Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Another Volunteer's Perspective

From a CT shelter volunteer that just came back from New Orleans:
Hi All, I got home late last night from Louisana. I'm still trying to process everything I've seen and done, not to mention trying to get the stench out of my clothes! We went to the LSU temporary shelter, which is well run and organized. They really have their act together and it's a great place to volunteer. Next stop was the Lamar Dixon Expo Center(aka Gonzales), the large"clearing house" facility. LA SPCA, HSUS, ASPCA, and VMAT are in a power struggle over who is in charge. It is total chaos. They don't have anywhere near enough people to care for the 2000 animals (average) and are turning away rescue groups bringing more animals in after sitting in line for hours. This place is HUGE, and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Dogs and cats sit for days waiting for vet care even if illness is obvious. Many do not get out of their crates for 2+ days. There is no leadership, no system, and the animals are suffering. Vet care is obtained when they get the chance, and only after a request is put in the "inbox", which happens to be a bucket. Volunteers are so burnt out they are in tears. There are some very sick animals who are put in makeshift "wards" in the barns. No bleach bucket outside for shoes, and no where near any acceptable level of sanitation."Triage" doesn't happen regularly, not enough vets & vet techs. The Parvo stalls are in the middle of everything......people in & out of them constantly, and going directly in stalls w/"healthy" dogs. All dogs & cats are kept in crates of all kinds. We got yelled at by VMAT for moving a puppy into a wire crate instead of a veri-kennel after being told to do so by HSUS. Don't know if it was because she was a pit pupand therefore most likely not going to make it out of that hellhole after all she'd been thru- she was air-vacced off the 610 bridge- or what. There are huge buses, vans, RV's, tents everywhere, representives of different states for each large group. Animal Planet had their bus there, and PETA was driving in as we were leaving. That's all well & good, but the "negotiations" for control is disgusting. Whoever gets the gov't "grant" (aka "Contract") runs the show, and makes some nice $$. There are pallets of food, water, crates, etc from Walmart, Petco, Petsmart,and a bunch of others. They just don't have enough people to clean &walk all these dogs, let alone feed, water, and med. They DESPERATELYneed more people to do the basic stuff. We hooked up w/Pasado AnimalRescue & did door to door searches for animal survivors in New Orleans.It is mind-blowing how many pets are still alive, though many are goingdown hill fast. Wednesday we did water rescue in an area that was still flooded, and pulled over a dozen dogs out of houses where they were trapped. We found animals alive in homes that were boarded up & barricaded, having to break in using any means necessary to get to them. The stench is unreal, and most homes are booby-traps- furniture and appliances thrown everywhere by the flood waters, the mold, sludge and god knows what makes walking in very dangerous. You DO NOT want to fall and get that stuff on you. The situation changes hour by hour, let alone day by day. They are beginning to release animals to rescues at least.From what I saw, at least 50% of the dog population is Pitbull/Pit-mixes, approx 25% Rotties & Chows, and the remaining 25% every breed you can imagine. Some of the rescues are taking Pits & Rotties, tho Lamar Dixon may not be allowing them out, Pasado & LSU are. I know there are other groups as well. Save A Dog is still there and flying in volunteers. They are also doing door to door rescue in the city now. IF ANYONE CAN GO PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Hotels are not an option. If you go, plan on sleeping in a tent (bring your own), or your vehicle. Personally, I recommend the vehicle.....Fire Ants are everywhere, and from personal experience, they will find you. I spent 2 nights sleeping in a horse stall before they realized I was there (the ants), but once they did, it was all over. Their bite is EXTREMELY painful and leaves blisters that turn into something resembling a pimple. Nothing seems to kill them. Showers are a luxury,if you can get one. Bring your own food & water, medical supplies, Rubbing Alcohol, bleach, etc to decontaminate yourself after handling the animals, who are still covered with dry toxic sewage.This effort will be going on for months, and people will be needed all the way thru. Right now, the dogs & cats (and every other creature you canimagine) are critical. Many are dehydrated and starving, and it is aVERY ugly scene. I hope things will improve. If anyone goes now, beprepared to separate your personal feelings from what needs to be donejust to get these animals some help. Hopefully it will improve over thenext few weeks/months, and someone will be in charge and get thingssomewhat organized. For those who can't turn off their feelings and just do the job as bestthey can, don't go now. Wait until it gets better. If you have a strongstomach, and can stay focused on just taking care of one at a time, youare needed now. Feral dog packs and cat colonies were well established in New Orleansprior to the hurricane......now they are feeding off each other, andwhatever they can find. It is truly horrible. The animal populationproblem is beyond belief. Out of some 300 dogs Pasado Rescue pulled,only TWO males were neutered, and I think ONE female. There are dogs who were severely neglected prior to the hurricane, mange is very prevalent, and god only knows what else. Most of the Pits have had there ears cropped back to their heads...."Home Jobs" done with scissors or knives.The whole thing is just surreal. I did not dream at all while I was down there, probably due to exhaustion- we were up at 6 am and lucky to get to bed by 3 or 4 am. The nightmares are starting now, and I can't get the images out of my mind. I try to focus on the ones we've saved, and pray they get into homes. Enough for now, this is too long as it is, and I'm starting to cry again. Barbara Pepper

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