Katrina's furry victims have friends in town

Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10:48 p.m.
Televised images of stranded Hurricane Katrina victims of all species tug hard at our humane compassions to resolve this unfathomable crisis around us.
When seeing helpless animals stranded amongst toxic water with possible life-threatening injuries, it is difficult to watch without jumping out of your chair to find a way to help.
North Central Florida is a compassionate community. Here at Gainesville Pet Rescue we saw a need over a decade ago to work toward saving the lives of the thousands of unwanted pets from the local animal shelter that are euthanized every year. We have grown from saving nearly 100 dogs and cats in our first year back in 1993 to rescuing nearly 1,000 animals in 2004.
GPR not only rescues adoptable animals, provides them with well care, and places them in safe foster homes until they find a permanent home no matter how long it takes, we also promote responsible pet ownership in the community.
The day after Hurricane Katrina hit the southeast, our phone lines were inundated with phone calls from friends of GPR and other community members
eager to do what they could to save the animals in crisis from this Category 4 storm. The overwhelming response from our community is a testimonial to the compassionate animal friends we are blessed to have around us in North Central Florida.
As an animal rescue group, it presents a particularly challenging dilemma to observe the need in this hard hit area and wrangle with the urge to stop what we are doing to devote all resources to save Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi pets in need of aid.
However, if Gainesville Pet Rescue is to continue our central mission in association with Maddie's Pet Rescue Project to make Alachua County a "no kill community" by July 2011, we must continue our efforts to stop the senseless deaths of the over 20,000 animals that Alachua County Animal Services has been forced to euthanize over the past five years.
GPR works in partnership with six animal rescue agencies of the Maddie's Pet Rescue Project. This relationship has allowed GPR to significantly increase staff, volunteers and our ability to save animals in North Central Florida.
Maddie's Fund is a pet rescue foundation endowed through the generosity of Cheryl and Dave Duffield, PeopleSoft founder and board chairman. The foundation is helping to finance the creation of a no-kill nation.
The first step is to help create programs that guarantee loving homes for all healthy dogs and cats. By year two of the Maddie's Pet Rescue project, Alachua County increased its adoptions by 58 percent and deaths of healthy shelter animals dropped by 73 percent.
Gainesville Pet Rescue would like to thank our friends and neighbors for thinking of us as you try to find ways to help our southern neighbors and
furry friends in need. We are recommending that interested parties contact The Humane Society of the United States.
The humane society has been at ground zero and the surrounding disaster zone since the second day after the storm broke.
Response teams already have rescued thousands of animals and need support to continue their work.
You can check out their Web site for a volunteer application at www.hsus.org, e-mail them at disaster@hsus.org or call 1-800-HUMANE-1.
Please remember that you can do your part locally to reduce the national overpopulation of unwanted animals by adopting or fostering a homeless puppy, kitten, dog or cat who is waiting patiently here for you to take them home and love them for life.
Cheryl Gibson is executive director of Gainesville Pet Rescue.

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