WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- With the situation for the animals on the Gulf Coast at a critical juncture -- as thousands of animals have just a couple of days to live -- The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is calling for federal, state, and local responding agencies to immediately assist with animal rescue efforts.

"We are throwing unprecedented resources at the problem, but its magnitude is beyond our capacity. We need help right now," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "Federal, state, and local assistance is critical to our efforts to save the thousands of stranded and abandoned pets still out there. We have animal care experts from around the country who are rescuing as many animals as we can, and we can also take animals rescued by other search and rescue teams."


The HSUS is swiftly marshalling all its resources and by the end of the day expects to have up to 250 people on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi working as part of the organization's Disaster Animal Response Teams (DART), rescuing and sheltering the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina. Today is the fourth day of the organization's access to New Orleans, where its members helped to carry dozens of animals to safety, taking them out of houses, picking them up in the streets, and collecting them from displaced evacuees leaving the city. For example, the group rescued at least 19 cats during break-and-enter operations in New Orleans homes, undertaken with permission from authorities.

"It's truly a race against the clock," added Pacelle. "Our teams are working feverishly to rescue as many animals as possible and get out of the watery cesspool left behind by Hurricane Katrina, but we can't do it alone. We need the Coast Guard, fire departments, local rescue agencies, and anyone else who can lend a hand to rescue animals in need."

The HSUS is compiling thousands of reports of pets in need of rescue and working with the Louisiana SPCA to deploy trained, skilled animal rescuers to locate, rescue, and evacuate those animals. Upon entering New Orleans, they targeted animals stranded at the Superdome as their priority goal. There, they rescued dozens of animals relinquished or abandoned by desperate evacuees who fled the city to escape Katrina's rage. So far, The HSUS has helped to rescue and care for more than 1,200 animals in Louisiana and Mississippi, including dogs, cats, cows, ferrets, horses, chinchillas, as well as a rabbit, duck, pot-bellied pig, and seal.

Teams from The HSUS have rescue shelters set up around the Gulf region, including Metairie, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Gonzales in Louisiana, and Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Gulfport in Mississippi.

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The HSUS been inundated with more than a thousand calls with requests to rescue pets who were left behind or perhaps denied entrance to the Superdome or other shelters. Individuals who learn of stranded pets are urged to call the HSUS call center at 800-HUMANE-1, provided they have location information that can be dispatched to the teams in the field.

Thousands of concerned citizens have donated to the relief effort by calling 800-HUMANE-1 or by visiting  http://www.hsus.org . People who visit the web site can now see video footage of The HSUS's DART teams in action in New Orleans. The organization has collected more than $8.3 million for disaster relief efforts.

"The outpouring of concern from people around the country has been overwhelming," said Pacelle. "They recognize that animals are suffering, too. Rescuing abandoned pets can offer some peace of mind to the people whose lives have been shattered by this disaster, and The Humane Society of the United States is determined to do everything we can to help."

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization representing more than 9 million members and constituents. The non-profit organization is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy, and field work. The group is based in Washington and has numerous field representatives across the country.

 http://www.usnewswire.com/

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