Vermilion Animal Aid
helping humans and their animals

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

BACKGROUND by Joelle Rupert

Thank you for your concern about the situation in Vermilion Parish. Vermilion Animal Aid is a very small non-profit 501(c)(3) in a rural part of southern Louisiana. During “normal” times we investigate abuse cases, and are a sanctuary for all of the old unwanted pets. But these aren’t normal times. In the area we serve, what hurricane Katrina didn’t damage, Rita did.

The small animals are starting to emerge from their hiding places. The cats seem to have made it better than the dogs and livestock. We are feeding over 30 cats that have turned up in Pecan Island alone. We are feeding the dogs and cats while waiting to see if any of the owners are coming back, or at least until we can gain their trust. We are providing dog, cat, and other small animal food to local residents. We are also trying hard to get donations for the large animals. The need for livestock is overwhelming. There were over 10,000 head of cattle and several thousand horses affected. It is difficult to know how many have been sold at this time, due to continuing difficulty of communication. Some have been sold and some have died, but hay and feed are still the biggest needs they have. Some livestock are also injured, have hoof rot, or lung ailments. The small family farms are trying not to sell all of their cattle and other livestock, and are trying to hold on to them because this is all they know. Their owners in many cases are middle age or older and do not have any other form of income. In fact, many of the families have been ranchers for several generations. Their pasture is covered with salt from the surge. A lot of the people are living in tents and campers, many without electricity. They had well water, but salt water and oily sludge have overflowed the wells. The land is unfit to replant. Everything is either covered with goop or salt. There has been little rain so the salt just stays there. The rye grass can not be planted because of the salt, the hay that flooded is lost, the barns are lost, the fences are gone, many of their homes are destroyed or damaged. Many of the ranchers who have smaller herds cannot afford the feed because they are struggling to survive and provide for their families the bare necessities that are so often taken for granted.

Vermilion Animal Aid received a load of blankets, bleach, water and towels for the animals from Indianapolis Humane Society, but many of the people do not have any means of staying warm, etc....so many blankets and towels have gone to the human victims. The people we are helping are used to taking care of themselves and do not like asking for help, but who now have no choice. Some of the people in our area have seen no support at all since the storms, and have no prospect of seeing any. Imagine having to start over without your home or anything in it and you have a good idea of what they need. We know that they would be very appreciative of anything that is sent to them.

We received a donation of one load of hay that was 2 or 3 years old, and it was falling apart, but the people were thrilled to get it. Since then we received a 17 ton shipment from HSUS, for which we are grateful. Vermilion Animal Aid is working out of an 18 wheeler trailer that we are renting and the residents come up and ask for essentials for people as well as feed for pigs, chickens, goats, and horses. We have none of this food, but have told some to go to the feed store and charge a bag of feed to Vermilion Animal Aid. We’ll figure out how to pay for it later. The people we are helping are deeply thankful for any thing they receive.

Please help us to help the people in the outlying areas keep their remaining animals alive as well. We have had very little exposure of our needs on a national level and are extremely grateful for any help we receive.

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