Washington, DC (September 15, 2005) – Today a coalition of animal protection and veterinary organizations praised U.S. Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) for alerting the President to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on tens of thousands of stranded and abandoned animals and on public health. Senator Ensign, a veterinarian, and Senator Santorum yesterday sent a letter to President Bush urging him to designate an individual to coordinate the federal government’s response to this emergency and to actively and immediately assist with animal rescue efforts. Thousands of pets are currently waiting for help as they suffer slow and agonizing deaths from starvation and dehydration.
Groups including The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Humane Association, Animal Welfare Institute, Doris Day Animal League, and United Animal Nations have all been working to rescue animals affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday the groups met with lawmakers and requested urgent assistance moving rescued animals from overwhelmed temporary shelters to safe havens out of state and immediate action from federal relief agencies for animals still waiting to be rescued. Animal welfare teams have rescued thousands of animals from the streets of New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast region, but thousands of pets remain stranded and it’s a race against the clock to help them.
“An urgent concern that has arisen from the destruction in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama has been the large number of pets left behind. These animals represent not only an emotional concern, but also a significant public health hazard,” wrote Senators Ensign and Santorum in today’s letter to President Bush. “The federal government must provide the tools necessary to quickly and safely collect and transport abandoned animals from the disaster area to shelters and homes around the country.”
Animal welfare groups have received thousands of phone calls from people who were forced to evacuate without their pets, providing information about their pets so that their animals can be rescued. Many pets are still trapped inside homes, and others are roaming the streets. Rescue organizations are dispatching that information to their teams in the field, who go door to door searching for stranded animals, bring them to emergency staging areas, and provide them with veterinary care. The animals’ photos will be put in a database so that evacuees can be reunited with their lost pets, online at www.petfinder.com/disaster/index.html.
Animal welfare groups called on the federal government to provide more support for the rescue effort, to help move rescued pets out to animal shelters across the country, and for agency responders to actively assist with direct animal rescue. More information on the animal rescue effort is available online at www.hsus.org, www.aspca.org, www.avma.org, www.americanhumane.org, www.awionline.org, www.ddal.org and www.uan.org. A copy of the letter from Senators Ensign and Santorum is available online.