NEW ORLEANS' ANIMAL RESCUE
Most things on earth can be described. Words can do it. Photos can do it. But there is one thing that no words,
nor photos, could ever convey: New Orleans after Katrina. An American city underwater. An entire
American city underwater. It's unreal to think about. It was surreal to be there.
A few days after Katrina, I arrived in New Orleans. I had seen one too many pictures of people hanging out of attics and abandoned pets everywhere. I remember a cat swimming to an immersed tree, clinging to its flimsy branches then pulling itself out of the tarry water. A wet dog stood on a truck roof nearby, imprisoned by the deep, black water around him. He barked frantically for help -- but help was not to come. I watched as camera crews floated by on boats. They'll grab that cat, I thought. But no, they continued on. They'll rescue that dog, I supposed. But no, I was wrong, They were off to reveal more horror. More pain. And they did, for there was nothing but horror and pain everywhere.
The next day, I flew to Jackson, Mississippi, because the once thriving New Orleans airport was now a morgue. I hitched a ride down to New Orleans. With road blocks everywhere, military check points, mandatory evacuation rules, the threat of catching waterborne disease, death and destruction all around -- a handful of volunteers, strangers, from all over the country, fought their way into the city.
The next day, I was standing in the middle of a neighborhood, a military escort beside me. We gazed silently
at the debris and devastation around us. There was a house in the middle of the street. Out of the many nearby
cars, only one was at the curb. The rest were on rooftops, upside down in the middle of the street, or leaned
up against houses with only their front or rear bumpers on the ground. There was a canoe in a tree. A dead
dog in the mud. And a crumble of houses all around. The sergeant shook his head, " The only difference
between this and Iraq is -- this is worse. At least in Iraq some areas weren't bombed." A soldier beside him
agreed, observing a real estate sign in the mud, he added, "Yeah, and here everything's written in English."
I cannot describe the three months I spent there rescuing animals. And not rescuing them. So many were missed. For so many, we were too late. If they didn't drown, many would die of starvation locked in their houses or chained in their backyards. And those that got out on the streets faired no better. There wasn't a drop of food to eat anywhere. Everything in the city was rancid, water-logged with putried chemicles, decayed and deteriorated. The pets on the loose ran and ran -- with nowhere to go. They faced a slow death, and wound up lifeless, starved on a muddy street corner.
For the hundreds of animals I saved, I only remember the ones I missed. Those that just died: If only I'd been there a day earlier.
Those that died in my hands: If only been there an hour earlier. Or those I never found.
We were a handful of people trying to rescue a city of pets. Thousands of pets trapped everywhere. It couldn't be done.
It wasn't done. As many as we saved, thousands... and as hard as we worked, tirelessly... there weren't enough of us.
There could never be enough of us.
And the tragedy goes on. For everyone who lived there or anywhere in the gulf, their lives will never be the same.
They have lost everything. Their homes, cars, memories, friends, neighbors, everything they ever had is gone. Everyone
they ever knew has moved away and most they will never find again. And the worst part is, even with the much publicized
reunions, most of these people will never, ever, see their pets again. Yet for most, finding their pet, is the only hope they have left.
For rescuers and residents alike, New Orleans is a city of unbearable pain. Unbearable grief. I am asked by rescuers all the time:
"Who will rescue the rescuers?" I cannot answer that. We cannot erase what we did, what we saw. Me, I can't even describe it.
But it's not too late to help the strays that still wander the streets, lost, homeless, starving. The following links will take you to
organizations that I have worked with... that I trust... that made a difference in New Orleans. We still need you. You can donate
and help feed the strays in New Orleans, or make room for them in America's overcrowded system by adopting a pet from your
Animals all across the USA need you. Look at the hard numbers:
12 million animals are euthanized each year in the United States.
That is 1 million a month.
1,388 animals an hour.
70,000 - The number of kittens and puppies born in the US each day.
10,000 - The number of people born in the US each day.
"Mine: Taken by Katrina"
The documentary film about Katrina.
Link to CBS Video
A look at animal rescue in New Orleans, with myself & fellow rescuers.
My Times-Picayune article
"WE ARE NOT LEAVING WITHOUT THE ANIMALS....."
A fellow rescuer, Nancy, put in her two cents (Get change back)
Click here: CharlesOsgood.info | The Osgood Files: Transcript October 14, 2005
Charles Osgood talks about rescue in New Orleans.
Katrina Found Pets
Click here: Best Friends Hurricane Relief: News
The strays left behind after Katrina need your help today: Hurricane Relief Fund
Operation Save A Pet Katrina
Muttshack Animal Rescue New Orleans
Disaster Response Animal Rescue
See what's happening with rescue efforts today:
Join my group e-mail