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November 2005
Project HALO: Giving Animals Another Chance at Life
By Laura Guimond

Laura and rescued friend. Photo courtesy of Laura Guimond

Nothing prepares you for the sight of Gulfport, Mississippi’s coastline today. Wiped clean of all buildings by a 27-foot storm surge, the only sign of its former life are the surreal drapings of sheets entangled in upturned trees. So it’s no wonder that when I saw a sign of hope—“Animal Shelter” spray-painted on a wooden panel, I swung over to investigate. Just off Highway 49 in Gulfport, Project HALO (Helping Animals Live On)—a nonprofit, no-kill organization that rescues homeless, stray and unwanted dogs and cats—had set up camp. Though based in Charlotte, NC, the dedicated folks at Project HALO drove down to Mississippi in early September to help animals impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Then Hurricane Rita hit and they had even more work—and animals—on their hands.

In collaboration with national groups and the local Humane Society of Southern Mississippi, Project HALO offers a much-needed service—fostering cats and dogs surrendered by residents who have been displaced, lost virtually everything, and are no longer able to care for their animals. They also run missions of mercy to rescue animals slated to be put down. On the day of my visit, the team had just driven four hours to Lafayette, Louisiana, to pick up animals who had ended up in the local shelter—thanks to Hurricane Rita—and who, but for Project HALO’s intervention, would have been euthanized that night.

As part of a long-term commitment to help the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi address the influx of critters needing care, recover from their losses—of staff, property, and local population—and move towards a no-kill policy, Project HALO is looking for responsible no-kill shelters willing to take in some of these animals.

They are also looking for self-sufficient volunteers to spend five minutes, five hours or five days helping with dog walking, cat comforting, kennel cleaning, etc. at the Gulfport shelter. When I stopped by they were in good spirits but very tired and clearly in need of additional caregivers. They immediately handed me a leash and a blue heeler and put me to work!
In addition to assistance with animal care, volunteers are needed to transport much-needed supplies and food all over Mississippi.

If you have some time to give, come on down to Gulfport and help Project HALO bring hope to hundreds of dogs and cats.

Laura Guimond works for Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian aid agency based in Portland, Oregon. She was recently in the Gulf States working on programs for children and teachers affected by the hurricanes as well as volunteering with animal rescue groups. To learn more about Project Halo visit www.projecthalo.net. To find out about volunteer opportunities email volunteer@projecthalo.net. To foster or adopt rescued animals in need of a good home go to www.petfinder.com/shelters/projecthalo.html.

Alley Cat Allies

 

Photo by Laura Guimond

Estimates of the number of stray and feral cats in the United States range from 10 million to over 50 million. Whatever the actual number, it surely went up after Katrina hit. Along with the thousands of cats already free-roaming, hundreds of house cats took to the streets seeking refuge from the storm. These cats banded together in groups (or colonies) almost anywhere dry—behind restaurants and shopping malls, under houses, in empty fields or lots, even beneath dumpsters.

One organization in particular, Alley Cat Allies, stepped up to the plate offering an emergency shelter and hands-on care to the feral—both old and new—feline survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The need has been and continues to be massive. Alley Cat Allies has established a base camp and emergency cat shelter in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and rescue teams have worked tirelessly feeding and trapping cats in the areas affected by Katrina. They are also working with local caregivers and rescue groups to help rebuild rescue programs and develop trap-neuter-return programs.

What You Can Do
Alley Cat Allies needs your help immediately and they expect the need to last till at least the end of the year. They are in desperate need of people with experience in veterinary medicine, animal care, rescue operations, or computer skills. But anyone willing to be flexible, take on a variety of different tasks, and who does not mind getting dirty could lend a much-needed hand. Volunteers for the Bogalusa facility should bring their own tents and should be able make a five to seven day commitment. Foster homes, barns, and no-kill shelters located throughout the country willing to take in cats are also on high demand. And check out the Alley Cat website for a detailed list of items to donate. To find out how to help, contact www.alleycat.org or (240) 482-1980.—K.A.M.

 

 


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