130-plus animals rescued by Humane Society of U.S. in Mississippi and animal evacuees for Rockford

Sept. 5, HSUS rescuers, working with The Humane Society of South Mississippi, picked up 42 cats and 89 dogs in Gulfport, Miss., and drove them to a staging area in Jackson, Miss. Rescue workers are providing triage medical care and temporary shelter for the animals before arranging to transfer them to animal shelters around the country.

“We were finally allowed to enter hurricane-ravaged Gulfport,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president/CEO, “where one of our rapid response strike teams was able to rescue a large group of animals. Another highly-trained HSUS animal disaster team is based in Louisiana, and is poised to enter New Orleans as soon as access is allowed.”

The HSUS has been inundated with thousands of calls with requests to rescue pets who were left behind or perhaps denied entrance to the Superdome or other shelters. Individuals who learn of stranded pets are urged to call the HSUS phone bank at 1-800-HUMANE-1, provided they have location information that can be relayed to teams in the field. Thousands of concerned citizens have also donated to the relief effort by visiting www.hsus.org.

Locally, Rockford was expecting some evacuees from Louisiana to arrive here with their pets. Winnebago County Animal Services (WCAS) was preparing to receive the animals, but when the evacuees’ arrival seemed uncertain, that scenario was put on hold. WCAS Director Gary Longanecker talked with The Rock River Times, Sept. 9.

“We had been notified from the Governor’s office from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Tuesday or Wednesday that there were 175 people and an unknown number of companion animals coming (to Rockford),” he said, “but that whole thing was changed. The last word we had from Springfield [came from] Jim Kungel (director of the state Department of Agriculture). He called and advised me that FEMA had decided that if anyone arrived at the airport with companion animals, we would be encouraged not to be there. I had lined up veterinarians through the Greater Rockford Veterinary Association, and we were going to go out there and attempt to assist these people. For reasons unknown to us, we were notified that’s been changed. If anyone arrived with animals, they [officials] would take the people’s names, and as they arrived, they would give us a list of names, and if called, we would go there.”

Sunday night, Sept. 11 when the evacuees arrived in Rockford with some pets, Animal Services was on hand. Longanecker gave TRRT this update Sept. 12: “Sunday night (9/11) about 10:30, there were five dogs and a couple birds. We were able to go to the airport and assist the people there. We provided food and blankets and toys for the animals. I’m not sure where the people have been relocated—possibly a few at Singer, and a few this morning (Monday) at [Wesley] Willows.

Longanecker noted how stress had taken a toll on two of the dogs. “Unfortunately, there was an incident at the airport. One lady had four dogs, and two of them don’t get along. In the process, somebody got nipped, and both of the dogs received very minor injuries. Our staff took the dogs to the emergency veterinary clinic about 11:30 last night (Sunday), and they received care, very minor. We are going to temporarily quarantine two of the animals because of the bite, but the animals will be returned to their owner later today because they had been vaccinated before they left Louisiana or Texas, and were current on their shots.

“It went very, very well. We’re being told that there is a possibility there may be more evacuees coming up from down there, but we’re totally unsure when and how many. We are certainly well prepared to respond on very, very short notice.”

There was a rumor that dog breed rescue groups were going to be denied admittance to the WCAS facility. Longanecker adamantly denied this. “It is not true,” he said. “We have not changed our policy of working with animal rescues in the last two years. (The rumor) is unfounded.”

He did explain a fund-raising drive. “We have started here at Animal Services a fund-raising drive to assist New Orleans, La.,” said Longanecker. “Our target is $25,000. We have currently reached just over $500 in the first two days. That money will be sent to a couple different parishes (counties). We are working through The Humane Society and the ASPCA to identify areas that need help. Right now, we are concentrating on that. People can donate here at Animal Services.”

From the Sept. 14-20, 2005, issue

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