As southern Louisiana reaches the one week anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, rescue efforts continue on a large scale for horses affected by the storm and subsequent flooding.Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, the central staging area for horses recently retrieved from the New Orleans area currently houses 90 horses and mules yet to be claimed by their owners."Nineteen carriage horses and mules were reached last night from the downtown area" said Bonnie Clark, President of the Louisiana Horse Council. "We have them here and the veterinarians and student veterinarians have been working to stabilize these horses and prepare for the next to arrive as we anticipate a good number of additional horses to be reached and retrieved before the end of the day."Working tirelessly since the beginning of the catastrophe, LSU Field Service Veterinarian Dr. Dennis French has been the primary veterinarian in charge of efforts at Lamar-Dixon and has coordinated all health monitoring duties with the assistance of a number of LSU veterinary students who have worked diligently under his supervision for days."We've had a few health issues with horses that have come in that have been drinking the saltwater from the flooding" said French, "the students and I have administered fluids and are working to stabilize them right now." "I'm not seeing any depression or any fevers, nothing that would indicate a contagious condition so at this point I think that all of the symptoms I'm seeing are purely the result of these horses being in a traumatized state". "I can't tell you how proud I am of these students" continued French. "These kids have been with me day in and day out down here, they've taken all of the animals in, they have an identification and medical records system in place and have been with me step for step as we've gone through triage and worked to stabilize the animals we've received. "Continuing to head up efforts at the LSU Horse Hurricane Helpline center in Baton Rouge, Drs. Rebecca McConnico and Rustin Moore have been heavily engaged in identifying horses that still need to be rescued and working to line up teams that can help when the time comes. "At this point, we've been given the primary assignment by the State Veterinarian's Office to assume the role of coordinating these rescue efforts as best we can" said McConnico. "It's a matter of locating them (the horses) and finding out how to get them since many roads are not accessible because of flood waters, downed trees and power lines. Helicopter surveillance would provide a time-efficient way to assess the big picture, but this will likely have to wait until the stranded people are successfully evacuated. In the mean time, we need to get people on the ground who are in the area to go in and assess the situation at individual stables and then get rescue teams safely in and out, which to this point has been the challenge. We really need more people that can be available at a moments notice since this is such a dynamic process".
"Currently more than 300 horses remain to be reached in the New Orleans area that we know of" continued McConnico, "Teams continue to be dispatched with law enforcement accompaniment as logistics fall into place for each rescue effort. We've basically been prioritizing them by where we can go physically, and by which horse's we know are in the most immediate need of rescue based on their circumstances. We still have horses that are up to their necks in water. It's a challenge, because the logistics of each circumstance vary according to their location and condition."Those interested in providing financial assistance to the effort are encouraged to make their contributions to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association's Dr. Walter J. Ernst, Jr. Memorial Foundation. This fund is established specifically for emergency efforts to help animals. By simply visiting www.lvma.org, potential contributors can click on "Hurricane Relief Fund" on the home page to download the form. Simply designating "Horse Rescue" on your check will ensure its use for the equine rescue effort. For more information or to make donations, please call the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine at 225-578-9900 (www.vetmed.lsu.edu) or the LVMA at 1-800-524-2996.