EDITOR’S NOTE: Daily Times-Call staff writer Pierrette J. Shields and photographer Joshua Buck are in St. Bernard Parish with the Colorado National Guard’s 3650th Maintenance Company during its deployment in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS — A unified front of animal rescue and care workers worked on organizing a monumental task Saturday morning.
Warren Craig, logistics and supply chief for Code 3 Associates of Erie, directed volunteers toiling at the base of operations for animal rescue in the Orleans Parish. Some moved heavy cages for animals, while others prepared to hit the roads and flood waters to make sure animals left behind had food and fresh water. A shelter in Gonzales is teeming with more than 2,000 animals that are being shipped out to shelters all over the nation for housing for at least 30 days in case their owners come back to claim them. “We are converting over to dry land operations,” Craig said. “They have hundreds and hundreds of addresses from people who called and said ‘I had to abandon my animal.’”
Code 3 traveled to Jackson, Miss., immediately after Hurricane Katrina and the flood to assist with animal rescues. They moved to Monroe, La., and then on to the Gonzales facility. Volunteers traveled in boats to help trapped animals. Now that a majority of the area is drying out, they are wearing safety gear and heading homes feeding animals that may be rescued when there is room at the Gonzales temporary facility.
Craig was directing operations in New Orleans on Saturday using volunteers from places like Missouri, California, Nevada, New York and Canada. He said animals are taken to Gonzales where volunteers work to divide animals into categories, like pets, likely-pets, and feral. From there shelters take them. Rescues pause until Gonzales ships some to shelters to make room for new intakes, Craig said. If the animals aren’t claimed, they will be put up for adoption.
Rescuers use GPS devices to locate addresses entered into the database. Craig said animals that were in need of critical health treatment would be rescues despite space available in Gonzales. Thousands are already dead or are too sick to save.
“We’re basically going to lose 10,000 animals,” Craig said. “There’s no way to avoid that.”
Animal rescues are cropping up in areas around New Orleans. In St. Bernard Parish, Camp Lucky is staffed with volunteer rescuers, the National Guard and local veterinarians.
“We’re starting from scratch. It is so overwhelming,” said veterinarian Aileen Ruiz, who had a clinic in the area.
On Friday, she moved from cage to cage, working without pause to feed and water the animals in preparation for their trips to shelters. Camp Lucky was housing about 100 animals Friday, including litters of puppies. Bea Moody, a veterinarian from Knoxville, Tenn., cleaned a black Labrador’s wounds Friday morning. The dog held still, but was clearly in pain until the painkillers kicked in. Moody soothed the dog as she watched. “She’s a black Lab, the best dog God ever made,” she said enthusiastically, more to the dog than any of the people around her. “Look at the spirit of this dog.”