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JoAnna Lou
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Post-Katrina Overpopulation Problem
New Orleans is still struggling to recover from the destruction
Louisiana National Guard Soldiers rescue two dogs from a rooftop.

Hurricane Issac's recent flooding and destruction brought back painful memories of Katrina. Thankfully, this time changes were implemented to keep families and pets together. Animals were brought to a local church (and then to a shelter up North when the church flooded) to ride out Issac until they could be reunited with their families.

The new rescue programs aren't perfect, but they're a big improvement from having no plan back in 2005. These measures are particularly essential in light of the stray pet population that continues to plague the area. I was shocked to learn how the problem has grown.

It's been seven years since Katrina, and New Orleans' hardest hit areas are still recovering. In addition to the destroyed buildings and displaced families, over 600,000 animals were killed or stranded because of the disaster. According to the local SPCA, the abandoned pets turned into a significant stray pet problem. In the areas that haven't been rebuilt, homeless animals freely roam the streets and reproduce in empty houses.

Due to the increased crime levels, many of the remaining residents got watch dogs and most are tied outside to guard the land. Few are spayed or neutered, which further perpetuates the overpopulation problem.

Today, the SPCA is still fighting for FEMA assistance, like many other organizations. When their old headquarters was destroyed by six feet of water during Katrina, people all over the country (no doubt including many Bark readers) donated money for a new building. But the SPCA is overwhelmed by the current stray animal situation and desperately needs funding. They're hoping a combination of outreach and education programs, free spay/neuter services, and increased kennel capacity will help rein in the stray pet population for good.

Visit the Louisiana SPCA web site to donate to their fund.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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