Today, at a jam-packed Animal Care Expo in New Orleans, The HSUS announced $1 million in grants to animal welfare groups, prisons, and vet schools to advance life-saving programs for pets in the Gulf Coast. The announcement is one part of our bigger, week-long, 10-year look-back on the transformational impact of Hurricane Katrina not only on disaster planning for animals in the region, but on animal welfare policies throughout the nation and the dramatic strengthening of the humane infrastructure in the Gulf Coast. We promised to leave the region better and stronger than it was before Katrina hit, and we’re delivering on that promise. It’s so exciting to see the changes throughout the Gulf Coast states.
Today’s grant recipients include:
- the Louisiana SPCA, which has just completed Phase II of its quest to construct one of the nation’s best animal care facilities, building upon its outstanding achievements in the wake of the disaster. We’ve made a $250,000 pledge, on top of about $4 million we’ve already donated to this important organization.
- the Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University shelter medicine programs, which directly support the care of companion animals at shelters throughout the region, and are introducing hundreds of new veterinarians to the sheltering community and giving these medical personnel practical experience that benefits both animals and people. We’ve committed $300,000 to each vet school, bringing our commitment to the two veterinary schools in the Gulf Coast to more than $1 million each.
- Pen Pals, Inc., of Jackson, Louisiana, which supports the nation’s only animal shelter operating behind prison walls, at the Dixon Correctional Institute, a direct result of a pioneering collaboration between The HSUS and the Louisiana Department of Corrections in the challenging days after Katrina struck. We’ve committed an additional $150,000, on top of more than $600,000 already donated to build a local pet shelter at the prison.
- Jefferson SPCA, a superb partner of the HSUS Pets for Life program in the region, which is bringing needed services to a once devastated community that is still recovering, in a model program directly inspired by some of the insights we gained as a result of follow-up work carried out after Katrina. We’ve committed $22,500, on top of $150,000 that we’ve worked with PetSmart Charities to deliver to this populous parish. The Jefferson SPCA Pets for Life program is one of about 25 communities selected across the nation to conduct this innovative work under HSUS guidance and mentorship.
Out of the wreckage and tumult and pain and death wrought by Katrina, we’ve seen a remarkable rebuilding and remaking of the humane movement. The legal framework against cruelty has been strengthened, consciousness and awareness has been raised, and the infrastructure for animals has been rebuilt. Today, at our welcome session, I showed a video of a man named Donald Harris, who was caught in the storm because he wouldn’t leave his dog behind. Donald and his dog, 10 years later, showed up to celebrate the incredible rescue mission and thank the organizers and rescuers for being there a decade ago, an amazing and heartwarming moment for all of us.
It’s exciting that this round of grant-making has taken place at the start of Animal Care Expo, the world’s preeminent conference for animal sheltering and rescue professionals and advocates. During this week, with 2,500 attendees, we’ll have animal advocates from about 40 countries in attendance, and it’s part of our commitment to teaching and re-energizing the leadership of the global animal protection movement.
Of course, Katrina was more than a regional event. It became a national rescue operation, and Americans opened their hearts to people and animals in distress. It’s forever changed our perceptions of the power of the human-animal bond, and it elevated the prestige and relevance of our great cause. We’re committed to turning that awareness into lasting change.