It has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, impacting the lives of millions of people and animals. The people of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities felt the effects of her devastation for months and even years after making landfall. Many people (and their pets) evacuated the city beforehand in response to a late-issued mandatory evacuation, but thousands of people did not have the means to leave. I consider my family very fortunate for being able to drive a few hours west to stay in a motel in the tiny city of Breaux Bridge, which happens to be the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” There we passed the storm for a few days. As a thirteen-year old, I did not understand the full ramifications of the disaster, but I recall learning a lot during that time period, including about the feeling of being in need. Upon seeing my mother cry in a bank parking lot, a complete stranger understood us to be evacuees and approached my mother wanting to share a few dollars. It was humbling to be on the receiving end of charity from that good Samaritan, but it was very much appreciated, and the experience will always be remembered.
Whether it is giving of one’s time, money, or actions, giving is such an important practice. The veterinary profession is one of many that have a giving value at its core. In the days after the storm, a huge number of volunteers came to the city to help injured and sick people and animals. The Audubon Zoo proved to be a near-impenetrable bulwark, and though it did sustain quite a bit of damage, it saw the deaths of only two river otters and one raccoon. However, the vast majority of animals in the city did not fare so well. Veterinarians and animal rescue volunteers truly gave of themselves in their relief work. They worked long and hard hours in unbearable heat and humidity to take care of abandoned and sickly dogs and cats. It was very meaningful for me to find out (almost ten years after the fact) that one of the vets at Tufts went there and spent several weeks in the Gentilly neighborhood offering aid to countless animals.
Hopefully, future tragedies like Katrina will be prevented, from human loss of life to animal welfare issues. It is comforting to know that legislation in the form of the PETS Act of 2006 allows people to bring along their animals during evacuations without fear of being denied accommodations. I would like to honor those volunteer workers and vets who, out of the goodness of their hearts, came to help the city’s animals in the aftermath of the storm.