Hurricane Isaac Equine Rescues Chronicled

Hurricane Isaac struck the Louisiana coast on Aug. 28, and the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) quickly responded to help horses and other animals affected by the storm. Over 50 LSART responders participated in the response, including veterinarians from the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association; veterinarians, students and staff from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine (LSU SVM, about 25 people); veterinarians and veterinary technician students from Baton Rouge Community College; animal control officers from the Louisiana Animal Control Association; Calcasieu Parish animal control; East Baton Rouge Parish animal control and rescue center; Louisiana Horse Rescue Association; and LSART responders trained in slack water rescue, technical large animal rescue, and pet sheltering.

Even before the storm, Aug. 27, LSART contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to request pre-storm support. Dick Green, ASPCA director of disaster response, arrived in Baton Rouge on that day and on Aug.28 began working with the LSART water rescue team to prepare their boat and to provide the funding to purchase a second boat. Equipment was checked and staged at the LSU SVM in preparation for the storm.

The  Louisiana State Animal Response Team helped dozens of companion small animals in addition to rescuing numerous of horses from the storm and its aftermath.

Livingston Parish

On Sept. 1, a Livingston Parish resident contacted Livingston Parish animal control and the parish Emergency Operations Center because a 16-year-old mare owned by a Baton Rouge police officer needed rescuing due to rising floodwaters in her pasture. A LSART rescue team from the LSU SVM was deployed. The mare was led through floodwaters and transported to the LSU SVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The horse was examined to determine veterinary needs, and the mare was housed and maintained at LSU and for four days until the owner was able to retrieve her.

St. John the Baptist Parish

LSART veterinarians provided veterinary services to the St. John shelter and the community until the local veterinary community was able to care for the animals. As local veterinary facilities were able to accept the communities' animals, LSART veterinarians restricted their efforts to the shelter's animals.

Hay for affected horses was delivered to the parish animal control facility, a local therapeutic riding center that lost all of their hay and feed to flooding, and a local riding stable. LSART large animal veterinarians were sent to the St. John animal control shelter to assist with equine veterinary care and perform assessments on four equine stables.

St. Bernard Parish

On Sept. 4, LSART sent 360 bales of hay to St. Bernard Parish animal control for storm-affected horses to be distributed by the parish. The hay was divided between Poydras Arena and the farm of Kevin Williams. These locations housed horses displaced by the storm. In addition, equine team members were able to rescue an injured horse by leading him to the levee, where he was able to be moved to the Poydras arena for veterinary care. This horse was later moved to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where he underwent surgery and intensive care for a serious leg injury. Several other horses that had been rescued and moved to the Poydras arena by their owners and other local residents received veterinary care for hoof and leg injuries sustained during the storm.

Plaquemines Parish

On Sept. 1, Plaquemines Parish animal control asked LSART to assist with assessments and possible water rescue for small animals and horses. LSART was not tasked with responding to cattle since the cattlemen indicated they did not need outside assistance. All LSART and ASPCA Animal SAR equipment and teams were sent to Plaquemines Parish to begin an assessment.

On Sept. 2 and 3, with the help of its national partner, ASPCA, 10 responders trained in slack water rescue were sent to Plaquemines Parish animal control to assist. Seven were used in small animal assessments and three were

Also on Sept. 3, the LSART equine team performed assessments in Plaquemines Parish at Rescue Ranch and the Plaquemines Animal Control Stable. The Rescue Ranch was a site set up for pre-storm evacuation of horses, donkeys, and small ruminants. Assessment determined a need for hay for 16 storm evacuees and an anticipated addition of approximately 26 horses. Assessments included discussions with two local equine veterinarians--Allison Barca, DVM, and Lily Rai, DVM. On Sept. 4, 40 bales of coastal hay were delivered to this group. All storm evacuees were scanned for microchips and additionally identified with descriptive information. All animals had owners and were identified.

Also on September 4, ASPCA responders were demobilized. Two LSART teams trained in technical large animal rescue were sent in the field to identify, treat, and extract any horses if needed. Several horses were treated at the Poydras Arena. LSART sent 40 bales of hay to Plaquemines parish for storm-affected horses to be distributed by the parish.

On Sept. 5, LSART was tasked to assess Hwy 23 from Belle Chasse to Venice, La., with Lori Wilson, the designated parish lead for horses. As the assessment began, a horse in distress was identified. At the request of Wilson, the horse (later be named Hope) was extracted from the debris. She was stabilized for transport overnight by Wilson and the LSART team at Rescue Ranch and taken to the LSU SVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Sept. 6.

Also on Sept. 6, LSART was again tasked with assessing Hwy 23 with Wilson. A stranded horse was identified and the owner was contacted. Plans for extraction were made. The assessment team was able to get to the end of Hwy 23 at Port Sulfur.

On Sept. 7, at the request of the owner, LSART's technical large animal team extracted a horse from an island surrounded by mud using an Anderson sling and marsh buggy lift. The horse, Chico, was extracted and transported directly to the LSU SVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital for treatment, also at the request of his owner. That same day, LSART was demobilized from Plaquemines Parish as nearby parishes became available to assist. All of the horses (a total of five) affected by the storm were transported at the LSU SVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital were treated at no charge to the owners thanks to the SVM's Spirit Fund, which was established following Hurricane Katrina to help provide medical care for animals affected by natural disasters.

For the safety of the animals and the responders, LSART did not accept convergent volunteers for the technically trained teams, such as slack water rescue and technical large animal rescue. LSART does not have the authority to determine who works in a parish during a response. LSART works with groups designated by the parish to assist with response and works with the agency in the parish that has jurisdictional authority for animals. LSART offers training in disaster response (most of which has been funded by a grant in 2010 from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation).

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