These lucky pets and people have already found each other again. The HSUS is doing all it can to match thousands of other pets and people who are still looking for their own happy reunion.

Dear Norma,

Today, The Humane Society of the United States will wind down operations at what was, just three weeks ago, the largest emergency animal shelter in modern history. Closing our temporary facility at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales ends a major chapter in the dramatic first phase of our massive response to Hurricane Katrina -- the animal rescue phase -- and allows us to move on to the next crucial steps of reunification and rebuilding.

The HSUS is still on the ground in the region, and we will be there for animals and shelters along the Gulf Coast for months and years to come. But today I want to update you on what we've accomplished so far. And I want to personally thank you for standing with us during one of the most challenging periods in our 51-year history.

Here is what we've accomplished over the past six weeks (watch our video and slideshow, too):

The HSUS helped rescue more than 8,200 stranded pets and other animals across the region. On some days, more than 50 separate animal rescue teams traveled by boat, by truck, or on foot -- literally breaking down doors to reach stranded pets. At its peak, our emergency shelter in Gonzales housed nearly 2,000 animals, and more than 300 veterinarians, sheltering professionals, and volunteers attended to their needs. Our facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, saw nearly 2,400 animals come through its gates. While some lucky pets were reunited with their caregivers at our emergency shelters, most were transported to animal shelters across the nation to make room for more rescued animals. The last 94 pets at the Gonzales facility were airlifted to Los Angeles on Monday.

Video and Pictures
Responding to Katrina (3:00)
Windows Media | Real Player
Bringing Them Back Home
View Slideshow

We've helped reunite more than 800 rescued pets with the people who love them. While our rescue phase is winding down, our reunion phase continues in earnest -- and we've pledged, with the ASPCA, to pay whatever costs are necessary to transport animals to be reunited with their owners, wherever they may be. Even as you read this, more than 40 HSUS staff and a cadre of volunteers are working feverishly to match lost pets with their caregivers. With most pets now safely housed at animal shelters and in foster homes across the country, the challenge is formidable. But we will not stop until we've exhausted every lead.

At our Disaster Call Center, we've fielded more than 45,000 calls -- including thousands from frantic pet owners urging our disaster teams to rescue their animals in the stricken areas. Disaster teams on the ground used these call center reports to locate and rescue stranded animals. Today, our call center continues to be the primary point of contact for many people looking to reunite with their animals.

We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with many groups in the affected areas. I was inspired by the other national and local groups we worked with, by the hundreds of animal care and control professionals who generously volunteered their time in often harsh conditions, and by the dozens of animal shelters and placement groups nationwide that opened their doors to Katrina's pets. I was also heartened by the outpouring of support we received from corporations and the artistic community. And in one of the most inspiring examples of cooperation, the Dixon Correctional Institute became a hero to Katrina's pets; in a joint program with The HSUS, the prison housed some 200 animals in a converted dairy barn on the property.

We joined forces with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to create the Katrina Pet Wellness Program, which provides financial assistance for basic veterinary wellness checkups of pets displaced by the storm. Managed through the AAHA Helping Pets Fund, the program offers reimbursement to veterinary practices of up to $125 per pet for several basic treatments. Thousands of pets and their caregivers are eligible.

Show your support by using this HSUS Disaster Relief stamp on your snail mail. Order a sheet at

We're leading the way to change public policy to ensure that, in future disasters, people are never forced to leave behind their beloved pets. We are lobbying for the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act), which would require state and local authorities to include pets and service animals in their disaster evacuation plans. (If you haven't yet contacted your U.S. Representative about this bill, please click here.) We're also urging the Department of Homeland Security to establish a policy that would enable multiple federal agencies to help animals in disasters.

Finally, we've committed our organization to help rebuild the animal sheltering and protection capacity of the Gulf Coast region. We joined with the ASPCA in contributing a combined total of $5 million to the Katrina Shelter Reconstruction Fund, and hope to persuade corporations and other groups to help bring that total to $15 million.

Most recently, we've worked hand-in-hand with the Louisiana SPCA to set up a temporary animal shelter in New Orleans, a facility that will meet the animal care and control needs of the city until the organization can build a more permanent shelter. In addition, we've donated or pledged more than $500,000 to local organizations either affected by the disaster or assisting with the relief effort.

It's hard for me to adequately convey to you the sheer breadth of our disaster response, the chaotic nature and enormous challenges we faced in meeting a crisis of Katrina's magnitude, and the incredible personal sacrifices that disaster responders made to help the hurricane's victims. On behalf of all the staff and volunteers of The Humane Society of the United States, please accept my most heartfelt thanks for your support during this crisis.


Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

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