This article presents a good opportunity for animal friendly letters to the editor. The Times Picayune takes letters at http://www.nola.com/contactus/
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
July 18, 2006 Tuesday
NATIONAL; Pg. 3
Money to aid pets lacking, official says;
Evacuation shelters also are insufficient
By Robert Travis Scott, Capital bureau
BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana has insufficient money and animal shelters designated to cope with a major evacuation of pets if a hurricane threatens a population center, an official overseeing the state plan said Monday.
Although state and local agencies are preparing to deal with another Katrina-scale disaster, the No. 1 responsibility for pet safety in an emergency falls upon the pet owner, said Rebecca Adcock, director of alumni and public programs for the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Emergency animal shelters are not ideal for pet security and identification, so owners should evacuate to the home of a relative or some other place that welcomes pets, said Adcock, who represents one of several agencies working with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team.
"The best place for your pet is with you," Adcock told the Baton Rouge Press Club.
Adcock praised the Legislature for passing a pet evacuation bill in the recent session.
"This bill is something that puts us ahead nationally," Adcock said.
Prior to the legislation, the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry had a program to tag and evacuate large livestock, but no state agency was charged to deal with pets.
Seat at the table
The new law places most of the responsibility for pet evacuations on parish governments to organize their own plans and coordinate the efforts with state agencies, including the agriculture department, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the LSU vet school. The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken the lead in organizing an evacuation plan for New Orleans.
The law is a big help because it gave the animal response team a seat at the table for emergency preparedness planning, Adcock said.
Still, there is no real money appropriated for the cause, Adcock said.
"That's one of the gaps in the plan," she said.
After Katrina, from 80 percent to 90 percent of the cost of pet evacuation was covered by donations from animal-protection groups, pet food companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, she said. Some of that generosity might be available again, she said.
The state has set aside $150 million for evacuation expenses in general, and now with the new law the animal response team has a "better chance" of getting some of that money, Adcock said.
Shelters, containers needed
One of the animal response team's biggest obstacles is finding enough facilities willing to become pet shelters during an emergency, she said. Locating animal shelters near human shelters is especially difficult.
Coliseums in Shreveport and Alexandria will serve as "megasites" for pet shelters, but the team would prefer to use a number of smaller shelters and is still trying to identify them. After Katrina, the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales was the major pet destination. That venue is not currently scheduled to receive pets again, but discussions are under way, Adcock said.
The state is using inmate labor to build pet containers, which are being staged in eight Louisiana districts in anticipation of a crisis, she said.
The Humane Society of the United States, one of the major financial contributors to the Katrina pet relief effort, recently gave several thousand animal-carrying crates worth $150,000 to the Louisiana Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Melissa Seide Rubin, vice president of field and disaster services for the Humane Society, agreed with Adcock that not enough pet shelters are available in Louisiana. She said state officials are working hard to meet the need.
Donations by nonprofits
Rubin also agreed that the state appears to be relying on the expectation that donations through nonprofit groups will handle the cost of future disasters. The Humane Society has in fact put aside money from donations that poured in after Katrina to prepare for future storms, Rubin said.
The state homeland security office plans to begin evacuation procedures 96 hours in advance of an approaching storm, and pet evacuation efforts will coincide with that order, Adcock said.
All pet owners should put identification tags on their animals. Veterinarians can implant a microchip ID tag under the animal's skin and collars also should have an ID tag. Major pet supply stores are selling ID kits, Adcock said.
Volunteers can join the program by visiting the response team's Web site at www.lsart.org. Also, the Louisiana SPCA volunteer program can be reached at (504) 368-5191, ext. 142, or by e-mail to Ginger@la-spca.org.
Supporters of the animal response team include the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association, Louisiana Animal Control Association, Hill's Pet Foods, Humane Society of the United States, Louisiana Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, Louisiana Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, Veterinary Information Network and PetSmart Charities.
(END OF TIMES PICAYUNE ARTICLE)
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. To unsubscribe, go to http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/dawnwatch_unsubscribe.cgi You are encouraged to forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts but please do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)
You are subscribed to DawnWatch Louisiana using the following address:
Date: Tue Jul 18 17:30:50 2006