Hurricane Ida shows animal rescue more organized now

Leonor Wertheimer

NEW ORLEANS — Animal rescue teams have been working for days rounding up injured animals and abandoned pets after Hurricane Ida forced evacuations and left more than a million customers in the city without power.

Deborah MacDonald and Andy Seltz with the Michigan Humane’s Animal Search and Rescue team came from Detroit to help. The group is specially trained to conduct rescues during disasters.

Four teams were out in the city for several days, responding to calls, collecting whatever animals they can and taking them to shelters and getting them the care they need.

On one day alone, the teams made 77 runs, MacDonald said.

“Everybody was making trips back to the shelter, back to the shelter,” she said.

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Despite the high number of calls of abandoned or injured cats and dogs, animal rescue has become more streamlined in recent years.

“There’s a lot more structure to response now,” MacDonald said. “We’re not randomly breaking in houses because we hear something bark. And that’s what we saw in Katrina. Animals that didn’t need to be removed were removed and they never got reunited with their owners.

Vice President of Field Services for Michigan Humane Andy Seltz, 44, of Howell, Michigan, left, climbs a sub-roof of a condo to do a welfare check on a dog, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, that was called in as his teammate Director of State Wide Response for Michigan Humane Deborah MacDonald, 59, of Ferndale, Michigan. carries a bag of dog food to distribute through a window. The duo traveled to Louisiana to work as a highly trained animal search and rescue team helping to feed and or secure displaced or abandoned pets left behind from Hurricane Ida.

“That’s just too sad. They’ve been through too much to lose their animals.”

A lot of shelters evacuate ahead of a storm now, MacDonald said, but the animals keep coming.

Seltz said the teams work through a list of non-emergency calls, but if an immediate need arises, the calls get pushed back to handle the emergency first. Prioritizing response calls is much easier now.

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