The following post was written by Tamara, a web developer at Trupanion.
I live in Seattle, Washington, making my living in computers, but usually have some time free between Web development contracts. Late one afternoon in September 2005, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana, I met with three women from out of town – two truck drivers and the owner of the Olympic Peninsula Animal Shelter, a no kill animal shelter in Washington State. The reason they were in town was to load a semi-truck with two tons of pet supplies that had been donated through the effort of local animal shelters, pick up another vehicle that had already been filled with donations of pet supplies in Idaho, and drive down to New Orleans to help with the animal rescue already going on down there, mostly being orchestrated by the largest no kill animal rescue group in the U.S., called Best Friends Animal Society, out of Utah. They were in sore need of supplies of any type – food, water, medical supplies, anything and everything we could think of that would fit in the truck.
These rescuers were going to drive straight through to New Orleans, starting that night, taking turns driving two vehicles with three drivers. It sounded like they could use another driver, so I volunteered, in what turned out to be one of the most intense experiences of my life.
With no delay, we loaded the semi-truck with donations of mostly dry pet food (fifty pound bags), large animal cages, blankets, bedding, and first-aid supplies. It turned out there was a network all across the country of people donating money for gas, supplies, even vans, and doing a great job of communicating news and rescue information via the internet and phone. We took about four days to go down through Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Texas, picking up the other vehicle on the way. Up to the point we drove into New Orleans it felt just like a big old road trip. But that changed as soon as we drove into New Orleans.
I was there a couple of weeks, catching cats that were turning feral and dogs starting to run in packs – all who had been mostly going without clean water or food for three weeks. It took about a week before we had water or electricity ourselves. Every day started early and ended with two or three vans making a two hour drive north to Tylertown, Mississippi to drop off the “catch of the day” which could include exotic pets like spiders and pythons. (I never rode in the van with spiders.)
There were so many animals to rescue – over 600 when we got there, and ended up being over 4,000 I think, at the St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in Mississippi – because pets weren’t allowed on the buses and rescue boats with humans, so they got left behind. Later that rule was changed, as seen in this National Geographic report on legislation changes to allow animals to be rescued with their humans. And I followed the news closely, after I got back to my regular life, as different groups tried so hard to reunite the animals with their humans, but not all could. It would probably be a different story today, with so many pets being micro-chipped. A lot ended up in various shelters on both the East and West coasts, and I think no animal was killed due to the efforts of the Best Friend Animal Society.