Katrina’s displaced pets find homes in Michigan – September 29, 2005

Katrina’s displaced pets find homes in Michigan

Milford Times staff writer

Some of the more helpless victims of Hurricane Katrina are getting new homes in Michigan, thanks in part to the efforts of an employee at Veterinary Care Specialists in Milford.

Liz Sherman, a veterinary technician from Veterinary Care Specialists, was among a group of volunteers from the metropolitan Detroit area who recently returned from a whirlwind trip to the hurricane-ravaged regions of the Deep South. Brought back to the Detroit area were 32 dogs and cats rescued by other volunteers and in need of new families. Sherman was accompanied for the earliest leg of the trip with a colleague from Veterinary Care Specialists, Ellie Robinson.

Their visit was the first of several planned for the next several weeks by volunteers to transport food, water and other supplies for displaced, surrendered and abandoned pets in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, help care for the animals down there and then bring a number of them back for placement.

And though virtually all of the dogs and cats from that initial group have been adopted, Sherman said plenty more are likely on their way up here and will need a new place to call home.

“These animals brought to the shelters down there – there was just nowhere (else) for them to go,” said Sherman. “We were glad to get all the food down there, then our big hope is to bring the animals back. There are so many of them that need homes.”

The latest figures estimate more than 50,000 animals were made homeless because of Hurricane Katrina, she said.

Sherman, a volunteer with the Michigan Animal Care Network and Michigan Animal Rescue League, spent Sept. 9 to 13 on her mission. Her journey was challenging and exhausting, she admits. Stops included an airport hangar in Jackson, Miss., to drop off six tons of donated pet food, the Equine Expo Center in Gonzalez, La., that’s been transformed into an animal shelter to house 4,000 animals, and the Arf Shelter in Mobile, Ala. Animals had to be detoxed because of their exposure to raw sewage and other bacteria; some were treated for mange. All were vaccinated. And as many as possible are eventually released for placement, once they are determined to be healthy.

Of course, there are little or no accommodations for the animal care volunteers, Sherman explains, noting that they “slept in the back of our trucks or cargo vans in the parking lots.”

But she certainly isn’t complaining. Sherman was determined to do what she could to help, and said the experience was both heartwarming and heart wrenching.

“It was like seeing both extremes,” she said. “You could feel the extra goodness in people, the dedication from those that were there to help. People down there are phenomenal, so many working so hard. But then there was the total opposite – the utter despair, the devastation. There are both things going on at the same time.”

Much of what her group transported south were donations collected at Veterinary Care Specialists. “I can’t say enough about Milford and Veterinary Care Specialists and (veterinarians) Peter Barnes and Judy Haas there. They’ve all been so wonderful, and the community has been so supportive with food, water, bowls, leashes, toys,” she said.

Sherman, though, shies away from taking credit for her work. “I just don’t feel like I’ve done enough. I would like to go back, and maybe I can finagle another trip in October, but for now I just feel fortunate that there are people who are committed to this.”

The biggest need right now, she said, is large vehicles that can be used to head south and bring the animals back, as well as donations for gasoline. “We’d really like to continue this as long as we can,” she said.

For more information on the rescue effort, contact the Michigan Animal Rescue League in Pontiac at (248) 335-9290.


Aileen Wingblad is a reporter for the Milford Times. She can be reached by phone at (248) 685-1507 ext. 22 or by e-mail at awingblad@gannett.com.

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