Still, life persevered.
Dogs swarmed Guardsmen for food and water. Cats devoured MREs from these kindhearted troops. Bewildered horses were submerged in water and cows floated in watery fields.
I contacted the New Mexico National Guard to gain entry into "no-go" Plaquemines. I found a kindred spirit in Major Kimberly Lalley. Soon rescue teams led by Chris and Sarah Stevens and Terri Kelley of Indiana cleared security checkpoints with permission from Colonel Dick Almeter.
The problem with the animal disaster plan? There was no comprehensive plan – other than the mercy of volunteers, soldiers or law enforcers.
Once the people search diminished to body retrieval, why didn't the White House, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the states of Louisiana and Mississippi authorize active and reserve component troops to conduct animal rescue and relief missions?
With human aid well underway, why didn't Governors Blanco and Barbour direct rescue boats, air-conditioned trucks, medical personnel and other responders to recover animals?
Instead, the world witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon: Entire ghost towns filled with dogs, cats, birds and horses. Among them, a beloved Yorkie named Spike waited beneath a child's bed.
On 9/16/05 Brenda Johnson called me. "They found Spike. He is alive." This elderly dog, prone to seizures, survived without food or water for over two weeks.
My plea for Spike had reached the Jefferson Feed store, a makeshift triage site in New Orleans. From there, someone named Jennifer contacted Nathalie, who communicated with ground crews from her home in New Jersey. Finally, two vet techs with Florida's Collier County Animal League happened to be with police and firemen when they got Spike's report. Under official escort, they broke into Brenda's flooded home with a huge "Hello!" for the little Yorkie.
An animal's life often depended upon an out-of-state network in the right place at the right time.
By October's end, guardian requests to find lost animals still poured in. Yet the state declared local animal control in charge, essentially ordering non-Louisiana volunteers to go home.
Governor Kathleen Blanco
, under advisement from Assistant State Veterinarian Martha Littlefield, refused to extend Executive Order KBB 2005-35 for licensed out-state veterinarians to temporarily practice in Louisiana. Already prolonged one month under KBB 2005-43, the order's firm 10/25/05 termination meant incoming vets risked jail time and fines.
As I write, displaced pets have multiplied New Orleans large stray population. Many are unsterilized and set to yield even more homeless puppies and kittens. One study shows a dog and her young can produce 67,000 puppies in six years. A cat and her litter can create 420,000 kittens in seven years.
Rottweilers, pits, poodles and cocker spaniels run in packs in St. Bernard Parish, a ravaged area with no functional animal control. The LA-SPCA, head of animal control in Orleans Parish, does not possess the people power or accommodations to trap and shelter this many animals.
I'd intended to exit hurricane rescue by Halloween. Instead, I find myself on-call for ARNO, along with organizers David Meyer and Pia Salk. Kate Danaher of San Francisco and I field some 300-500 emails daily as Jane Garrison's volunteer coordinators.
We deploy animal control officers, humane trappers, veterinarians and techs from as far away as Canada. We find hotels, campsites, FEMA tents and resident homes for volunteers compelled to help Katrina's most innocent victims, and the people who love them.