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Friday, September 9, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pasado's sends volunteers to rescue stranded pets

Seattle Times staff reporter

Information


Humane Society for Seattle/King County is coordinating resources to help animals hurt by Hurricane Katrina, and is among several groups taking donations.

The Humane Society for Seattle/King County:

www.seattlehumane.org

American Humane Association: www.americanhumane.org

The Humane Society of the United States: www.hsus.org

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: www.aspca.org

Petfinder:

www.petfinder.com/disaster

State Animal Response Teams: www.ncsart.org

Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams: www.vmat.org

Pasado's Safe Haven is also taking cash donations. It is asking for cash, mattresses, blankets, pillows and boats. Whatever is given to the group will go directly to its rescue effort:

www.pasadosafehaven.org

Monroe veterinarian Dana Bridges will be stuffing her pockets with beef jerky after she lands in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday, in hopes of earning the trust of dehydrated, hurt and terrified pets stranded after Hurricane Katrina.

Bridges, 40, will be part of the third wave of rescue workers heading to Louisiana with Sultan-based Pasado's Safe Haven. Another team of eight volunteers will leave Seattle tonight; all of the volunteers have a history of helping the nonprofit animal-rescue group.

Pasado's teams are armed with lists of addresses in and around New Orleans where evacuees said they left their pets, said Mark Steinway, co-founder of the animal-welfare organization. Volunteers will break windows and force their way into homes if necessary.

"Our real fear is if a dog or cat is too weak to meow or bark, they [rescuers] might pass it by," said Susan Michaels, Steinway's wife and Pasado's other co-founder. "That's why we're going in."

Earlier this week, 15 volunteers — including a veterinarian, a Seattle police officer and a Microsoft systems analyst — traveled from Seattle to Houston. The group then drove to Raceland, La., where the Pasado's relief effort is based.

The volunteers will take boats through the flooded streets of Jefferson Parish, southwest of New Orleans, this morning in search of stranded animals, Steinway said. He spoke from a makeshift shelter set up at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

"Things are really sort of chaotic down here," Steinway said. "We just got a report of a house with 80 cats in it."

Steinway said a worker with a large national animal-rescue organization told him many stranded dogs in New Orleans are feeding on human remains. He said he was told that if the dogs weren't rescued within three days, authorities might shoot them to protect the remains.

While Steinway says he hasn't seen the stranded animals yet, more than 1,000 had been rescued in New Orleans as of yesterday morning: Dogs. Cats. Rabbits. Iguanas. Chinchillas. Even an albino python.

Rescuers captured flocks of birds, ranging from parrots to parakeets. They even rescued a 300-pound pig Wednesday, said Warren Craig of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Pasado's volunteers have set up their own animal hospital on a 100-acre horse ranch in Raceland. The property was donated by a Louisiana attorney, Michaels said. Raceland, about 45 miles south of New Orleans, didn't suffer heavy damage in the storm. It has functioning showers, toilets and electricity, she said.

Michaels said animals rescued by Pasado's volunteers will be treated in Raceland, then taken to the massive Gonzales shelter — home to animals abandoned across Louisiana — to live until they are reclaimed or adopted. Rescuers won't be bringing the animals back to Washington, although Michaels said she's been inundated with calls from local people who want to adopt the strays.

There could be as many as 50,000 animals in need of help, said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. Wednesday, he appealed for immediate federal, state and local assistance in the form of rescue workers. Otherwise, he said, the animals would die in the next few days.

"The problem is it's not just well-intentioned volunteers we need," Michaels said, adding she wasn't aware of any other animal-welfare group in Washington that has sent relief workers.

"We need people who can face the very worst and not quake. They need to have resilience and go 24-7 for a while. We only want to send in really strong teams at this point. We don't want to rescue the rescuers."

Pasado's Safe Haven was created by Steinway and Michaels in 1992, one day after Pasado, a beloved 21-year-old donkey at Bellevue's Kelsey Creek Park, was killed. Three young men were convicted of animal-cruelty and burglary in the beating and strangling of Pasado.

Pacelle said that about 60 percent of the households hit by the hurricane on the Gulf Coast have pets. He said his organization has received more than 2,000 calls from people who fled Katrina. Many left behind pets, especially cats, because they thought they would be gone only a couple of days.

"I'm anxious to get there, anxious to get to work and hopefully make a difference," said Bridges, the Monroe equine veterinarian. "I'll stay as long as they need me."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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