Word From the Field

The Humane Society of the United States Situation Report: Friday, Sept. 2, 2005

Filed  from reports by Laura Bevan, HSUS Southeast Regional Office Director and HSUS Animal Response Branch Director for Mississippi; and Lou Guyton, HSUS Southwest Regional Office Director and HSUS Animal Response Branch Director for Louisiana; compiled by Anne Culver, Director, Disaster Services


HSUS DART members have been working their way south from Jackson, helping animals in areas from Jackson to south of Hattiesburg. Late Friday afternoon the team was given the go-ahead to proceed all the way to the besieged Gulfport area, which has been waiting for help since the storm finally ended.

The DART teams rescued and transported approximately 120 animals from the Gulfport area and gave relief to a DART volunteer living in Gulfport, who has been giving us situation reports when she can get communication.

Continuing and extending yesterday's efforts in counties just south of Jackson, the DART took a strike team of HSUS, Humane Society of Missouri, and American Humane members, who joined with Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams to conduct assessment and support of animal needs in Jackson County, on the coast.

The logistical unit of the HSUS team, based in Jackson, is preparing the HSUS convoy for two-weeks of totally self-sufficiency in the coastal counties of Mississippi. There are many severe animal needs in the coastal counties and we anticipate a protracted deployment there.

Fuel remains a major problem. Food, water, power, and communications are scarce to non-existent. Even as far north as Jackson, power outages are frequent, fuel is scarce and gas lines long. Some response vehicles stood in long gas lines along with ambulances, other rescue equipment,and the general public.

The emergency animal shelter at the Jackson Coliseum is continuing operation, with approximately 100 animals; the animal owners are staying at the nearby Coliseum. It has served as a base for the HSUS operations in Mississippi.

Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT)-3 was dispatched to Camp Shelby today and was accompanied by eight HSUS responders, one from HUMANE Society of Missouri, and two from American Humane, who will then team up with other rescuers on Sunday in preparation for advancement into the coastal counties.

VMAT-2 is currently at Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Miss., and has requested our assistance in transporting an injured animal to a veterinary clinic. Our teams are headed that way tonight and will make contact as soon as possible.

On Sunday, Florida state government animal emergency management personnel are expected to arrive in Jackson to support the Mississippi effort, through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), giving the Mississippi Board of Animal Health personnel much needed relief and support.

Last night, the HSUS Mississippi Animal Response Branch Director, Laura Bevan, had submitted a weblog ("blog") with her observations and information about the response in Mississippi. This is attached below.


The HSUS team has been working in the Baton Rouge area today to coordinate out-of-state animal responders on behalf of the LA SPCA.

The major task at this point is coordinating the transport of animals from crowded temporary animal facilities to out-of-state facilities. For example, about 500 animals from St. Tammany Parish are to be transported to out-of-state shelters. These animals have been released for adoption. The HSUS team is working with HSUS headquarters staff to coordinate transport and receipt of some of these and the many other animals that we anticipate will need to be relocated.

Another part of the HSUS Louisiana team is at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Coliseum, which the state is operating as an evacuation shelter. Pets of evacuated residents are currently being sheltered in a facility on this campus, and the HSUS team is supporting this operation.

The HSUS team is working with others from many organizations, first bringing in transport resources according to the request of the state. For now, in-state animal control resources are handling rescues.

We have seen many stories of communities around the country taking in evacuees. One particular web site, www.hurricanehousing.org, had received more than 20,000 offers of housing. The web site provides a means for hosts to indicate if they accept pets. To families who have
lost everything else, not having to separate from their pets can mean the world.

For more information on disaster preparedness, training, and response for animals for individuals, animal facilities, and communities, or to support our efforts, please refer to www.hsus.org/disaster or call 1-800-HUMANE-1.


September 1, 2005
Jackson, Mississippi

Night has come to the Jackson Fairgrounds, the location of a pet friendly shelter for evacuees from the coast and the staging area for all relief efforts for animals in Mississippi. Located almost 200 miles from the Gulf, it was dealt a hard enough punch, a frightening prediction of the devastating blow dealt to areas farther south and especially on the coastline.

I am the currently the team leader for The HSUS's Mississippi effort to Hurricane Katrina. But just three weeks ago, I was here, in Jackson, teaching a Disaster Animal Response Team training in conjunction with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, which has been working on the state's disaster plan for several years. The weekend after I left, they conducted their own pet-friendly shelter training, using the materials I left behind. Now, we are all back together putting those plans into action.

Every year since Hurricane Andrew decimated Florida in 1992, I have gone to hurricane and emergency management conferences on behalf of The HSUS to preach about disaster planning for animals. Every year, there is talk of the storms that took place the year before, but also of the "big one," the one that hasn't happened yet.

Now it has.

Watching Katrina lumber into the Gulf, then grow stronger and larger after battering Southern Florida, I knew we were in for a bad time-but how bad was beyond anyone's comprehension

Today, assessment teams swept through the counties between Jackson and the coast to determine the animal needs in the area. Tomorrow, Melissa Forberg, our National Disaster Animal Response Team (N-DART) coordinator, will take a strike team composed of The HSUS, Humane Society of Missouri, and American Humane Association members, and join the federal Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMAT) in assessing Jackson County, the coastal community that borders Alabama. We have not received even a trickle of information from the area, leaving us all anxious to know if the animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and horse stables survived.

We all know too much of the horror of its neighboring county to the west.

Harrison County, Mississippi--home to Gulfport, Biloxi, and other smaller communities--has been virtually wiped off the face of the map. Search and rescue continues for humans, and the death toll rises by the hour. The animal death toll, incomprehensible in number, remains unknown.

It is in Harrison County where a 30-foot storm surge swamped the Humane Society of South Mississippi, drowning hundreds of dogs and cats in their cages. The shelter itself is destroyed, and the survivors are now being collected to be moved from the area as soon as possible. The society is also coping with the tragic loss of a long-term employee who drowned in his home along with family members.

Words are too meager to express the horror and grief all of us here are feeling. We may not have known those animals or the staff member who worked with them. We may not have personally known the distinct personalities of each of those animals, or worked side-by-side with the dedicated staff member who was lost to the flood, but their losses and the survivors of the society are part of our humane family. We grieve for them.

Now, our job is to help the people and animals of Mississippi pick upmthe pieces and build a new world and renewed lives. Our experiences in Florida's four hurricanes last year have equipped us with the guidance to deal with a disaster larger in scope than all of them put together.

Sitting here as the night quiet settles over the compound of trucks, trailers, big rigs, and tents, I know our work will not end in the next week or the next month. The extent of the animal and human need here is overwhelming, but I am committed, we are all committed, that those needs will be met.

There really is no other option.

Want to help pets and other animals hurt by Hurricane Katrina? Please donate to our Disaster Rescue Teams today. Go to https://secure.hsus.org/01/disaster_relief_fund_2005.

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