Katrina's Animal Rescue
Ask the Rescuers: Organizing the Rescue

Organizing the Rescue

Question: What is involved in organizing a rescue effort this large? Was there one organization that was designated in charge of coordinating the effort?

Jane Garrison
Search and Rescue Professional and Founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans

There were many government agencies and animal protection organizations involved in the rescue operation. This was a very unique situation because of many factors: the tremendous amount of affected areas; people were forced to leave their animals; and the flooding, which prevented residents from getting back to their homes to rescue their own companion animals. Due to the enormity of this disaster, numerous organizations became involved.

Dave Pauli
Regional Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Local agencies always have the ultimate responsibility and coordination authority. HSUS only comes in when the local, state, or federal officials request our assistance or, in some cases, where we note that no resources are being directed at the animal issue. The Louisiana SPCA was in charge at Orleans Parish; at St. Bernard Parish it was the local animal control group under the sheriff’s department. The statewide effort was coordinated by the Department of Agriculture through the state veterinarian’s office. The Department of Agriculture and the Louisiana SPCA coordinated the Lamar-Dixon rescue center, but I served as Incident Commander and HSUS carried the primary financial burden. Groups such as the American Humane Association, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and dozens of small state or local organizations played important roles in both the rescue and the incident command teams.

There has never been an animal disaster this large, so this was new ground. I have been involved in most major disasters since the early 1990s and had leadership positions in many, including the 1997 Red River Floods of Minnesota and the Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka. But even these events did not prepare me for the massive need and physical constraints I experienced as Incident Commander at Lamar-Dixon.

Dr. Debra Campbell
Veterinarian, Veterinary Medical Assistant Teams (VMAT)

There were many organizations involved with the rescue as well as local and private groups. I also met many individuals from all parts of the United States who came together for the common effort to save animals. These people love and care about animals, and are also a large group of unsung heroes.

Question: How many veterinarians were present throughout the rescue?

Dave Pauli
Regional Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

The veterinary response to this event is another unique story. On September 10 I did an inventory and discovered that we had about 60 veterinarians at Lamar-Dixon. Most were government-deployed veterinarians from Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams 1 and 5 and the U.S. Public Health Service. We later got Department of Defense Army veterinarians, and we paid for dozens of motivated local vets from around the country to deploy to Louisiana or Mississippi. This is probably the largest deployment of private, public, and military veterinarians to any single event.


Question:What is the total cost of the rescue efforts? HSUS collected over $25 million from Americans for Katrina’s animal victims. How does your organization intend to spend those funds?

Jane Garrison
Search and Rescue Professional and Founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans

It would be hard to estimate the cost of the rescue efforts, since so many items and services were donated. Most of the crates and food for the animals were donated from the manufacturers. Veterinarians, search and rescue professionals, and animal care staff were mostly volunteers. There were very few paid people actually rescuing and caring for the animals.

Dave Pauli
Regional Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
As an HSUS field person, I do not track the amount of donations HSUS or other groups receive. But in a mid-November meeting I heard that we had already spent over $14 million providing direct aid to animals. As Incident Commander for Lamar-Dixon I became personally aware of the costs of animal rescue. At one point we had almost 2,200 animals at Lamar-Dixon. Imagine the daily costs for caring for 2,200 animals and 700 volunteers! The rental costs were high — the Lamar-Dixon facility alone cost more than $6,000 a day! Transport trucks, trailers, and other equipment bills were over $100,000 a week just at Lamar-Dixon. But everyone was doing what he or she could to ensure that public donations were applied in the best possible manner. Companies such as Wal-Mart, Petco, and PetSmart provided outstanding donated support. But most services had to be contracted in a very competitive market. I signed huge invoices for everything — from garbage collection to generator rental.

We continue to spend resources every day to help those in the field. Last night I authorized travel and support for more humane live trappers deployed to the Gulf Coast. Today I am financing and organizing the transport of one group’s rescued animals to the West Coast. This will cost over $18,000. We have purchased several hundred live traps, many costing $200 each, to help get the remaining animals off the street. The cost of this final stage of animal rescue will eventually run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. These animals will have to be microchipped, photographed, and then transported to other states for foster care.

Resources have been used for call centers and reunion efforts. HSUS has made the commitment to transport animals back to their owners. HSUS is also giving rescue and recovery grants to dozens of agencies that have been doing and are continuing to do excellent work. This ensures that local groups will have resources to continue to do the recovery work after the national groups are gone.

The American public responded with tremendous financial support. Since this will probably be the most expensive disaster in history, I do not think there will be a huge surplus of donated resources. Donations will be used to ship animals to their families and capture and process many more. We will have a much better view of the overall financial picture by the second quarter of 2006, but for now I am most certain that daily current expenses are exceeding daily current donations.

  • deanfreeman

    Who is playing The crankin rock tune in the Nature trailer? Anyone?

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