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In blogs, shelter newsletters, submissions to

In blogs, shelter newsletters, submissions to Animal Sheltering magazine, and interviews with our editorial staff, animal welfare professionals and volunteers from around the country are still trying to make sense of the devastating loss they witnessed in the aftermath of last year’s hurricanes. Here are their stories.

We were not able to publish in the print magazine all the amazing stories we received, so this web version of "Dispatches" includes some extended versions of published stories and some online extras.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Chad Sisneros/HSUS, Kathy Milani/HSUS, San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, Kathy Milani/HSUS, Louisiana SPCA, Cory Smith/HSUS, Cory Smith/HSUS.

Chasing a Chihuahua through the Ruins
Kelli Brown, Animal Control Officer, Nebraska Humane Society, Omaha, Nebraska

We were out patrolling in Biloxi, Mississippi, when a woman waved us over frantically to tell us about an abandoned, starving dog on the next street over. The owners were feared dead.

We went to the house described to us, and there in the backyard (what was left of it), we heard a dog barking, screaming, and crying. We couldn't get into the backyard because bits and pieces of what seemed like every house on the block were surrounding this house, making it impossible to walk over the rubble without severe injury. > Read More...

Who Was I to Judge?
Ed Tucker, Chief, Charles County Animal Services, Maryland

After we’d spent about a week “alone” in the devastated areas of Mississippi, some of the areas were opened up during the daylight hours for residents only to sift through the debris for family treasures. This became a trying time for the rescue workers. People would flag us down hoping beyond hope that we had found or seen their pets. Sometimes we had, but most times we were unable to provide the answer they so needed. The stories, well, “heartbreaking” doesn’t begin to describe them. > Read More...

Unrequited Compassion
Officer Robert Campos, writing in the newsletter of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Control Bureau, North Carolina

I had the honor and privilege of assisting the Red Cross in taking care of displaced animals at the Charlotte Coliseum in September. The owners of these animals had some interesting stories to share as they spoke of the most horrible experiences of their lives. > Read More...

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers
Sue Skaskiw, Executive Director, Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society, Bridgewater, Vermont

A cat got loose at the St. Bernard Parish emergency shelters. I took off after him, ran across the baseball field, and hopped the fence. I found myself in a neighborhood, and it was so eerie. There was not even a bug making a noise— because there was nothing alive. So I followed Jack as he was going in between the homes. He was a pre-owned ‘neighborhood’ cat; a woman who used to take care of between 8 and 13 outside cats came in daily to check on him. And Jack had been in the medical center, but when somebody was handling him, Jack scooted out and got by him and got out. All the cats were looking for their chance to run. > Read More...

I’ll Be Gone 500 Miles When the Day is Done
Adam Parascandola, Chief Operating Officer, Washington Humane Society, Washington, DC

Washington Humane Society Chief Operating Officer Adam Parascandola traveled the streets of New Orleans rescuing animals with Cory Smith, program manager of Animal Sheltering Issues for The HSUS.

September 6: We start working the list of addresses, but everywhere we go, people—citizens, National Guard troops, the police—tell us about another dog under a house, another cat on a porch surrounded by water. There is an overwhelming number of animals who need us, and not enough of us and not enough hours in the day. We have to be out of town by dark. There are still reports of snipers, and after dark the city is not safe at all. > Read more of Adam's blog...

The Face of New Orleans
Dick McGoldrick, Animal Control Officer and Constable, western Maine; President, Harvest Hills Animal Shelter, Fryeburg, Maine

The memory I recall most often is that of a very tired, older gentleman who approached the entrance to a staging area in Tylertown, Mississippi. I was sort of guarding the gate because we had learned the hard way that we had a real need for security. As I greeted the man I noticed how very tired and tousled he looked, but he was still able to grace his greeting to me with a genuine smile and a look of hope in his eyes. I asked how I could assist him, and he answered that he was looking for his two dogs, which he then described. I explained that the man who had a list of the dogs we had (around 200 that day) was helping someone else but would be back shortly. I offered the gent a chair and tried to make some conversation with him. It was difficult because there seemed to be the same sadness to him that I was seeing with so many other folks who had just come through the horrors of Katrina. > Read More...

Tell Us Your Story

We are still collecting stories on the experiences of animal welfare professionals and volunteers who worked in the Gulf region in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes. E-mail your story to and you may see it online in the future.

Getting the Beagle Back
Jim Bigelow, Kennel Attendant, Lycoming County SPCA, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

In Hattiesburg, a beagle mix got away from the volunteer who was walking him and took off up on the hill. People started chasing it—which of course made the dog run more. We went out in a truck and drove on the roads around the facility looking for the dog, and we set a few traps in the hope that we could trap the dog. We came across the lady the beagle had gotten away from walking down a dirt road, hysterical and crying as she called out the dog’s name. > Read More...

The Tragedies Are Daily—and Universal
Sharon Harvey, Executive Director, Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village, Russell Township, Ohio

I was very careful in talking to the media about what we were doing because I would never want anybody in our community to think these eight animals that we brought up are more special or more important than any of the animals we’re trying to help in our backyard. And I think that’s where a real ethical dilemma lies. > Read More...

Read Laura Maloney's October 2005 essay on the state of the LA/SPCA just after Hurricane Katrina.

Read an April 2006 update on the progress made by the LA/SPCA.

The Resilience of Animals—and Their Caretakers
Aileen Gabbey, Executive Director, Maryland SPCA, Baltimore, Maryland

We ended up sending two people to Gonzales, Louisiana: Allison Joyce and Scott Littlejohn. They went down for the 10-day shift and were so resilient. Their boots literally fell apart, their tents were tiny, Scott almost passed out from the heat. We were so proud of them because they ended up managing Barn 2 at Lamar-Dixon for several days. Their diaries were posted on our website,, and their stories were compelling: I recall Allison taking the time after her shift to grab a copy of Animal Sheltering magazine and go sit next to the crate of a scared little brown terrier mix and read to her. In all the chaos of Lamar-Dixon, it seemed to soothe and comfort the little dog. > Read More...

Too Late for Some Animals
Carol Webber, HSUS volunteer, Frederick County, Maryland

A woman who had lost her home in the hardest-hit area volunteered at the administrative area every day, as she was living in a shelter on the Lamar- Dixon Expo Center property. She had been forced to leave a dog and four cats at home. Finally, rescue teams were able to get into her area and bring out her dog. She was so excited, but she was worried about the cats, whom rescuers planned to return for. The next day when I arrived, she ran over and grabbed my hand to say goodbye. She said her brother had come to take her home with him, and that the rescuers had brought out one of her cats, but that the other three were dead. > Read More...

The Ringing of Reunion Bells
Beth Josey, HSUS volunteer, writing in the newsletter of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Control Bureau, North Carolina

A daily joy was in occasionally hearing the ringing of the “found bell,” meaning an owner had been reunited with his or her pet. Many Katrina animals in Mississippi were sent to the HSUS Hattiesburg shelter, so distraught pet owners arrived daily to complete the “lost pet” form and search the barns for any possible matches. It was obvious that many of the animals in our barn had been beloved pets. > Read More...

No Place for Preaching in the Disaster Zone
Veronica (Ronnie) Marjerison, Kennel Manager, Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Virginia

I went to Lamar-Dixon on Sept. 29 as an emergency DART (Disaster Animal Response Team) member. I was in Gonzales for seven days escorting owners through the barns. > Read More...

Unconditional Love
Mark Goldstein, President, San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, California

That unconditional love we all talk about really does hold true. We’ve seen animals who were living in their backyards peacefully probably three or four weeks before we met them. They’d probably spent a week swimming for their life, fending for themselves, eating God knows what in a toxic situation. > Read More...

Delivering Supplies, Picking Up Dogs
John Iannuzzi, volunteer, SPCA of Westchester Briarcliff Manor, New York

On a combined emergency supply and dog pick-up run to the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport, we met a remarkable group of dedicated professionals and volunteers. In the face of devastating loss to their community, personal lives, and shelter, this small group of amazing people (who were living in tents behind the shelter because they had lost their homes) worked tirelessly to help the thousands of animals affected by Katrina. Their commitment and sacrifice was something that all of us who worked with them will never forget. > Read More...

Just Down the Road
Maura Davies, Communications Director, SPCA of Texas

One reunion story in particular at the SPCA of Texas stands out. When Paul Gilbert was reunited with his beautiful Great Dane, Elsa, at our Collin County Animal Care Center, there wasn’t a dry eye in sight. Mr. Gilbert had been forced to leave Elsa behind when he was airlifted from his flooded home days after the hurricane struck. The two had been living in the upper floor, surviving on very little. Before he left, Mr. Gilbert left all the food he could for Elsa. Little did he know that a short while later, rescuers were able to get Elsa out and take her to safety. > Read More...

Saving the Vet Records
Pearl Gonzalez, Director of Operations, Potter League for Animals, Middletown, Rhode Island

We hired one of the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina when he came off the plane. We were there with the state vet, who had called us to see if we could help check in the animals and house them overnight. And when people got off the plane, we were asking everybody, "Is your animal vaccinated?" > Read More...

Desperate for Love
Kim Intino, Director, Animal Sheltering Issues, The HSUS

I was working export during the second week of October, when the closing of Lamar-Dixon was imminent. Every animal had to be gone, and we were calling all over the country to try to get people to take more animals in. Some shelters had already taken in so many that I felt terrible calling them and saying, "Can you take 20 more?" > Read More...

Leaving Lamar
Steve Jacobsen, Executive Director, The Animal Welfare Society, West Kennebunk, Maine

As we were finishing up with transporting cats out of Lamar-Dixon and as Barn 1 was closing down, we found this note taped to a wall in the cat area... > Read More...

Oregon Humane Society

The Oregon Humane Society Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR), made up of both employees and volunteers, sent two teams of six people each to New Orleans. The teams found nearly 80 animals and brought them to the emergency shelter in Gonzales, Louisiana. They fed and watered 80 to 120 other animals. To read their diaries, visit > Read More...


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