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Pets find haven

Inside a cage at the Houston Humane Society Thursday morning, a mother cat slept with her four kittens.

BY HEATHER MOYER | HOUSTON, Texas | September 8, 2005

Inside a cage at the Houston Humane Society Thursday morning, a mother cat slept with her four kittens.

A Hurricane Katrina survivor found the abandoned cats along a road in New Orleans and grabbed them on his way out to Houston last week. The lucky feline survivors are now healthy again and enjoying their new home at the shelter.

The shelter is loud with the frequent barks and meows of its residents, which could almost symbolize the rapid pace of the Houston Humane Society (HHS) staff since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

"It's been very busy," said a smiling Courtney Frank, the HHS public relations officer. The HHS is offering free medical care for the pets of Hurricane Katrina survivors in Houston, including shots, spaying and neutering, and also micro-chipping. Free boarding is available as well.

"This gives the families a chance get back on their feet while not having to worry about their pets," explained Frank.

The HHS staff is also busy contacting shelters in the hurricane-affected areas of Louisiana to see who needs help moving and caring for animals. "In many cases we were the first to call these agencies," said Frank.

Frank said the HHS shelter is currently above capacity, but donations of kennels and fencing are helping them expand to handle the influx of animals. Most of the animals were the ones who lived there before Hurricane Katrina, but there is a small population of boarded and rescued animals from Louisiana. They expect more as they continue to assist the shelters in Louisiana.

The generosity from across the nation has been amazing, said Frank. Two shelters from Chicago and Toronto offered to help take on some of the pets that lived at the shelter before Katrina struck. "The best thing for us is to take the animals we already have," Frank explained.

But locals are dropping by to offer assistance as well. Just that same morning a father and daughter came in to drop off a supply of peroxide and rubbing alcohol for the shelter's veterinarian. The two then asked about holding a fundraiser for the HHS at their hardware store.

"People have been very generous," she said. "We've gotten funds, pet food, fencing and more."

Volunteers are also pouring into the shelter to help walk dogs, play with the animals and field the many phone calls. Frank said donations of time, supplies and funding will be welcome for a long time to come.

And the HHS isn't just helping animals. Besides the rescue of the mother cat and her kittens, another amazing success story involves one of the Hurricane Katrina's human survivors who had been evacuated to Houston from New Orleans.

"We just hired a new adoptions manager from New Orleans," said Frank. "She had worked for the (Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in New Orleans. Our own adoptions manager had just left last week, and so we hired this new woman on the spot. It's amazing how things just fall into place like that."

The Humane Society of the United State (HSUS) is busy caring for animals within the disaster zones of Louisiana and Mississippi. So far more than 1,000 animals have been rescued in both states in a massive operation using both HSUS responders combined with local and state emergency officials who are still rescuing people from rooftops in some areas.

"I don’t think that there is anything that can compare to this disaster for animals,” said David Pauli, HSUS regional director, in a news release. “This rescue mission will set the standard by which all responders will be trained for future disasters."

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