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‘Little Niche’ for Large Animal Rescue

Schwartz’s post-Katrina animal rescue efforts honored by local DAR chapter and legislators.

When a herd of 40 cows were spotting running down Highway 90 in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, the Humane Society of the United States called Allan Schwartz. A Maryland resident with 16 years’ experience in rescuing large animals, Schwartz drove his truck and trailer down to the Gulf Region and as a volunteer rescued a horse that was trapped in a flooded barn, and three lions left caged in a zoo after floods ravaged the area.

Schwartz’ expertise in large animal rescue came from 16 years as vice president and co-founder of Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon, Md. This made him invaluable to the Humane Society’s efforts in three volunteer rescue missions in Mississippi and Louisiana.

"I had a little bit of a niche, if you will," he said.

THE GULF REGION was nothing like the "real world" when Schwartz volunteered on large animal rescues following hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. Amidst the devastation, Schwartz saw acts of kindness and selflessness. One New Orleans man who’d lost his home in the flooding wanted to spend his FEMA check on food for the rescue personnel who’d helped — the man had a place to stay and food to eat, and needed nothing more.

Schwartz’s fellow disaster responders also fostered a spirit of cooperation. "There’s no ego in this. If we can save animals, and you can save 12 and I can save 10, then together we saved 22," Shwartz said. "How many times do you find that in the real world?"

SCHWARTZ RECEIVED a Conservation Medal and Certificate from the Potomac Hundred Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on Saturday, April 22, at the home of Elaine Jones, the chapter’s conservation chair. Maryland Aging Secretary Jean Roesser was also on hand to present Schwartz with an award from the State of Maryland. Although not present, Del. Jean Cryor (R-15), Del. Donald B. Elliott (R-4B) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-30) all gave awards of recognition to Schwartz that were presented to him at the DAR meeting.

"I think it’s wonderful and most appropriate that we’re doing this on Earth Day," Roesser said.

After all of his volunteer rescues, Schwartz was hired as full-time field responder by the Humane Society.

"It’s like a dream come true for me; it’s a realization of a life goal," Schwartz said. Because of the unprecedented scope of destruction following Katrina and Rita, the emergency relief operations were learning experiences for the Humane Society and all other relief organizations that went to the affected areas.

"Our job is not to go down there and take everything over. Our job is to provide assistance [and] help rebuild an infrastructure," Schwartz said. "These are lessons learned. … It’s a major balancing act."

As far as animal rescue goes, Schwartz believes New Orleans has reached the point of diminishing returns for non-local missions. Earlier this year, Schwartz returned to New Orleans on a rescue mission. Schwartz said there were fewer stray dogs or cats than there are in a typical city. After setting 840 traps, his crew caught just one possum, one raccoon, one rat and one dog.

Schwartz will travel where the Humane Society feels he is needed, possibly to areas in Texas affected by wildfires. While he is excited to continue helping the humane society, he told the DAR members that "the glory is back at the shelter." He can rescue all the animals he wants, but if there are no volunteers to maintain the local animal shelters, the rescue efforts are for naught.

When families plan for emergency situations such as a power outage or a blizzard, Schwartz said it is important that they consider their pets. "Make plans for your animals and educate everyone [on] the importance of this," he said.