By all accounts, the evacuation of people and pets from the Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Gustav has been a success. Temporary shelters for human and animal evacuees remained open as of midday Tuesday, while reports were not yet available regarding damage to veterinary clinics and animal shelters in the area affected by the hurricane.
The Louisiana State Animal Response Team has overseen the evacuation and sheltering of animals from coastal Louisiana, with assistance from local volunteers and various humane groups. Dr. Heather Case, AVMA coordinator for emergency preparedness and response, said the AVMA helped organize standby veterinary volunteers and supplies from other states and the animal health industry.
Louisiana animal responders were particularly ready for Hurricane Gustav because they have increased planning and the frequency of training exercises since Hurricane Katrina hit the state three years ago. The evacuation efforts provided transportation for people who had none, and many of their pets received rides in refrigerated trucks. It helped that many coastal residents with means of transportation evacuated with their pets.
In Louisiana, major temporary shelters for animal evacuees are located near human shelters in Shreveport, Alexandria, and Monroe. Dr. Case said LSART veterinarians are heading these animal shelters—which stood ready to microchip, vaccinate, and house thousands of pets. The animal shelter in Shreveport housed more than 750 pets by Monday morning, while the other shelters housed fewer.
The Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was among several groups helping evacuate animal shelters in the coastal region and supporting the temporary shelters for animal evacuees. Emergency response personnel from the SPCA of Texas, ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, United Animal Nations, and other groups also were assisting in the efforts.
Dr. James Rundell of Monroe, president of the Louisiana VMA, said pet owners started arriving at the temporary animal shelter in the city at 4 a.m. Sunday. The shelter housed more than 250 dogs, cats, and other companion animals by Monday night. Dr. Rundell added that because human and animal evacuees are in close proximity, pet owners have been able to come by frequently to walk and play with their animals.
Individual veterinarians who incurred expenses because of Gustav may apply for reimbursement from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. The AVMF provides up to $5,000 for veterinary care of animal victims and up to $2,000 for restoration of veterinary infrastructure. Louisiana veterinarians may apply for grants or loan guarantees from the state VMA's Dr. Walter J. Ernst Jr. Veterinary Memorial Foundation.
The AVMF and Walter J. Ernst foundation also are accepting monetary donations. Additional information about grants and donations is available at www.lvma.org/wjefoundation.html and www.avmf.org.