Emergency Drive to Save Gulf's Latest Victims: Abandoned Dogs

In response, the Louisiana SPCA has launched the Gulf Coast Animal Companion Relief Program, which is designed to help fishermen and others affected by the spill get free food and veterinary care so they can keep their animals.

The service includes free veterinary exams, free vaccines, tests for feline leukemia and heartworms in dogs, and spay and neuter surgery. Pet owners can also receive three months of free food through the program.

The project has been supported by a $100,000 grant from the national SPCA and other support from the PetCo Foundation and Del Monte, which makes dog food.

LeBlanc said the response has been tremendous since they introduced the program last Monday. They have already booked two weeks of veterinary appointments.

Sharron Gonzales of Westwego, Louisiana, who is one of the beneficiaries of the program and owns two dogs and a cat, said her husband, a fencer, recently had to take a pay cut because work had come to a standstill. The cost to get her American Old English pitbull spayed and neutered would have been in the hundreds of dollars, and vaccines for her bulldog puppy would have added to that total.

"We can't afford their shots," she said. "They wouldn't have gotten fixed.

"We have to pay bills. We have to eat."

Now both of her dogs will be spayed and neutered and will receive their vaccinations. Had the program not existed, Gonzales said she probably would have been forced to give up her puppy.

She and her husband are appreciative of the program. "It's letting us keep and take care of our animals," Gonzales said.

While the Louisiana's SPCA's initiative will help with the problem, LeBlanc predicts it will only get worse.

"A reality of that issue is our shelters run out of space within a matter of days and weeks," she said, "and these animals don't have a chance even to be seen."

The combination of the local initiative and transporting the animals should help alleviate the problem.

"Because we're able to make more space, we are able to save more lives."

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