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Humane Society helps pets displaced by Katrina

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
In an effort to aid in the sheltering of animals displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, members of the Escambia County Humane Society traveled to parts of Mississippi last week.
Renee Jones, director and cruelty investigator with the Humane Society, along with Janet Beall and Kristy Lambeth, arrived back in Brewton Thursday after spending nearly a week in Jackson and Hattiesburg. Led by the Humane Society of the United States, the three women helped other volunteers set up "pet friendly" shelters and staging shelters for animals being evacuated from the coastal areas.
The shelters were placed at the fairgrounds in Jackson next to the coliseum where hurricane evacuees were temporarily living. The "pet friendly" shelters allow pet owners to stay with their animals. Jones said the owners would often come by and feed their animals, and some owners would stay all day at the staging area while some even pitched in.
Jones said that a hurricane evacuee from New Orleans, Catherine Lasom, had two dogs and three cats with her.
She said that Lasom had told her she was pretty sure her home had been destroyed. Another man also stayed all day long with his two dogs.
Jones said that her group was fortunate enough to arrive in Jackson just as power got back in areas. When she arrived, she said that some of the volunteers had been sleeping on bags of dog food at times because they didn't know what to expect when they first arrived.
Working long hours that began at 7 a.m. and lasted until 12 a.m. sometimes, volunteers were also attempting to clear out animal shelters that still had any animals, as well as round up stray, loose and roaming animals and place them in the "pet friendly" shelters.
Jones said that while they were in Jackson, an animal shelter holding at least 300 animals in Gulfport, Miss. had flood. She said that 90 dogs and 35 cats came from the shelter were saved and placed in the shelter in Jackson. The animals that were not rescued from the animal shelter had drowned.
The animals that came out of the floodwaters had to be decontaminated, Jones said. VMAT was in charge of the initial decontamination process that involved two baths. The remaining helpers were involved in the second bath.
Some of the animals that were moved from an animal shelter to the "pet friendly" shelter were later relocated to shelters in Birmingham and New York.
After staying in Jackson for four days, Jones and her team moved to Hattiesburg where they set up another "pet friendly" shelter. When she had left, the shelter was operating and was not quite full.
The three women brought back three dogs with them - an American Eskimo, a Golden Retriever and a Border Collie. The Border Collie, she said, was believed to have been owned.
She said that a women traveling from the coast around Biloxi came into the shelter with the Border Collie. She said it had taken her three days to get to Jackson because of the gas situation and had not talked to any of her family yet to tell them she was alive.
The day the woman left the dog showed up at her doorstep with tags on and was dropping it off at the shelter for help. Jones said the tags have come from a vet in Florida and they are in the process of tracking down the owner.
Jones said that she plans to return to Hattiesburg, alone, where she will relieve some of the other workers. Due to the ongoing process, the Escambia County Humane Society will not be taking any donations.