Saturday, September 10, 2005

Photojournalist files animal rescue report

From a Media Alert:

Photojournalist files animal rescue report from inside the bowl that was New Orleans

Kanab, UT (9/09/2005 ) Best Friend Animal Society's photojournalist Troy Snow filed the following report from inside New Orleans where time is running out for the animals. To date Best Friends is the only animal rescue group rescuing animals from the flooded streets in metro New Orleans.

Troy Snow's report:

Sept. 8: In Orleans Parish, animals still cling to life and to trees, standing on car tops, in flooded areas as rescue grows more urgent

Reported by Troy Snow: We exit the I-10, drive down the off-ramp, and park our truck at the water's edge of what were once the streets of New Orleans. Two bloated human bodies lie half-in, half-out, looking like they may explode any moment.

Ken Ray unhitches the boat. He's a volunteer from Alabama, who came out to help, discovered we need boats, and drove another 700 miles to go and get his own boat.

We spend the day in roughly just a 3-block area. Three of us are on this boat: Ethan and Jeff, staffers from Best Friends Dogtown, and me, Troy, helping them and taking a few photos. First, we see two pit bull dogs standing on the edge of a recreational boat parked in a driveway. They must have been standing there since the hurricane blew in 11 days ago. We cut through the fence to let our boat come closer and pull up to the dogs. They jump aboard and smother us in kisses. These must have been fighting dogs. One of them is covered in old scars.

Next, we see two more pit bulls standing on the roof of a car. One of them dives into the water and starts swimming to us as we pull closer. We pull him aboard and navigate our way toward his pal. He looks just like Tawny but tired and fearful and not sure whether we're friend or foe. OK, now we have him. He's smiling now. He knows he's safe.

In all, we gather up just 10 dogs. Each one means navigating up to fenced yards, cutting through the fence to get the boat in, grabbing tree branches to pull up toward the porch. Some pets are on porches, some still indoors. At one address where we have permission to enter, we hear a dog barking through the windows. We pull up to the window and see him inside, standing on the bed to stay above the water line. At other houses, we can't break through the fence although we hear meowing.

Several times during the day, we go back to the freeway off-ramp to deliver the dogs to Ken who's waiting at water's edge. On one trip, we're joined by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times who's seen us from the freeway and stopped to see what we're doing.

At the end of the day, with a boatful of dogs, we return to the freeway ramp once again. It's beginning to get dark. We hitch the boat back up to the truck and are about to leave when we hear an eerie howl in the dusk, echoing across the neighborhood. First we say to ourselves, we'll get him tomorrow. Then we look at each other, and unhitch the boat again. The dog is about 300 yards away, standing in the back of an old truck. Again, he's been sitting there for 11 days, bewildered, emaciated, dehydrated. The water there is about five-foot deep. We bring him aboard.

On the way back we see a cat on a roof. Try to get there. Can't do it.

We have photos, details, and addresses of every animal we've picked up. Hopefully, one day, they'll all be reunited with families at least if their families are not like the ones lying there on the off-ramp, half-in half-out of the water.

What we've done today is really just a drop in the bucket. There are thousands upon thousands more animals stranded like this, with only days, if that, before they too will just give out.

Why are we the only people in this entire area of town? Why are others being turned back when there is so much to be done? Will we even be allowed in tomorrow? At least, as we drive back to the sanctuary out of town, we have a few furry refugees with us. We comfort them as they comfort us.