Beyond the tragically oil-soaked birds and sea turtles, there’s another animal population feeling the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill – the area’s pets. Many Louisiana pet owners have been forced to give up their cats and dogs due to a lack of time and money. Whether they’re fishermen or offshore rig workers, much of the population relies on the Gulf for income, and for many, those incomes were cut off abruptly. Sadly, pets are often the first to go when the choice must be made to feed either the family or the dog. Plus, some families had to move, often leaving their animals behind to adhere to no-pet rules at apartment buildings for example.
So what’s happening to all of the abandoned Gulf Coast oil spill pets now?
The Associated Press reported that a BP oil-worker, suddenly slammed with more work than he could handle, dropped off a rust-colored Lab mix named Sasha along with nine one-day-old puppies at St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter in Violet, LA. Heartbreaking? Yes. But the story is far too common now. In fact, Dean Howard of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the AP that coastal parishes saw a spike in the number of family pets dropped off immediately after the spill. And the growing numbers of pets coming in, with few getting adopted, is more than the shelters can handle.
Want to help? You can donate to the Louisiana SPCA, the local organization that has set up a Gulf Coast Companion Relief Program. Along with a grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, they’re also supplying food, free vet appointments, spaying, and neutering to area owners in an effort to help them keep their pets. For pets that can’t stay with their owners, the SPCA has been arranging emergency transports to relieve Louisiana shelters. They moved 17 highly adoptable dogs – purebred Labs, Yorkies and Maltese to Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia. The Humane Society of the United States also recently transported 33 dogs up to Maryland.
If you want to adopt a Gulf Coast oil spill pet (even those not classified as highly adoptable yet still totally adorable btw!), the Lousisiana SPCA is constantly adding new shelters to their Gulf Coast Transport program. Check the site for the latest shelters to see if one has been added near you. They’re planning more rescues in the coming weeks including transports to shelters in Florida or Texas. You can also try searching for pets at Louisiana shelters on Petfinder. The St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter lists many of their adoptable pets online through Petfinder and Petango. Another overwhelmed shelter accepting out-of-state adoptions is the Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Belle Chasse, LA. PAWS also showcases their Gulf Coast oil spil cats and dogs on Petango.