No one knows who shot the arrow or how many days the cat survived with a hole through his body.
But on January 3, 2006, someone notified Animal Rescue New Orleans
(ARNO), a volunteer rescue operation on the ground since October.
ARNO co-director Jane Garrison, former rescue operations coordinator for the Humane Society of the U.S. at the state shelter in Gonzales, La., instructed one of her humane trappers to carefully watch the frightened cat without chasing him away.
In the meantime, Garrison dispatched a volunteer to a veterinary clinic for acepromazine to safely sedate the cat. ARNO trappers set some tuna-wrapped ace before the cat, who collapsed but still managed to consume the bait. He was rushed to Southeast Veterinary Specialists in Metairie.
He'd survived hurricanes and floods, yet a newly named Max now faced the greatest challenge of his nine feline lives: Surgery to remove his gall bladder and resection his intestines. Just before surgery, with a chest tube and IV line embedded under his fur, the gentle tuxedo cat used his paws to make muffins
against the hands of hospital staff.
Max awoke from surgery within hours, but his condition remained critical for two more days. On January 6, Deanna Theis of Southern Animal Foundation (SAF) in New Orleans, described Max as "not completely out of the woods, but making progress."
Max is not alone. Random cruelty appears to be on the rise in hurricane-ravaged areas where people lost homes, jobs, and most of their memories. While animal abusers represent a minority of the returning population, their brutality is unsettling.
Within 24 hours of Max's discovery, 13 poisoned cats were uncovered in two separate locations. A veterinarian confirmed the cats were killed with antifreeze.
Cadi Schiffer, ARNO's Food/Water Program Coordinator at the group's base camp in Metairie, notes a disturbing trend in recent weeks. "I've had two reports of residents shooting at dogs with pellet guns. One of the kids was throwing stones at the dogs."
Rescuers found a yellow Lab mix nicknamed Canal Girl riddled with 100 pellets. ARNO volunteers also spotted a gaunt, chained dog with no access to food or water. "When the team went back to follow up, the dog was dead by the side of the road," says Jessica Higgins, ARNO's Dog Trapping Coordinator.
The vast majority of returning residents are shocked by this senseless violence. In fact, many work tirelessly to feed, rescue and foster the hurricane homeless. Some borrow cars to help sustain more than 2,000 ARNO food/water stations across 650 sq. miles in Orleans Parish, St. Bernard Parish and beyond.
Under Louisiana state law, it is a misdemeanor to overwork, injure, or withhold food/water, shelter and veterinary care. Deliberate torture or mutilation, "aggravated animal cruelty," is a felony.
Garrison and fellow ARNO directors Pia Salk and David Meyer intend to uphold the law. They ask volunteers to document cruelty observed in the field. They file police reports and urge officials to investigate animal abuse offenses. If a suspect is apprehended, they advocate prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
Currently, ARNO circulates a flyer that reads: "Official Warning: It is against the law to harm, poison or kill animals. Rewards offered for information leading to arrests."
Sometimes, the laws of conscience prevail. In October, a returning NOLA resident watched her neighbor discard a Doberman alongside a garbage pile
. Although the skin-and-bones dog couldn't lift her head, she was alive. The witness quickly called ARNO and SAF. Once on IV antibiotics, the dog ate right out of her caregivers' hands.
Weeks later she walked out of the clinic to join her new family. For this old girl, the hurricanes and hurt were finally over.