LSU Hurricane Equine Rescue Operation (HERO)

The Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Veterinary Medicine Equine Clinic established the Horse Hurricane Helpline on Thursday, Sept. 1, and faculty, staff, and students began fielding countless calls around the clock from people reporting horses in need of rescue. We set up a "Central Command" in conjunction with the Helpline wherein we mapped out areas where these horses were located and quickly developed a rescue strategy. The LSU Hurricane Equine Rescue Operations began assembling rescue teams comprised of veterinarians and staff from the LSU Equine Clinic, private equine veterinarians, and numerous volunteers, often consisting of a convoy of several trucks and trailers. See photos of the rescue team here.

Once we were granted access into the affected areas, we deployed from one to seven teams daily beginning on Friday Sept. 2, and these rescue teams have continued through today (Sept. 16). Some days we rescued 60 or 70 horses from a given area, and other times we rescued only one or two horses. This has been an extremely dynamic process. Today (Sept. 16), we have a team returning to the Algiers and Plaquemines Parish areas to rescue up to seven horses. Some of the horses required rescue out of high water, and others needed to be moved to an area where they could reliably and safely be provided with sufficient food and water.

We have evacuated over 350 horses from seven parishes and transported them to the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, where we set up a satellite veterinary clinic staffed by LSU Equine Clinic personnel and numerous volunteers in order to provide veterinary medical care, shelter, food, water, and lots of compassionate tender loving care. The horses undergo careful identification and documentation upon arrival for purposes of re-uniting them with their owners. Some horses require medical treatment in the field prior to transport, and all horses are thoroughly examined and evaluated by veterinary staff at the Lamar Dixon facility and provided necessary treatment.

Care is provided by veterinarians, veterinary students, and volunteers under the supervision and guidance of Dennis French, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP, an LSU Equine Clinic staff veterinarian. Bonnie Clark, president of the Louisiana Equine Council, serves as the coordinator of the equine facility at Lamar Dixon and helps keep track of the horses and makes sure sufficient food, water, supplies, and volunteers are available.

Our goal is to care for these horses until we can successfully re-unite them with their owners. Thus far, we have released approximately 75 of the horses to their owners and have re-united many others. Currently, there are approximately 275 horses at the facility, 55 of which are receiving some level of veterinary treatment for various illnesses or injuries. Three of the horses have required referral to the LSU Equine Clinic for more advanced veterinary medical care.

The response of the numerous people involved in this rescue operation in amazing considering the enormity and complexity of the problems resulting from Katrina. The most rewarding part of this operation is to save the lives of these horses and to re-unite horses and owners. Many of the owners lost absolutely everything, and the only thing they have to hold onto is their horse. Thus, these horses represent an extremely powerful emotional attachment to their homes. We have witnessed numerous tearful reunions of horses with owners that thought their horses had perished subsequent to the storm.

In addition, the Hurricane Equine Rescue Operations teams have rescued over 300 dogs, several cats, and some birds, rabbits, goats, potbellied pigs, iguanas, and even a couple of people. The group also hauled feed and water for horses, livestock, dogs, and cats into these areas and took two truckloads of food and supplies--including generators--for the people that remained behind in areas in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes to help care for the horses and other animals.

The best way to assist the Louisiana Horse Victims of Hurricane Katrina (rescue, recovery, veterinary care, sheltering, etc.) is to provide a monetary contribution by making a check payable to the LVMA Equine Committee and write Horse Hurricane Relief on the memo line. Send the check to Dr. Sonny Corley, LVMA Equine Committee, 121 E. Gloria Switch, Lafayette, LA 70507. For more information, please visit

About the Author

Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS

Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, is a professor of equine surgery and Director of the Equine Health Studies Program at Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

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