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From the Jackson Hole (WY) News & Guide:

Volunteers bring back 138 pets displaced by Katrina

"Animal Taxi" rescues dogs, cats, even a rabbit ­ all up for adoption.

By Samantha Worthington

When Lori Shey walked through a Louisiana shelter housing pets displaced by Hurricane Katrina, she was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cats and dogs crammed into kennels. The animals faced two futures: be rescued by someone such as Shey or be killed by a shelter employee needing to make room for more animals.

Fortunately, the 138 furry refugees that Shey, a Realtor who lives in Driggs, Idaho, and five other volunteers loaded into the "Katrina Homeless Animal Taxi" ­ an RV, a truck and horse trailer ­ will find new homes. The animals that escaped the hurricanes and kill shelters arrived Saturday morning at the Teton Valley Humane Society in Driggs and are available for adoption today.

The 87 dogs, 50 cats and one rabbit are available through the humane society and the Animal Adoption Center in Jackson. Michelle De Lange, humane society director, said in an interview Tuesday about 70 of the dogs and many of the cats already have homes.

"Right now we are holding them in quarantine," De Lange said Tuesday. "The vet is going to do a physical on every single animal."

The animals already have been vetted and have required health certificates showing they've had vaccinations such as rabies and parvovirus shots. They've also been tested for heartworm, a disease common throughout the world but more prevalent in Louisiana than in Wyoming.

The motorized Noah's Ark returned Saturday after a three-day drive.

"I am emotionally and physically exhausted," said Shey, who started the effort to rescue the pets. "The hard work is still going on."

The idea to drive to Louisiana arose after Shey decided she wanted to save pets displaced from the hurricane. She later asked De Lange if she was interested in helping.

"I decided I was going to go down in a horse trailer and get as many animals as I could," Shey said.

From there, the group started to draw other animal lovers.

Along with De Lange and Shey, De Lange's father, Bob, a retired animal control officer, and Chip Carter, a graphic artist, also went along. Danielle Flint, another humane society employee, and Sam Kitchen, a stay-at-home mother who volunteers at St. John's Living Center, joined them.

They set off to Louisiana on Sept. 26 and drove for two days with vehicles full of donations, which they gave to the Salvation Army.

"People were very, very grateful when we dropped stuff off at the Salvation Army," De Lange said.

Shey said people were "floored" that they would drive all the way from Idaho to help.

None of the volunteers saw the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused when it pummeled the Gulf Coast in August as the animal shelters were 100 to 150 miles away from the damage. Rebecca "Cupcake" Tinnes, director of the adoption center, said last week it is estimated 50,000 pets were displaced by the hurricane.

The volunteers picked up the animals at several shelters in Louisiana.

"The shelters were filled to the maximum," Shey said. "There were just kennels up and down the hallways."

Some of the animals at the shelters weathered Hurricane Katrina while others had been there since before the storm and were about to be euthanized to provide room for displaced pets that hadn't been deemed homeless yet.

"It was very, very sad," Shey said. "This was a kill shelter."

Shey said one of the shelters they went to euthanizes 300 to 400 every week. The shelter continuously kills animals to make room for ones that may still have owners searching for them, she said.

One of the dogs they picked up, a basset hound mix, narrowly escaped death. She was on the way to be euthanized, but as the volunteers loaded up the animals a man asked if they had room for the hound and they managed to fit her in.

"The biggest thing is that every one of these dogs has a story," Shey said. "They are all affected by the hurricane."

Most of the dogs are small breeds such as poodles, dachshunds, beagles, basset hounds and Jack Russells. There are some large dogs such as a Great Pyrenees and a weimaraner. In case anyone is wondering, the lone rabbit is doing fine.

"They are all just amazing spirits," Shey said.

The Katrina Homeless Animal Taxi was slow to come home because it had to stop about every three hours to let all the animals out. Shey said people passing by were in awe of the chaotic scene of dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes running around.

The humane society and adoption center seek donations to help pay for the trip and cover costs to feed the animals.

"We're still buying medications and obviously food," Shey said.

People also can bring dog and cat food and litter to either center. Both places also need volunteers to help walk, clean and socialize the pets awaiting homes.

To make a donation or inquire about how to foster or adopt an animal, call the humane society at (208) 354-3499 or the adoption center at 739-1881. Monetary donations, addressed to KHAT, also can be sent or brought to the First Bank of the Tetons.

Lori Shey's email is: adopt@onewest.net

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