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August 27, 2011

Six Years After Katrina, HSUS Highly Active in Gulf Coast States

  • Our efforts began with direct animal rescue and have continued in the ensuing years with relief, recovery, and reconstruction. Carol Guzy

by Bernard Unti

A recent grant of $200,000 to the shelter medicine program of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine is the latest expression of The HSUS’s support for humane work in the Gulf Coast region.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, The HSUS has spent tens of millions of dollars on direct response and on reconstruction, recovery, and program grants to strengthen organizations and facilities serving animals there.

The HSUS is continuing its focus on pet overpopulation in the Gulf Coast states, supporting efforts to reduce intake and euthanasia at shelters, building regional capacity to provide low-cost spaying and neutering services, vaccination, and veterinary wellness examinations, and advancing a broad communications effort to connect with underserved target audiences.

Partnership grants

Since 2006, more than 60 humane groups in the Gulf region have received grants from The HSUS as part of a general strategy to support their missions while building greater unity among Gulf Coast organizations. The gifts have ranged from major contributions to rebuild shelters like those at the Louisiana SPCA and the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi, to smaller grants for low-cost spay/neuter services, disease-control systems, modern cat housing, and enhanced surgical suites.

In 2006, in Katrina’s aftermath, The HSUS distributed $8.35 million in grants to 45 organizations for reconstruction and recovery. In 2008, The HSUS and Maddie’s Fund together distributed nearly $1 million in additional grants to 57 animal shelters, asking them to adopt uniform reporting procedures on shelter intake and disposition, to secure better information on overpopulation and relinquishment trends. As part of “After Katrina: Improving the Lives of Gulf Coast Dogs and Cats,” The HSUS and three other national animal welfare organizations: Maddie’s Fund®, ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and PetSmart Charities brought staff members from these organizations to Animal Care Expo.

During the same period, The HSUS also partnered with the ASPCA, PetSmart Charities, UAN, and IFAW to fund a massive, $3.25 million spay/neuter program, which accounted for 52,400 spay/neuter surgeries in Mississippi and 18,750 in Louisiana.

In 2009 and 2010, via the Gulf Coast Spay/Neuter Campaign (an initiative that continues), The HSUS distributed more than $300,000 in grants to nearly a dozen organizations operating spay/neuter clinics, and invested another $750,000 in research-driven television and radio marketing to build spaying and neutering capacity in Louisiana and Mississippi, and to lead pet owners to the services offered. In 2010, 4,173 pets received care and service at vaccination and spay/neuter outreach events co-sponsored by The HSUS. 

Innovative pet care program comes to Baton Rouge

Consistent with its determination to refine a new community-level approach to animal-related concerns, The HSUS recently introduced its new initiative to promote pet care in underserved communities to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, HSUS representatives are working with the local spay/neuter facility, animal organizations, and community groups to forge deeper connections with residents of at-risk neighborhoods.

Resources and services might be scarce, but there are animals in need and people who want to do right by them. The HSUS and its partners are helping by providing better tools for communication, community assessment, and comprehensive outreach. 

Shelter medicine at the MSU and LSU veterinary schools

The HSUS’s $1.7 million in total grant support for the shelter medicine programs at the veterinary schools of Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University since 2006 will benefit animals for generations. Hundreds of students have worked in community shelters and clinics, and students and faculty at the two schools have helped to carry out nearly 20,000 spay and neuter surgeries and wellness checkups in Louisiana and Mississippi. As veterinarians, these individuals will care for countless thousands of pets throughout the Gulf Coast region in the future.

Legacy projects at St. Bernard Parish Shelter and Dixon Correctional Institute

The St. Bernard Animal Shelter in Chalmette and the animal shelter at the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson are true legacy initiatives of The HSUS’s response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.  The new St. Bernard Shelter, which serves a community vulnerable to natural disasters and hurt by the 2010 oil spill, continues to thrive, working from a state-of-the-art headquarters, which The HSUS helped to construct, staff, and equip through strategic grants. 

At Dixon Correctional Institute, with a $600,000 grant from The HSUS and the support of Pen Pals, a 501(c)(3) partner, a new facility is providing animal care and control services to the East Feliciana Parish, a safe haven for animals in disasters, and a “new leash” on life for both prisoners and pets. Watch the video»

Gulf Coast rising

The animal-related impacts of August 29, 2005, were horrible throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, with death, destruction, loss, and incalculable heartache ensuing.  Like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, however, the humane institutions in the region have renewed themselves, through determination, hard work, and the support of The HSUS and other partners.  Today, Louisiana and Mississippi have some of the best facilities and resources dedicated to animal care in the world.  If Katrina made the Gulf Coast states a subject of special concern, it has also made the region a more special place in the intervening years.

Bernard Unti, Ph.D., is senior policy advisor and special assistant to the president of The Humane Society of the United States.

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