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Shelter from the storm

Maloney
Laura Maloney and one of the pups she rescued after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Steve Majors

They are the lost victims of Katrina -- dogs, cats and even birds who had no shelter from the storm. Ten months later, they are still being found on the streets of New Orleans -- some are filthy, emaciated, and starved for human contact. The woman whose staff and volunteers have rescued thousands of them is Laura Maloney. I met her recently while researching a different story on custody disputes over pets. She informed me, though, that there's a much bigger story to be told about the fate of pets and their owners since Katrina.

Maloney is considered to be one of the heroes of Katrina. According to historian Doug Brinkley's book, "The Great Deluge," she carried out a complicated plan to tag, cage and safely transport hundreds of shelter pets to Houston just hours before the storm. Brinkley wonders why a city with many more resources failed to do the same for its sickest, oldest and poorest residents. Today, Maloney shrugs off that comparison. She only knows she had a responsibilty to save her animals. And she did.

Her focus now is on helping traumatized pets find new homes. But she and her staff spend just as much time counseling and consoling pet owners who come to the shelter. Many struggle with sadness and guilt after losing their pets in the storm. Maloney's job is to connect grieving humans with grieving pets. The new bond eases the pain for both. But there is still more work for her.

Thousands of animals drowned, starved or died of disease in the days after the storm. In the rush to evacuate and then save stranded citizens, they were left behind. Maloney estimates that with the help of groups from across the country, she rescued 8,500 pets from the floodwaters. But Maloney says many more could have been saved, if only their owners had made plans. And so that is why she is already preparing for the next storm, should it come.

Cat In the past few months she's helped lobby for the passage of a statewide pet evacuation bill. And she's educating residents about how they can find safe shelters for their cats and dogs. Maloney hopes that next time, she's not characterized as the one-woman saviour of cats and dogs. She'd prefer every owner to be a hero and save their own.

As she cuddled in her arms a post-Katrina puppy, born in the streets of New Orleans, she told me the story of another Katrina dog named Lassie. Lassie was being fostered in a home in Maryland after the hurricane. A few month's ago, Lassie's owner came forward and the reunion finally occurred last week in a scene worthy of a Technicolor classic. Lassie came home. Maloney says it was an emotional moment for everyone.

She hopes the other orphaned pets in her care get the same kind of homecoming. But for now, she'll watch over her Noah's Ark of animals with the knowledge that they at least will always have shelter from a storm.

To learn more or find ways that you can help, visit www.la-spca.org.

Read more from NBC's Gulf Coast recovery files, Steve Majors

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COMMENTS

This is my second posting here, and I hope that folks get a chance to read it. I'm Barbara Cater - who's dogs, Buddy and Allie were located a few months following the storm. I'm always disturbed when I read complaints re: the things that DIDN'T go right following Katrina. Please remember that there was no plan in effect prior to the storm, yet masses of volunteers were able to travel to the region and rescue thousands and thousands of animals. Tragically, so few were reuninted with their original owners. Had it not been for Rita threatening the area, I think that there would have been more success. I was fortunate that I had access to a computer and the freedom to use it 24-7. I didn't give up. The SPCA was only the first step in locating my pets. There were other agencies involved and I had several people also doing searches for me. (I landed in a small town and a group of animal lovers volunteered. What I'm trying to say is that Laura Malony was and is not an angel. She's only a human being that went far and beyond the call of duty in a situation that would have crushed most. She fought hard and tirelessly because this has always been her passion, and she continues to do so today. There are many others out there that join her in the fight, and many positions yet to fill. No matter where you are today, there is some way that you can help out a four legged friend. You don't have to save the world...just help in a small way. For those who weren't as lucky as I...You will always grieve. But try to find room in your heart if you can to love another animal. Remember also that many, many of the Katrina animals whose owners weren't able to locate them are now in happy homes loving their happy humans.

August 6, 2006

Thank you Laura Maloney! I am a Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, La. My family now resides in the state of Texas.

We are grateful and are "beyond" the thoughts of those who do not appreciate our feelings.

Dedicated rescuers such as yourself and Jane Garrison have given us the additional support that we needed to carry on in search of our lost pets Beauty, Buster, Baby and Lady.

Never forget our helpless animals who were left behind in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Keep hope alive. Make hope one big heartbeat away.. from those who need us!

Faithful Pathfinder
Beverly Guilford Bedder
One Woman One Voice Enterprises

Laura Maloney is my daughter. I am extremely proud of all of her accomplishments. During and after the storm, Laura,,and approximately ten of her employees from the LASPCA resided in my home in Prairieville, La.

They left my home before dawn each morning, and returned from New Orleans late at night. They spent the days rescuing animals in New Orleans and caring for the rescued animals in Gonzales, La. The enormity of the rescue operation at the Dixon Center in Gonzales, LA. looked, in magnitude, like the POW scene from "Gone With The Wind"; there were literally thousands of animals of every type being fed and treated for all manner of ills and injuries.

They worked seven days a week. Never have I seen a more tireless, committed and dedicated group of individuals.

Any individuals taking issue with their conduct and or performance during the deluge, need a reality or sanity check.

When we arrived in New Orleans to help, we saw LASPCA feeding stations all over town giving live-saving food and water to pets stranded on the streets of New Orleans. I was constantly amazed at the organization, teamwork and volunteer spirit must have been necessary to accomplish such a feat. Credit is due Laura Maloney for sure. Her message is an important one, reflected in this article, that each person should have an evacuation plan that includes their family pets. Those who didn't experience the storm and its aftermath directly have little concept of the toll on animal victims of the storm and flooding. The media covered the human drama and then seemed to pull up stakes and move on. Meanwhile the animal rescue efforts were picking up steam. Brave rescuers from around the country, under the direction of the LASPCA, made many sacrifices to save as many animals as possible. A new ground-breaking film, Dark Water Rising: The Truth About Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues, documents the impact on animals and the heroic rescue effort. It is important for the general public to understand what happened, and this film is the "smoking gun" that lays out the human failures that caused so much animal suffering. Check out the trailer at www.darkwaterrising.com.

Bear with me for posting again--but I have just finished reading Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, which as you mentioned opens with Laura Maloney's beautiful story. Hers is but the first of many inspiring acts of heroism in the face of great danger both natural and manmade.

Much in the book is disturbing--but that was reality during the catastrophe. The failures, bickering and blame game at all governmental and systemic levels made the disaster in Louisiana far worse than it could have been. Not to mention such poignant human tragedies as the fact that ailing elderly people who, unable to withstand the pain of being uprooted from homes in which they'd lived for years and the stress of their exodus, ended up "passing." Or, worse, helpless patients who, not having been evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes, ended up perishing in hot, watery graves.

One comes away after reading The Great Deluge humbled by the strength and resilience of the Louisiana and Mississippi survivors in the face of drastic privations, not to mention the bravery of such groups as the Cajun Navy and the NOLA homeboys. Indeed, they should be as celebrated for their New Orleans rescues as New York firefighters are for what they did during 9/11. Their courage is the sort that has made America great.

It is heartbreaking to wonder how--and why--10 months later their harrowing experience could have been so easily forgotten that the media have turned off the cameras and stopped telling their stories--even though their struggles and traumas are ongoing and still merit regular news coverage.

The Great Deluge should be required reading for anyone thinking Katrina is old news and it's time to move on, and wondering why Americans still should care. Because people in Louisiana and Mississippi cannot "move on," and Katrina, for them, will never be old news.

Laura,

My name is Glenda Smith and I met you at the HSUS conference a few weeks ago. At that time I explained to you that I have been searching for my little Jack Russell Terrier Max for 10 months who was stolen from Lamar Dixon on or about the 10th or 11th of Sept. I have to say that your lack of compassion and understanding really surprised me. I'm not really sure of the part that the LASPCA played in the mess at Lamar Dixon and I'm working hard to find this information. But when I spoke to you at the conference not only did you not offer to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to help me in my search it just seemed that you didn't care. Don't you realize that there are many of us that search everyday for ours pets. Your cold and callous attitude just make me wonder how you can be in the position that you are and that you are doing NOTHING to help reunite us with our lost and in my case STOLEN pets. All I can say is shame on you and I will continue to search and one day I will find Max without your help. I've often donated money to the SPCA but I will NEVER give another dime to the SPCA or the HSUS, if I had any doubts about that not doing so before after meeting with you and seeing and hearing all that I saw at the conference, it's all about the almighty dollar.

THANK GOD for you! Please keep up the fantastic work!

Perhaps it is time that the journalists give some attention to the many other individuals and groups who worked so hard after the storm to rescue animals.
Laura Maloney put in effort to rescue animals, but also put in a great deal of effort to hinder the efforts of independent rescuers and blasted a lot of misleading information on television reports. During the month of October, 2005, she claimed that most of the animals had been cleared off the streets when there is ample evidence that thousands of animals remain stranded months later. Just check the hundreds of kittens that are being sent to shelters each day. She also disparaged eforts to provide food and water for stranded pets left on the street, by erroneously claiming the only animals left to eat the food were rodents. Again, check the shelters for hundreds of kittens being born to thin, sickly cats, not rats.

I THINK SHE AND HER HELPERS ARE THE PEPOLE THAT DO MAKE LIFE WOURTH LIVEING.BECAUSE THAY CARE. GOD BLESS THEM.

As I was evacuated (rescued) from my home late on the day of the storm, I was forced to leave my beloved 2 dogs behind. I left them in the attic with lots of food and water and a hole chopped through the roof in case they had to swim out. It was absolutely heartbreaking...but I had no choice. I was taken to the Dome, which was no place for pets, of course. Apparently, the animals somehow made it to the St. Claude bridge near my home and were turned over to the SPCA there on the 29th. Were it not for this effort by Laura and her team, I probably would have never been able to locate them. They were assigned an ID number that followed each one through the journey. Unfortunately, they became separated and records were spotty due to the Rita chaos, but eventually Buddy's pic showed up on Petfinder.com 3 mos. later. Then I found my Allie 2 weeks after that! God bless you, Laura, and your crew. We are now happily together in North Texas...working very hard on animal issues...and also fostering for a rescue and rehab program.

Laura,
I often wondered what happened to all the pets left behind after katrina. You have a heart of gold. It's nice to know that there are still people in this world that care enough to go all out. Thanks you Laura, for giving me hope, that just maybe there are more Laura's out there.

If anyone deserves recognition for their dedication to a worthy cause it is this amazing woman! I would have NEVER left the raging flood waters without our Siamese Scarlet O'Hara, our ginger tabby, Simba the Lion King and our precious teacup poodle,Ally McBeal. Now, just think what could be accomplished if we elect a woman like Laura Maloney as president of the United States!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing such difficult but vital work. Thank you for recognizing the value of each precious little life; thank you for having such compassion for those who cannot take care of themselves.

May the destruction wrought by our current policies serve to motivate each American to insist on evacuation plans for pets, too. It's the only humane thing to do -- both for animals, and for the humans who love them.

Laura...some angels have wings...and although you look very much like the rest of us, you are indeed an angel. Your wings will be waiting for you and they will be larger and more beautiful than most!

Robert

I'm not as familiar as I should be but I know my state (CT) legislature is drafting a bill to require cities & towns to designate specific shelters to bring your animals in the event of a disaster. You and other human family members will be in the same building though separated. The owners supply crate, food, medicines, and lots of love to get you and your pet through this stressful time.

CT has also initiated a State (small) Animal Response Team and will have 2 - 24 foot trailers as deployable shelters transported to the disaster site. This was modeled after one developed in NC after a hurricane.

And they say "one person can't make a difference?" This proves that statement wrong. If we all tried individually, just as Laura did, what a difference we could make.... Take note Washington; maybe a little more compassion should be on the agenda first!! Thanks for all your hard work, Laura!!

I echo what my fellow Peorian, Olivia, says above----We recently lost our beloved dog of many years, and in our search for another "life-friend", came across legions of folks who realize how wonderful and sustaining our pets are, by providing shelter and safety for them. God bless them all, and Ms. Maloney in particular. :))

More people should have the compassion this young women has displayed. My 4 cats are my children and I would have been devastated to have to leave them behind. Pets are not things like a book or a chair. Keep up the good work. Remember what goes around, comes around:)

I hope Laura Maloney succeeds in getting Louisiana's pet evacuation bill enacted--and that such an idea spreads to all other states. It's marvelous what she's been doing to re-unite pets and their people--while there were many sad things about Katrina, one of the sadder ones was people who either reluctantly left their animal companions behind, or refused to go to shelters because pets aren't allowed in them. I hope her every success at all she's doing.

Animal companions are true healers, and it's time for authorities to recognize that they're not mere pieces of property, but family members. Leaving one's dog or cat behind during a storm would be as distressing a thing to do as leaving a child behind.

Is there any way to reunite rescued pets with their owners who have not returned to the hurricane struck areas? Our daughter,in Waveland Mississippi, needs to get two cats to her mother-in-law, who has gone to California.

Bless the beasts and the children. And bless Laura Maloney for her deep compassion towards these animals. I wish, in my heart that I could feel the same way about our President, FEMA, the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans. Imagine, if they had the same type of forthought, concern and planning as Laura did, perhaps the story would have unfolded differently. I think there's a kind of love that's missing in the world today. It's the type of "mother love" that Laura Maloney has shown to these animals. Imagine if our leaders exercised the same type of love through their own behavior, and in the choices they make for the American people. Just imagine.

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