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Animal Care Expo Marks a Return, Chance to Remember

Record crowd attends this year's event in New Orleans

  • Participants at the 2014 Expo sign "The Power of One" wall. Photo by Julie Busch Branaman/For The HSUS

“I haven’t been back here since the storm,” one woman waiting to register tells her colleagues, and they nod, looking around the echoing hall of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which is now bustling with the activity of the annual HSUS Animal Care Expo.

None of them have to ask which storm.

For many of the animal shelter and rescue staff and volunteers in New Orleans, this is a special Expo, the first time they’ve been back to the city since nearly a decade ago. That was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when hundreds of animal advocates from around the country volunteered to help thousands of animals left behind by people forced to evacuate without them.

On Monday, the convention center—which itself served as a temporary, chaotic evacuation center after the 2005 storm—welcomed some of those same advocates, back again to learn from the many workshops and sessions, see the recovery of a great city and pledge that the human tragedy of Hurricane Katrina will not be repeated.

Hosted in a different city each year, the conference brings together animal shelters, animal care and control agencies, rescue groups and other advocates from around the world to share knowledge and inspire each other with strategies that can make a difference. A record 2,260 advocates have signed up so far.

Especially for those working in communities where animal welfare is not yet a mainstream issue, Animal Care Expo can be an amazing experience: Some see for the first time that they are not alone in their concerns about cruelty and neglect, that they are a part of a whole network of advocates that they never really knew was there.

This year’s conference has a special focus on strategies to find pets homes and keep them in the ones they already have, engage community members as allies, humanely manage cat populations and more.

Monday afternoon’s welcome session, featuring Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, reflected on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the continuing efforts to prioritize disaster preparedness for animals and the people who love them.

"Our movement is in a different place today, and more animal lives are being saved as a result,” says Betsy McFarland, vice president of the HSUS companion animals department. “Throughout the U.S., pets now accompany their people during disasters, and fewer animals are entering shelters overall. Together, we're truly solving these problems."

For more information, visit animalsheltering.org/expo.


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