The Spirit of Veterinary Medicine Hurricane Relief Fund was established at LSU in 2005 on the heels of Hurricane Katrina. Named in honor of "Spirit," a much-loved dog belonging to the fund's lead donor, the purpose of the fund is to support animals that are affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on August 29, 2005. The School of Veterinary Medicine, along with countless volunteers, provided a massive response. Temporary animal shelters were established at the LSU AgCenter’s John M. Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge, La., and the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La. Parker Coliseum housed owned animals brought out of the New Orleans area by their owners; Lamar-Dixon housed rescued animals. Faculty, staff and students from the LSU SVM volunteered at both facilities.
Within 48 hours, the Parker Coliseum took in 500 animals. In total, more than 2,000 pets were sheltered there. Over 8,000 animals were housed at Lamar-Dixon, including more than 300 horses rescued by volunteers. These shelters operated 24 hours a day for almost two months. Volunteers worked tirelessly attending to routine needs daily and providing medical care for these animals and to reunite them with their owners.
The incredible generosity of thousands of people like you supported the multiple expenses incurred caring for these displaced animals, including transportation to shelters around the country and subsequent transportation so that they could be reunited with their owners.
The LSU SVM shelter medicine program in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States provides services to shelters seriously damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, including shelter management advice, implementation, and individual animal care at shelters in East Baton Rouge, Plaquemines, Jefferson, and St. Bernard parishes.
LSU also hosts a monthly “spay day” for cats in a program known as the LSU Animal Sterilization Assistance Program. Approximately 100 sterilization surgeries are performed monthly.
Our new mobile veterinary clinic is now available for state-wide emergency response and was first deployed after Hurricane Gustav rolled through Louisiana. The unit, acquired in partnership with the American Kennel Club, will be used throughout the year to support shelter activities in southern Louisiana. The Spirit Fund supported equipment for the trailer and the truck to haul it. In the response to Hurricane Gustav, LSU students were engaged in the massive evacuation from New Orleans while in Baton Rouge (with all other emergency clinics closed because of power failure), faculty, staff and students took in 40 emergencies a day for the first three days of the aftermath. Spirit funds were applied where appropriate to animal care during this critical period.
SVM Faculty have developed special elective courses in the professional curriculum that define the role of the veterinary profession in disaster response and prepare our students for engagement. We have presented Large Animal Emergency Response Training Clinics in collaboration with the LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute and the LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute. “Lessons learned” from our experiences have been disseminated widely at major veterinary meetings. LSU has set the standard on a national and global scale as leaders in this necessary area of veterinary medicine.
The magnificent bronze sculpture, Connections, in honor to those who come to the aid of animals, was dedicated in the SVM Serenity Garden on November 6, 2008. This project was supported independently of the Spirit Fund.