An oil tycoon took matters into his own hands this month by giving Hurricane Katrina animal victims a new home.
A spokesman for Texan Boone Pickens said organizers had wanted to take more dogs which share emergency quarters with a ton of other rescued creatures.
The first major airlift of dogs from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast left Louisiana carrying about 50 pets to new temporary homes in California on Sept. 11th. The flight from Baton Rouge, LA was chartered for about $50,000 by the oilman and his wife in a movement named “Operation Pet Lift.”
About half the dogs on the flight were headed to San Diego. The goal was to rescue 200 dogs. Organizers complained some of the legal requirements were not practical such as waiting 30 days for owners to claim their pets.
Petfinder.com set up a database of pet pictures to help reunite owners with lost animals.
Several organizations are working to save animals stranded by the hurricane and reunite them with their owners.
Other sources of information include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca.com) and the Humane Society of the U.S. (hsus.org).
Donors were being sought to fund the transportation of 3,000 animals the week of Sept. 12th with 1,000 each going to three different areas.
The plane on the 11th was greeted by camera crews, several dozen animal shelter workers, and a dozen trucks labeled with signs marked “Operation Orphans of the Storm” on the tarmac near the south gate of the airport.
Volunteers and staff of the Marin Humane Society and the Sacramento SPCA photographed and tagged the animals and took them back to their local shelters.
Some of the animals on the flight also came from a regular shelter that was overloaded.
Still, the flight was mostly empty.
Andrew Rowan, executive vice president of operations for the Humane Society of the U.S., estimated that there may be 50,000 or more additional dogs or cats in New Orleans that must be rescued and brought to a Gonzales shelter.
“It’s a tremendous logistical operation to provide the care that these animals need,” he told the Associated Press.
The flight otherwise went smoothly, flight attendants said.
“The ride was great,” said Kathryn Glab, a Continental flight attendant who was walking an excited beagle after exiting the aircraft.
The Marin Humane Society said people who want to help with the rescue efforts should contact their local shelters, many of which have agreed to take in some of the 1,000 animals expected this coming week.
Although national organizations have raised millions of dollars for Katrina, none of that money will go to the Bay Area animal shelters caring for the animals brought there, said John Reese, chief operating officer of the Marin Humane Society.
The shelters plan to hold on to the dogs for at least 30 days before offering them up for adoption to give the owners a chance to claim them.
In addition to funding the airlift, The Pickenses have also given money to help human relief efforts.