Ten Years Later: Shelter Completes Rebuild After Hurricane Katrina

Even after crisis, local SPCA keeps up with community’s needs

veterinarian and vet tech examine dogThe Louisiana SPCA faced its most devastating crisis in 2005.

After safely evacuating more than 260 shelter pets before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the staff returned to find their facility completely destroyed. What’s more, thousands of homeless pets now roamed the deserted streets of New Orleans.

Some shelters might have given up hope. But the staff at the Louisiana SPCA didn’t dwell on their misfortune. They quickly adapted by moving into a temporary space in a converted coffee warehouse.

Emergency rescue succeeds through partnership

Then, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and animal welfare colleagues from across the nation, they led the largest animal rescue operation in U.S. history. They rescued over 8,500 pets affected by the storm.  

Most of those pets were transferred to other cities and states. But the Louisiana SPCA still cared for hundreds of pets in their temporary adoption location as well.

Bringing back vital pet services

Before the storm hit, the Louisiana SPCA operated the only low-cost spay/neuter clinic in the region. To help restore spay/neuter and wellness services, PetSmart Charities® provided a $300,000 grant for a temporary structure to house the community clinic.

With this need met, the Louisiana SPCA began planning for the future. Staff members saw an opportunity to research best practices and raise the bar for animal welfare in the area.

cat sits on exam tableFuture plans are bigger and better

The Louisiana SPCA slowly rebuilt in stages. The staff introduced new design concepts for a new, permanent building that would showcase adoptable pets and increase spay/neuter capacity.

In 2013, they broke ground on the clinic, the final piece of the project. PetSmart Charities stepped in again with a $500,000 grant to build the PetSmart Charities™ Community Clinic Wing. The new clinic now offers pet parents affordable spay/neuter, veterinary and wellness services. 

“After Katrina, PetSmart Charities knew we wanted to support the immediate needs in New Orleans,” said Julie White, senior director of grants, programs and initiatives for PetSmart Charities. “But longer term, this tragedy and loss enabled us to start a movement in animal welfare. Now, we can better serve the pets and the people who love them in the future.”

Collaboration among the nation’s animal welfare groups saved pets’ lives following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. PetSmart Charities granted more than $2.2 million to more than 100 groups affected by the storms.

That kind of partnership led to a new beginning for the Louisiana SPCA and the pet parents it serves in New Orleans. 

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