You Can Help Gulf Coast Cats in Need

One no-kill shelter offers relief for low-income or out-of-work families with cats.

Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO) has been inundated with cats and dogs lately. The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has led to a decrease in tourism and fishing in the New Orleans area, affecting local workers in the retail, hospitality and fishing industries. As a result, many cat and dog surrenders have arrived at the shelter from resident pet owners who have fallen on difficult economic times.

“The oil spill situation has caused our surrenders to double,” said Charlotte Bass Lilly, executive director of ARNO. ”Our shelter is over full with a waiting list to come in, and as many animals in foster as in the shelter.”

As a no-kill shelter, ARNO works hard to find each animal a new home. The facility serves up to 63 cats and dogs at a time, but the latest influx of dogs and cats could strain their resources to help Gulf Coast residents.

Its alternative plan helps both the shelter and the public: the Pet Retention Program. This allows low-income or out-of-work individuals or families to receive financial aid to care for their pets during disasters. According to Lilly, the program not only allows people to keep their beloved pets, “but cuts down on surrenders into municipal and private shelters.”

“I hope that making this program public, and our need for support of this program, also encourages shelters everywhere to institute such a program,” Lilly said. “The pet is less stressed because it remains with the family it has always known, and the human caretakers are less stressed as well with the financial burden lifted from their shoulders.”

The Pet Retention Program provides for all cat needs: food, medical care transportation to and from the vet and even a carrier to in case of evacuation. A caseworker stays assigned to a specific family to ensure consistent care for the cats and proper social services for the cat owners. ARNO makes one request — if the animal is intact, the group insists it spay/neuter the cat at its own cost.

The program began in 2006, when the earlier Gulf Coast emergency Hurricane Katrina put dog and cat owners under great economic strain. ARNO accepts donations to the program on several levels. Donors can sponsor a family’s pet for $25 a month, for instance, and receive details of the family the funds assist.

To donate, click on the ARNO donation page. To give a gift to the Pet Retention Program or to sponsor a family, write “Pet Retention Program” in the note field; specify that your gift is returning for a set amount of months, if you wish to sponsor a family.

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