By Jeanne Sager
GLEN WILD September 13, 2005 Even Sullivan County is deploying its troops to the disaster zone of the Gulf Coast.
Glen Wild Animal Rescue founder Liz Keller and Town of Liberty Dog Control Officer Joanne Gerow left Monday with Gerows horse trailer in tow, filled with supplies for the four-legged victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Kellers shelter, housed on the same property as her kennel business on Glen Wild Road, is a member organization of the Mayors Alliance for New York Citys Animals.
Saturday night, she got a call.
Her name had been provided by the Mayors Alliance to the Humane Society of the United States which has been working in the days since Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast region to save animals left behind by their families.
They put out an announcement that they needed handlers of any kind, Keller explained in an interview Sunday evening as she rushed to tie up loose ends before the long trip down South.
Because animals are still running loose, dog control officers are needed to round them up and provide care at the makeshift shelters that have popped up across the region.
Many residents evacuated quickly, leaving their pets to fend for themselves for what they assumed would just be a few days.
They didnt anticipate a disaster of this magnitude.
Others left home with their pets, taking refuge in the Superdome and convention center in New Orleans.
When buses came to evacuate the people, they were told to leave their animals behind only human beings could board the buses.
Its unbelievable, Keller said. We need to get out of this mentality in general; these animals are a big part of these peoples lives, and to act like they dont exist is crazy.
If they cant be reunited with their families, theres going to be a large loss because these agencies cant hold them forever.
After Keller got the call to deploy to Mississippi, she started calling other handlers in the area.
Some agreed to go then backed out, afraid of disease, afraid of what theyd see.
Others couldnt make the seven-day commitment it will take a week to travel to and from the disaster zone and put in time volunteering.
But Gerow jumped on board immediately.
She called Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo, who gave her the go-ahead without a second thought.
If theres anybody up to the task, its Joanne, DeMayo said Monday. We support her efforts 100 percent in fact, Laurie [Dutcher] and Kathy [Farrand] in my office were working the tables at Shop-Rite yesterday to raise money.
Shop-Rite was just unbelievable in donating some of the supplies that Joanne needed, and so was Garrys Great American, he noted.
Gerow is a salaried employee of the town, but DeMayo said hes going to talk to the town board to see if some money can be found to help cover some of her expenses.
Weve been looking for some way to help down there, he explained. If this is something we can do, to support Joanne, I dont see that the board would disagree.
In the one day Keller had to give notice, folks across the county went out of their way to help support the cause, she said.
Businesses and private citizens made donations of money as well as supplies.
Companies that regularly sell animal products, including the Liberty Pet Center and Monticello Farm and Garden, helped stock Gerows trailer with food.
Id like to say thanks to everyone in the county that pulled together with very short notice, Keller said. It was amazing what we pulled off in no time at all.
Glen Wild Animal Rescue and the Kaaterskill Animal League will continue to accept donations litter, animal crates and feeding bowls are largely in demand for the overflowing shelters.
Delta Airlines has agreed to transport the donated items free of charge to the disaster zone.
Money can also be sent straight to the Humane Societys disaster relief fund.
Itll get put to good use, Keller said. They have a good network system, and this is for all animals, farm animals as well as dogs and cats its not specific to companion animals.
This disaster has affected everyone, Keller said.
Its a wreck with the people, its a wreck with the animals, she noted. Every time something like this happens, it shows were asleep at the wheel again.
People should make sure their animal is IDd with tags that identify their owner, and buddy up with a family member out of town who can take their animals in a crisis so these animal control officers wont be so overwhelmed.
You always feel bad when theyre stray, she said of the animals roaming the streets, but to know these were pets and are used to living in homes, you know theyre more stressed.
You hate to see them out there any longer than they have to.
Keller and Gerow will be returning with some of the animals, who can be fostered or adopted by local families.
For more information or to donate items, call Glen Wild Animal Rescue at 434-7191 or the Kaaterskill Animal League at 436-8060.
For more on the Humane Societys efforts in the Gulf Coast region, visit www.hsus.org. Donations made out to the HSUS Disaster Relief Fund can be sent to HSUS, Department DRFHBM, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
Veterinarians, vet techs and other handlers are also needed to help in the relief effort.