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October 09, 2007

Shoring Up Animal Care After Katrina

Yesterday was a day of hope in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. I appeared with top officials from the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine to hatch plans to develop an emergency pet shelter and veterinary clinic at the Dixon Correctional Institute. Later in the day, I met with officials from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry about collaborating on disaster plans for the state.

Maddie's Fund logoToday I met with another set of remarkable people—including leaders of more than 20 local humane society and animal care organizations throughout Louisiana. At the beautiful new campus of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals this morning, I joined Rich Avanzino, president of Maddie’s Fund, to announce an unprecedented distribution of funds to tackle the animal overpopulation challenge in the Gulf Coast states.

Together, Maddie's and The HSUS are releasing grants totaling $852,500 to 54 animal care and control entities in Louisiana and Mississippi. They are all partners in our "After Katrina" project—a concerted effort to reduce the number of animals taken in by the region’s shelters. Maddie's has committed about $1 million to The HSUS for the "After Katrina" project, and we could not be more thrilled about partnering with them. Maddie's wants to see a day when no healthy and adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized, and that's a goal we at The HSUS share. 

It was my honor to join Rich—who has one of the finest minds in the entire humane movement—in presenting checks today to 23 different organizations and agencies working in Louisiana. I met old friends and made some new ones, all of whom are working hard and under difficult circumstances to help animals in communities where, in many cases, broad public participation and awareness have been lacking. The folks at Maddie’s agreed with us that the grants should be unrestricted, so that these entities could determine for themselves what their most urgent needs were, and apply the funds as they thought best. I was thrilled to learn about some of the intended uses of the grants.

Staff and dog at Louisiana's St. Martin Parish Animal Control
© The HSUS/Cammisa
Louisiana's St. Martin Parish Animal Control
is part of the "After Katrina" project.

We’ll follow up this capacity-building effort with a social marketing campaign designed to boost adoptions and promote spaying and neutering in the two states. The HSUS plans to invest $2 million in the promotions phase of this campaign. We are doing public attitude research now, and we'll use what we learn to drive home an advertising and marketing message that will resonate most powerfully with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and seek to influence their behavior. The goal is to promote spaying and neutering and to promote adoptions of homeless animals from shelters.

As part of this collaboration, we’re asking participating shelter and animal control facilities to track the number of animals they handle, an effort that will give us a better picture of what animal overpopulation looks like in the Gulf Coast states. This marks a very tangible application of the Asilomar principles developed by Maddie’s Fund, The HSUS and other groups in 2004.

The animal overpopulation problem forces humane organizations to choose between awful options—euthanizing animals or turning homeless animals away. If we can control the overpopulation problem by limiting reproduction and driving adoptions, we save lives. And we free up these institutions to focus on their broader mission of helping animals in their communities. With thousands of animals teeming into their facilities every year, it’s hard for them to concentrate their energies on humane education, promoting good veterinary care, cracking cruelty cases, and building a body of law to protect all animals.

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