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Pets (and people) prepare to flee Hurricane Gustav

August 30, 2008 |  4:38 pm

Evacuating_animals_before_gustav_hi

As Hurricane Gustav moves closer to the Gulf Coast states, many in its path are determined to help pets and livestock avoid the fate that befell tens of thousands of animals that died in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reports on efforts to ensure the safety of Louisiana's pets:

State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said pet shelters for animal owners with "critical transportation needs" are ready for service during the Hurricane Gustav evacuation....

Strain stressed that the pet shelters are not "stop and drop" facilities. "Pet ownership is a personal responsibility," he said. "Once you get your pet to a shelter you will be expected to provide care for your dogs and cats during your evacuation."

The Louisiana SPCA is evacuating animals, as seen in the photograph above, and working with other states' shelters, including the SPCA of Texas. In the meantime, university students are traveling to Shreveport, La., to attend to evacuated pets. The University of Louisiana news service reports:

On Friday, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security issued a request to the state, asking for volunteers to work at a pet evacuation shelter, located on the Shreveport Fairgrounds. Volunteers will work 10- to 12-hour shifts today and possibly in the future. The request is in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav, which is expected to reach Louisiana early next week.

Authorities report that the hurricane, south of Cuba this afternoon, is a Category 4 storm and is growing toward a Category 5. That means that people, as well as animals, are leaving places such as New Orleans. Times staff writer David Zucchino reports:

In cars, buses and trains, thousands of people fled New Orleans and its outlying parishes this morning as Hurricane Gustav bore down on the Gulf Coast.

Cars packed with children, suitcases and pet carriers jammed roadways leading north and west out of the city. Downtown, thousands more lined up in the morning heat, toting backpacks and plastic bags of food as they waited to board buses and trains to shelters in northern Louisiana and neighboring states....

The latest forecasts called for the storm to make landfall just west of New Orleans as early as Monday, but forecasters cautioned that Gustav could strike anywhere along the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida early next week.

-- Alice Short

Photo: Associated Press

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