ready to give vaccinations and other medical care, he said.

The bundles of medical supplies and pet food they had waiting for the influx of evacuees will be saved until they are certain the people are not coming, Burns said. If they do not, the supplies will be sent to areas in need, he said.

Local veterinary and animal rescue officials say the best thing for people to do now is send money to those agencies trying to save and treat animals affected by the hurricane.

Dr. Barry Kellogg, a former Cape Cod veterinarian who was working with Burns at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, headed the animal rescue effort in that city, according to Burns.

Kellogg has again been deployed for Hurricane Katrina relief, he said. He told Burns hurricane relief officials had put a call out for more veterinary volunteers in the hurricane area.

Two of the veterinary assistance teams are based in Baton Rouge, La.; the other two are working out of Jackson, Miss., he said.

Burns said he has heard anecdotes about stranded and injured animals, but hesitated to share any because he could not confirm them. He said not only are rescue teams worried about lost and injured pets, they will be needed to assist stranded and injured livestock, zoo animals and wildlife.

Many pet owners who were fleeing the hurricane were unable to take their pets to Red Cross shelters, Burns said. There were several makeshift shelters around New Orleans and Baton Rouge just before the storm hit where pets could be dropped off. Those shelters are being staffed around the clock by volunteer veterinarians and staff, he said.

In addition to helping the animals directly, veterinarians are concerned about diseases spread by animals, such as rabies, as well as diseases caused by dead and decaying animals, Burns said.

Two other organizations are working in the immediate hurricane area, he said. The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association is working with Louisiana Animal Control officials.

Also pitching in are students and veterinarians from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

This article © Copyright 2005 Cape Cod Times