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On rescued pets' wish list: help, home for the holidays

Published November 27, 2005

NEW PORT RICHEY - Spaz has a lot to be grateful for this holiday season, and the handsome guy doesn't even have a real place to call home.

The large American bulldog, who was rescued from the squalor of a Hurricane Katrina-devastated area, arrived in west Pasco last month aboard a refrigerated truck full of 80 animals. Representatives from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals drove the truck as they searched for organizations willing to help its occupants find a better life.

The Animal Care Center of Pasco was one local agency that accepted some of the animals. There were 20 in all, including Spaz and cats Zeus, Ivan and Reba, which all still need to be adopted.

"The (animals) here are being treated like royalty. They didn't have it this good in New Orleans, that's for sure," said Animal Care Center behavior technician Amanda Miller .

Miller and six other Animal Care Center employees traveled in October to St. Bernard Parish, where the deaths of animals - and people - were noted in spray paint scrawl on buildings. The staffers even saw dead cows in trees.

"I just didn't expect what I saw," said 21-year-old veterinary technician Beata Kispal . Miller estimates there are hundreds of animals rescued from the devastation that are now in Tampa Bay and need homes. "This area is still saturated with animals from Katrina," Miller said.

The Animal Care Center is waiving its usual $37 adoption fee for those who adopt Katrina animals, who can be viewed by going to its Web site, and clicking on the bright red link noting animals available for adoption.

The link takes viewers to where Hurricane Katrina victims can search for their lost pets. Miller gets calls almost daily from owners looking for the animals that were left behind.

"There's that emotion that's in all of us wanting to get these animals home," said Rick Chaboudy , executive director of the Humane Society of Pinellas. But its not always in the animals' best interest to be reunited with their owners.

Chaboudy estimates 90 percent of the 261 animals his group rescued had life-threatening heartworms that they acquired before Katrina hit that their owners didn't have treated.

Chaboudy, whose group has made 26 trips to the New Orleans area, called rescuing the animals from the filth "the easy part." The hard part, he said, is treating the very sick animals for the two to three months it takes to get them healthy enough to be adopted.

The Humane Society of Pinellas now has nearly 40 Katrina animals awaiting adoption, which typically costs $35 or $55. The pets have received microchips, and adoptees are given 30 days of free health insurance. The animals up for adoption can be viewed by going to which also has links to Petfinder.

Like at the Animal Care Center, all of the pets have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The Humane Society also microchips the pets.

"This has cost us many thousands of dollars to do what we have done," Chaboudy said.

Hence, donations to the Humane Society or ASPCA ( would make a lot of sense as Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers. Also, both organizations sell Christmas cards and gifts on their Web sites. For the Humane Society, go to and click on "Shop Our Store."

Chaboudy warns against folks adopting the Katrina animals, or any animal, because they feel sorry for the pets or because they want to contribute to the cause. "When you bring in an animal, you bring it in for the rest of that animal's life," he said.

For those willing and able to make that commitment, "the best way to help would be to adopt," Kispal said, "and let the animal put this horrific ordeal behind it."

--Jennifer Stewart writes about social events and personalities in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6231. Her e-mail address is

[Last modified November 27, 2005, 07:51:45]

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