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Response team cares for storm-tossed pets
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pets separated from their owners or injured in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are finding shelter at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Trained professionals and volunteers staff the shelter.
"People come first in an emergency, but there are animals that need help as a result of the hurricane," said Dr. Carla Huston, an assistant professor at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Mississippi Animal Response Team. "We will assist state veterinarian Dr. James Watson as long as we're needed."
The response team was formed about two years ago to support the state veterinarian in emergencies. The aftermath of Katrina is its first test.
Staff members at MSU's veterinary college loaded medical supplies Tuesday, Aug. 30 to take to the state veterinarian's shelter.
"The shelter at the coliseum serves as a place for people to bring injured animals they've found following the storm and for people displaced by the storm to bring their own sick or injured pets," Huston said. "We're seeing dogs and other animals in need of treatment for dehydration, cuts and other injuries."
One of the animals cared for at the shelter this week was an injured chihuahua whose owner fled the Gulf Coast with his wife and other family members.
"The dog was the only thing he brought from his home, which was destroyed by the hurricane," Huston said. "Having the pet is important in coping with the situation."
The response team includes 16 CVM faculty and staff members who will work in rotation at the coliseum site as long as they are needed. The state-wide team also includes volunteers from the State Board of Animal Health, humane societies, animal control officers and other agencies and organizations
Hart Bailey, a CVM associate professor, drove the supplies from the Starkville campus to Jackson Tuesday night in a 28-foot recreational trailer that serves as a mobile food safety and disaster response laboratory.
"There were already about 80 dogs at the shelter when I arrived," Bailey said. "A team from Florida also had arrived to help staff the facility."
Two days later, the number of animals at the shelter had grown to at least 200, including dogs, cats, birds, pigs and one goat, according to Dr. Brigid Elchos with the state veterinarian's office.
"The animals at the coliseum include a group evacuated from a shelter in Pass Christian," she said. "We're trying to do evaluations of animal needs in areas south of Jackson. We will go south as soon as we are able and possibly open a second shelter."
The trailer-based MSU laboratory will remain at the Jackson shelter to serve as a base for the Animal Response Team as long as it is needed.
"We have a supply cache on hand for use in this type of emergency," Huston said.
"We loaded the trailer with enough of everything from bandages and bleach to syringes to last a week to 10 days."
Contact: Dr. Carla Huston, (662) 325-1183