The number of national headlines on the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina has diminished. And, although some of those affected by the storms and waves are still putting pieces of their lives back together, the rescue efforts for the Hurricane Katrina dogs and cats in southwest Colorado are also winding down.
Rescue groups, veterinarians, and foster families opened their hearts and homes to the animals that were flown to the area from New Orleans on September 30. In late October, eleven puppies were born to one of the rescued dogs, bringing the total number of Katrina animals under the stewardship of the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs and Dogster's Fund to 114: 79 dogs and 35 cats. (Details on the Hurricane Katrina Animals Operation.)
Of the 114 animals, 10 have been reunited with their owners, 17 died due to illness or aggression, and the remaining 87 have been adopted by loving homes across the SW Colorado region.
The number of animals reunited with their owners may seem low, but from conversations with other Katrina rescue efforts across the county, our number of tail-wagging reunions is relatively high. One factor to consider is that 25% of the animals that we cared for were voluntarily surrendered by their owners. In addition, 35% were already shelter animals unrelated to the hurricanes; an animal shelter near Baton Rouge sent us their shelter animals to make room for rescued animals from New Orleans.
Upon arrival in Colorado, the physical health of the hurricane animals was varied. Some animals were in relatively good condition. Others came off the airplane weak with dehydration, poor nourishment, and suffering from the effects of being in polluted floodwaters. Most of the ailments improved quickly with nutritious, loving care and medical treatment. A few animals carried proof of rabies vaccinations. Only 13% of the animals had previously been spayed or neutered. Heartworm was also a common problem; 47% of the dogs tested positive. All of the heartworm-positive dogs are undergoing treatment and the heartworm-negative dogs are taking a heartworm preventative.
The Hurricane Katrina rescue experience has been profound for many who were involved. Many of the stages were learn-as-we-go for a rescue effort of this size. It was heart-wrenching to talk with individuals who were standing in the wreckage of their home, desperate to find their lost pet and not finding a match. But then . . . how thrilling to find a match for another family and bring them together with their beloved dog! Foster and adopter families shared touching stories and photos about the ups and downs of training and adjustment and the little ways that the dogs and cats endeared themselves to the human lives they touched.
We remember those who have suffered loss and celebrate the reunions and adoptions. Thank you to all who have had a part in taking care of the animals from Hurricane Katrina!
(Article By Cristina Woodall)