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Reconnecting with Katrina

IMAGE: Yvonne Devereaux of Seattle reacts after finding a monumental street sign with her dog Louisa’s name on it in New Orleans. Devereaux volunteered with Pasado’s Safe Haven after Hurricane Katrina, caring for hundreds of animals in 2005. One of the dogs got to come home with her. Devereaux named her Louisa, short for Lousiana and later found out she had actually been rescued from Louisa Street. Louisa passed away last year. This September, Devereaux returned to New Orleans to spread Louisa’s ashes. “I didn’t have anything planned,” she said. “I just hoped to find the right spot somewhere on Louisa Street.” Somehow we ended up here. This beautiful park. It has to be the mojo.” In 2010 Devereaux went on to found Lady’s Hope Dog Rescue, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and finding new homes for neglected pitbulls. (© Karen Ducey Photography)
October 12, 2015
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NEW ORLEANS — Ten years ago, hundreds of animal lovers from around the country couldn’t bear the sight of thousands of stranded and distressed pets on the evening news in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Forced to flee floodwaters after a levee breach, many residents of New Orleans were evacuated and ordered to leave their animals behind. What followed was one of the largest disaster response efforts by animal rescue operations ever seen. Jeff Dorson, director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, estimates that between 60,000 and 70,000 animals perished in the disaster.

Joining a massive effort to save them, Pasado’s Safe Haven, a nonprofit based in Sultan, Wash., mobilized a small army of volunteers and, by their sheer determination and boots-on-the-ground approach, rescued over 1,200 animals.

On this 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, many of them, now full-time animal welfare professionals, returned to New Orleans hoping to extrapolate and comprehend bits of memories from a time when they had an extraordinary privilege and opportunity to help animals in need. They came to honor the animals they took home with them, now dead, whose lives rooted them to this incredible moment in history.

Image: From left, Merilee Nyland of Seattle, Kim Srgo of Woodinville, Wash., and Deborah Eizinger of Memphis, Tenn., check out a dilapidated home in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. Srgo went on to work with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society based in Friday Harbor, Wash., and now serves as the executive director of Northwest Equine Stewardship Center (NWESC). Nyland volunteered with Sea Shepherd as a cook onboard vessels saving whales, and Eizinger volunteers with the Humane Society during disaster response. (© Karen Ducey Photography)

From left, Merilee Nyland of Seattle, Kim Srgo of Woodinville, Wash., and Deborah Eizinger of Memphis, Tenn., check out a dilapidated home in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. Srgo went on to work with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society based in Friday Harbor, Wash., and now serves as the executive director of Northwest Equine Stewardship Center (NWESC). Nyland volunteered with Sea Shepherd as a cook onboard vessels saving whales, and Eizinger volunteers with the Humane Society during disaster response. (© Karen Ducey Photography)

IMAGE: Merilee Nyland, left, hugs Rita Laws during a visit to the Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans. The Seattle women rescued hundreds of animals after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nyland went on to volunteer with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Laws works with Greyhound Pets Inc. (© Karen Ducey Photography)

Merilee Nyland, left, hugs Rita Laws during a visit to the Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans. The Seattle women rescued hundreds of animals after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nyland went on to volunteer with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Laws works as lead kennel tech with Greyhound Pets Inc. (© Karen Ducey Photography)

IMAGE: Children play in a street in the Ninth Ward, a neighborhood that has seen little restoration since Hurricane Katrina. (photo © Karen Ducey)

Children play in a street in the Ninth Ward, a neighborhood that has seen little restoration since Hurricane Katrina. (photo © Karen Ducey)

Dorson says, “There’s more awareness. Some laws have been passed that require federal agencies now to incorporate animal recovery and rescue along with people. That’s a big transition. That wasn’t in place during Katrina. The public is more aware that pets should be included as a family member, and I think the federal agencies recognize the importance of pets as an integrated part of the family. All that’s changed.”

IMAGE: Denise Steinkerchner, left, a volunteer with the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART), and Linda McCoy, owner of Ribsey’s Refugees, check out an animal disaster recovery bus run by the Disaster Animal Rescue Team (DART) in New Orleans. Both participated in rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina. McCoy said the relief effort in 2005 changed her life and inspired her to start her nonprofit when she returned. Animal rescuers came together on Aug. 28 for a 10-year reunion in New Orleans since they worked together during Hurricane Katrina. (photo © Karen Ducey)

Denise Steinkerchner, left, a volunteer with the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART), and Linda McCoy, center, founder of Ribsey’s Refugees, check out an animal disaster recovery bus run by the Disaster Animal Rescue Team (DART) in New Orleans. Both participated in rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina. McCoy said the relief effort in 2005 changed her life and inspired her to start her nonprofit when she returned. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

According to Petfinder, in August 2005 there were approximately 8,700 animal rescue and shelter organizations listed on their site. In August 2015, approximately 12,700 were listed.

IMAGE: Merilee Nyland walks in a neighborhood partially restored since Hurricane Katrina. Nyland was a part of a group that went down to New Orleans to help rescue stranded animals after Hurricane Katrina. (photo © Karen Ducey)

Merilee Nyland walks in a neighborhood partially restored since Hurricane Katrina. Nyland was a part of a group that went down to New Orleans to help rescue stranded animals after Hurricane Katrina. (photo © Karen Ducey)

IMAGE: Deborah and David Eizinger spread ashes of their dog whom Deborah rescued in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They picked an old oak tree on the property where Eizinger and other volunteers from Pasado’s Safe Haven cared for more than 1,000 rescued pets in Raceland, La. (photo © Karen Ducey)

Deborah and David Eizinger spread ashes of their dog, Nola, whom Deborah rescued in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They picked an old oak tree on the property where Eizinger and other volunteers from Pasado’s Safe Haven cared for more than 1,000 rescued pets in Raceland, La. (photo © Karen Ducey)

 

LINKS
Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006
KATRINA’S ANIMAL LEGACY: THE PETS ACT Journal of Animal Law and Ethics Vol., 4:1, by Marita Mike, M.D.,J.D., Rebecca Mike, D.V.M., Clark J. Lee, J.D.

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW

Hurricane Katrina served as a catalyst for many volunteers to form animal rescue organizations. Today some of the premier animal rescue organizations in Western Washington have ties to Pasado’s Safe Haven’s relief efforts in 2005.

Lady’s Hope Dog Rescue  Founded by Yvonne Devereaux in 2010. Our mission is to find loving and responsible permanent homes for unwanted, neglected and abused dogs. And, one-by-one, stop their suffering and reduce the number of dogs who will die needlessly every day due to lack of homes. One such lucky dog is Frankie, a blind pitbull who lived on the streets with a homeless woman. Devereaux took him in after getting a call from the shelter. “They knew his chances of adoption were limited because he was a pit bull, blind, dog reactive, chased cats, due to his sight impairment shouldn’t be around small children….  I finally found the perfect home for him this summer. Nearly two years after taking him in, and the world sighed, and there was gratefulness all around.”

Greyhound Pets, Inc  Rita Laws, lead kennel tech. Is a section 501©(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to the welfare of greyhounds and greyhound mixes, serving the Pacific Northwest Southwestern Canada. We work to find responsible, loving homes for the dogs in our care. Through the efforts of our valued volunteers and benefactors, we provide loving support and veterinary services to the dogs directly in our care and ongoing resources and education for our adoptive families and the public. Learn more about GPI in our story The Midnight Run.

Washington State Disaster response Team (WASART) Diane Steinkerchner recently set up an emergency companion animal shelter in Brewster during the Washington WildfiresWASART is a 501(c)(3) non-profit all-volunteer organization that helps companion animals and livestock out of immediate crisis and dangerous situations.

Ribsey’s Refugees   Founded by Linda McCoy in 2006. We give unwanted, desperate dogs a second chance to find their permanent, forever home.

Northwest Equine Stewardship Center  Kim Sgro, executive director; Rita Laws serves as its treasurer. NWESC is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing professional level rehabilitative care (veterinary, hoof care, training) to rescue horses.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest Co-director Diana Goodrich. The Chimapanzee Sanctuary Northwest provides lifetime quality care for formerly abused and exploited chimpanzees while advocating for great apes. Our goals are to provide sustainable sanctuary, end the use of great apes in entertainment, and facilitate collaboration to continuously improve the care of captive chimpanzees.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Merilee Nyland volunteered as a cook onboard a vessel saving whales in Antarctica. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

 (full disclosure) Animal News Northwest publisher, Karen Ducey, spent over a week in late September 2015 documenting the efforts of Pasado’s Safe Haven in New Orleans. Susan Michaels, co-director of Pasados,  posted the photos nightly onto the Pasado’s website, essentially blogging before blogging was born, raising money and volunteers to help rescue and care for over a thousand pets. Animal News Northwest, launched in 2014, is a direct descendant of that experience.

Do you know of an animal rescuer from Western Washington who was in New Orleans in 2005  who is not on the list? If they’re active in the rescue community today please send an email to “info at animalsnorthwest.com” to have them included.

 

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