Emergency Evacuation Brings Orphan Animals From Louisiana To Helen Woodward Animal Center, Temporary Foster Families Needed

Local foster homes are urgently needed for dozens of dogs and cats rescued over the weekend from Hurricane Ida-affected areas in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe welcomed 65 animals on Saturday, August 28 which were flown by private jet to Gillespie Field Airport in El Cajon by pilots working in partnership with Greater Good Charities. Animals were evacuated from overwhelmed shelters in the hurricane’s path.

Jessica Gercke, spokeswoman for Helen Woodward, said that now that the animals are safe at the center, the nonprofit is looking for foster homes, and possibly permanent adopters, for the 40 cats and 25 dogs. Some of the animals are pregnant, so Gercke said there will also be kittens and puppies at some point in the near future.

“Greater Good Charities said they would be willing to get another plane out and get more animals out if we can get 100 more foster families,” Gercke said. “Essentially fostering would provide space for two animals, as it will bring one animal into a home and then open up a place in the shelter for another animal.”

Erin Robbins, Pet Transportation Program Director of Greater Good Charities Good Flights

(Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center)

As news of Hurricane Ida’s impending arrival on the Gulf Coast spread last week, animal shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi were already over capacity and found they had no safe space to provide housing for incoming animals. The evacuation emptied some cages for new arrivals.

Ida arrived as a Category 4 hurricane on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast. While the shelters hoped to withstand the destruction of Ida, residents who needed to be evacuated were also worried, knowing they would have to leave their homes and seek shelter, but all emergency shelters were not do not allow pets. As a result, Greater Good Charities has received non-stop calls for animal evacuations from area shelters, according to Erin Robbins, director of Seattle’s pet transportation program, Good Flights.

“At least three of the people I spoke to were in tears,” Robbins said in a statement. “One of the shelters in Louisiana is under construction, so their current temporary location is on the local fairgrounds in the cow barns. They’re literally out there with a hurricane on the way. This is a time we really wish may every home that is able open their hearts to foster.If we could open up more spaces in San Diego, I would turn that plane around and send it back to pick up 300 more.

The placement can last from a few days to a few weeks. Helen Woodward covers the cost of food, bedding and other needs. Those interested in opening their homes to animals can visit animalcenter.org or call the Helen Woodward Advocacy Program at (858) 756-4117, ext. 375.

Hella Tyler, director of adoption services at Helen Woodward Animal Center, said this is one of those times when animal rescue truly becomes a life-saving mission: “Without a place to put those dogs and cats , many of these orphaned animals would meet a tragic end. We couldn’t say no.

For more information on how to help Greater Good with current rescue needs, visit https://greatergood.org/hurricane-ida-response-help-people-and-pets-now.

— Karen Pearlman is a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune

Benjamin M. Yerger