At Least One-Hundred-Thousand Cats and Dogs Were Killed by Katrina Along the Gulf Coast
Katrina conjures up so many vivid mental images: Mother Nature's unrelenting wrath; the huddled masses inside the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center; an old folks home being abandoned and its residents left to die alone; policemen stripping off their uniforms and deserting their posts; prison inmates left to fend for themselves as toxic floodwater quickly rose to their chins; the Red Cross collecting millions of dollars in donations and, in a repeat performance of its unscrupulous conduct in the aftermath of nine-one-one, refusing to spend it on the needy; and, the total lack of any genuine concern or sympathy for the victims by President George Bush, FEMA, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
As far as it is known, the storm claimed more than 1,300 lives along the Gulf Coast and more than one-thousand children remain unaccounted for almost four months later. Eighty per cent of the residents of the Crescent City remain scattered throughout the country in homeless shelters, motel rooms, and mobile homes while real estate pirates, aided and abetted by FEMA and local officials, foreclose on their derelict homes and post eviction notices on their rental units. Soon the bulldozers will be brought in and the capitalists will have accomplished thanks to Mother Nature what they had been unable to achieve through all of their prior machinations: a tabula rasa of the poor and untold billions for themselves.
Writing in the December 14th edition of the World Socialist, Kate Randall put it all into perspective: "Some 100 years ago San Francisco was rebuilt from the rubble of the great earthquake. Thirty-five years prior to that, Chicago was resurrected after the catastrophic fire of 1871. But in the twenty-first century, the decay and parasitism of American capitalism are such that no similar effort is to be made to save New Orleans." In fact, were it not for the intervention of a conscientious federal judge, many of the evacuees would have been tossed out of their motel rooms before Christmas.
It is therefore not surprising that amidst so much human misery that the harsh toll exacted from the animals of the Gulf Coast has all but been forgotten. The San Francisco Chronicle in a November 29th story entitled "The Dogs of New Orleans" estimates that Katrina claimed the lives of around 100,000 cats and dogs. Only 8,500 pets have so far been rescued and of these a minuscule 1,200 have been reunited with their owners. This is in spite of the fact that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Louisiana SPCA have received more than $40 million in donations! The accounts of these organizations, like those of the Red Cross, need to be audited by an outside agency. In addition to the cats and dogs, thousands of farm animals (horses, cows, pigs, etc.), birds, fish, small mammals, and zoo animals were killed either directly by Katrina or from its aftereffects (pollution and a lack of food, water, and care). The ordeal of having been abandoned by their owners and left to fend for themselves in the toxic squalor of post-Katrina New Orleans was perhaps even more traumatic -- and certainly more deadly -- for them than their human counterparts.
Mary Jarman Karr (See top photo of her hugging an amorous cat named Bubba) of Woodinville, Washington, a small but wealthy suburb of 9,000 inhabitants 21 kilometers from Seattle, is one woman who is making a difference in the lives of Katrina's cats. The forty-nine-year-old technology worker just spent seven weeks in the Big Easy rescuing domestic and feral cats. With the aid of a climate-controlled semi-truck lent to her by the HSUS, she recently returned to Woodinville with twenty-eight domestic and thirty-five feral cats as well as two puppies. The Dandelion Dog Rescue in Forks (176 kilometers from Woodinville in Clallam County), which also has a feral cat colony, took in all of the cats except seven which Karr has held on to in addition to the two puppies. The second photo from the top is of her and Trickster, a playful five-year-old, declawed orange and white male. The picture directly below Trickster on the left is of a sickly cat known simply as Pneumonia Kitty while the photograph below it on the right is of a mischievous one-year-old feral male named Charger. The photo at the bottom of the page is of a homeless dog on the run in New Orleans.
Commenting upon the dire straits in which feral cats found themselves in the wake of Katrina, Karr told The Seattle Times in its December 9th edition, "They are the stepchildren of animal welfare. They have very few advocates, but they're living beings, too, and deserve a chance to survive. Now there is no one in New Orleans to create the garbage they used to eat or warm the houses they used to hide beneath. Besides, the ground is so toxic, most will eventually get sick and die. So they do need help to survive."
Dr. Terri Schneider of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine said it best when she declared that "All of these cats deserve to be well cared for; they can't help where they were born and how they were displaced."
As for Karr, her sojourn in the Big Easy has been a life-changing event and she plans to quit her current job and become a veterinary technician. "It (the trip) really taught me what's important in life," she added.
Photos: John Lok, The Seattle Times (cats) and Sean Gardner, San Francisco Chronicle (dog).