The week after Labor Day, Allan Cohen and team from the Montgomery County Humane Society loaded three trucks with donated supplies — leashes, bowls, food, and much-needed medicine — for the animals injured and left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.
“All the trees were broken down on both sides of the road. There’s no gas station signs left,” said Cohen, a member of the Society’s board of directors.
THE TEAM drove 22 hours to deliver the supplies to Louisiana State University and the massive shelter set up at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La.
“I was basically in tears when you just see the place. It looked like a MASH unit. You’re talking about a place with hundreds of horses — at that point we had about 1,500 dogs, cats, animals. Every stall you saw animals packed two, three, four, five high,” said Cohen. “The next day we were up to over 3,000.”
Had Cohen and the other Humane Society members simply delivered the supplies, they could have returned knowing they had helped. But they stayed four days, working through the night assisting rescuers and veterinarians, caring for the animals, and trying to reunite pets with owners.
They came back to Rockville on Sept. 12 with 27 dogs and five cats, which they nursed back to help and offered for adoption.
“It was a hard decision. You picked the best you could. … It's just story after story. Just so sad. We took animals that to the best of our knowledge are not going to be claimed,” Cohen said. “Our wish would be that the owner would call and say, ‘You have my animal.'” But they just could not handle this — the groups [in Louisiana].”
This week, a new Montgomery County team, including local veterinary technicians and more Society members flew to the region to assist with airlifts. Twelve more tons of supplies — the result of contributions that kept flowing in long after a Labor Day weekend collection drive — followed on the ground.
On Saturday, 25 area residents met at the Potomac Community Center to make plans to volunteer in the Gulf region over the next several weeks.
In New Orleans, Continental airlines and oil mogul T. Boone Pickens have been helping to organize daily charter flights for the animal evacuees.
The team has worked with the other Humane Society groups from Florida and California and United States public health officials.
Cohen said the warm reception the team received has been overwhelming.
“All rescue workers are great, but there’s something about what people think about people who are trying to rescue animals,” he said. “Everyone thumbs up and waving, people came up in the parking lot and gave us contributions. I’m really proud of what Montgomery County has done and stepped up to the plate. It’s really the people of the greater Washington area.”