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Locals rescue Gulf pets

SCOTT N. MILLER
eagle county correspondent
NWS Katrina Kittens DT 9-15
ALL |

EAGLE COUNTY ” Among the most frightened and confused victims of Hurricane Katrina are the pets left behind by those fleeing the storm.

A vanload of those pets will soon be on the way to the valley, thanks to the work of a pair of Vail residents.

For more than a week, Jenn Crotzer and Susan Wilke have been putting on heavy waders and rubber gloves and working with other volunteers from Pasado’s Safe Haven, a national nonprofit group that rescues pets and farm animals, most often from abusive homes.



After the flooding in New Orleans, the group’s volunteers have been helping find and rescue as many pets as possible. Reached on her cell phone just as she was ready to head into a flooded neighborhood, Crotzer said a lot of the animals she and other rescuers are finding are in pretty rough shape.

“It’s going on 2 1/2 weeks now,” Crotzer said Thursday. “A lot of these animals haven’t been fed or had fresh water.”

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A lot of animals have been found in crates without food or water. Many are dead. But there have been quite a few happy endings.

Crotzer’s crew found a small dog and some cats shut in the upstairs bathroom of a home. The tub had been filled with water and there was plenty of food, but the room was still a mess, for obvious reasons.

Those and other animals that survived are being taken to a 400-acre farm outside New Orleans. There the animals get food and water, and volunteer veterinarians provide medical care.

Animals with tags will be reunited with their owners if possible. Others will be put up for adoption. Getting pets back to owners is the focus of shelters across the Gulf Coast. In Houston, animals that were already in shelters were moved to make way for animals saved from the hurricane.

In the next week or two, Crotzer and Wilke will rent a van, load it with all the animals they can safely travel with, and head toward the Vail Valley.

Another pair of local women last week brought nearly two dozen dogs and cats that were originally in Houston to the valley, although it will be more than a week before any are eligible for adoption.

To get them, Lauri Van Campen and Char Quinn drove from Eagle to Park City, Utah and back. Van Campen, who works at Castle Peak Veterinary Center in Eagle, used her truck and horse trailer, taking along Quinn, the director of the Eagle Valley Humane Society.

Van Campen not only provided the truck and trailer, she bought the gas for the trip, no small expense these days. Besides her love of animals, bringing this batch of dogs and cats back to Eagle County was a way for her to help.

“We’ve offered space to a displaced family if needed, and I offered to move animals,” she said. “This is what came up.”

The local women knew they were dropping off the animals at Dr. Steve Warren’s Minturn office, which used to be the county animal shelter. What they didn’t expect was a welcoming committee of almost 15 people who showed up to clean cages and feed and water the animals.

“I think we had somebody to walk every dog,” Quinn said.

And, while the animals were somewhat scared and confused, they all traveled well, Quinn said. None of the animals got car sick, and none even messed their cages.

“They’re all just great,” Van Campen said.

Officials haven’t had a problem with the disposition of the animals, but few dogs ” as is common in shelters ” respond to commands. Few respond to a common “sit.”

“They just haven’t had anyone to work with them,” Van Campen said.

That should change. While the dogs and cats are quarantined for two weeks, volunteers are walking the dogs and working with them on some basic commands. More volunteers are welcome.

Some of those volunteers will probably end up taking an animal or two home with them. “I think they’ll go fast,” Van Campen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all adopted before they’re out of quarantine.”

But this batch, and the animals Crotzer and Wilke bring home, probably won’t be the last of the hurricane pets to hit the valley.

“If the need is there, I’ll sure go again,” Van Campen said.


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