Storms strand hundreds - Veterinarians merge at Lamar-Dixon to reunite 80-90 percent with owners - DVM
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Storms strand hundreds - Veterinarians merge at Lamar-Dixon to reunite 80-90 percent with owners


"At least 112 to115 of those are claimed, and the owners are just making arrangements to get them shipped out," French says. "I think what we are going to end up with about 70 to 75 horses of the 385 that will be a residual population."

Clark's meticulous record-keeping, first by notepad and eventually using a computer database, allowed horses to be reunited with owners and prevented much of the horse theft often seen in aftermath of hurricanes. She saw owners lament the loss of their horses first hand during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when she lived in Florida and operated emergency shelters in the shadow of one of the largest storms to hit the United States.

"There were thousands of horses stolen in Andrew," Clark says. "That was the driving force. I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again. The return ratio that I'm looking at right now will be about 80-90 percent. As far as I know, it has never been done before."

Only four horses were unidentified at Lamar-Dixon.

Turn me loose

Many of the horses brought to relief centers in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Jackson, Miss., Sugarena in Iberia, La., as well as humane societies and shelters across the Gulf Coast, were able to be rescued because they were turned loose by their owners. Veterinarians from communities adjacent to those severely affected by Katrina were able to give valuable advice to horse owners when Rita pushed ashore days later.

"We saw barns full of dead horses in stalls," Moore recalls from viewing areas that were engulfed by the floods that followed Katrina. "It certainly seemed in our experience that horses that were turned out either because they lived outside already or because owners turned them out prior to the storm because they couldn't evacuate them, those horses fared better than those that where in stalls in barns."

Many of those barns are no longer there. Neither are the fences that enclosed pastures. A few racetracks are gone, too. Many say that the emergency care is easy compared to the task ahead: rebuilding.

"The rescue and treatment of the horses comes in the first three or four days after a disaster. Phase B, which is to me much more disturbing, are the horses that are given up two to three weeks after a disaster, says Dr. Jim Hamilton, chair of the AAEP Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee and a member of Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) No. 3 since 1996. VMAT 3 was stationed in Hattiesburg.

"Owners are consciously handing you the lead rope and telling you that they can't do this; it is gut wrenching," he says with emotion in his voice. "They will almost at any cost try to keep that animal to make them think that their life is not destroyed as much as they think, when in reality, their life really is destroyed as much as they think and effectively, they can't afford to fix the barn, they can't afford to fix the fence and they can't afford to keep the horse. This plays out all over Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas right now."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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