Transcript from Friday's Piece on CNN with Anderson Cooper
Last Friday, Anderson Cooper talked with Lee (Bergeron) about all the animal rescue efforts here. Here's the transcript:
Plus too many animals, not enough shelter. What happens now to the pets stranded by Katrina? And is there something you can do to help? Stick with us. We'll show you how.
COOPER: You know, we continue to focus on the plight not just of humans here but also of animals. Nearly three weeks ago when search and rescue teams were plucking people in the Gulf coast from their homes and their rooftops, most were not allowed to bring their pets. A lot of people stayed for that very reason.
The Humane Society says that about 50,000 animals were left behind in New Orleans alone, 50,000 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We decided to look at what is happening now with those abandoned animals. Here's what we found.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice-over): In New Orleans you stumble on heartbreaking scenes, this one in the Garden District. A dog dead, decaying on the sidewalk. A scene Humane Society volunteer Lee Bergeron can't put into words.
LEE BERGERON, ANIMAL RESCUE VOLUNTEER: It's hard for me not to cry when I look at it.
COOPER: Cruising the streets for stranded pets, Lee finds two dogs, hungry, exhausted, but for them it's not too late.
BERGERON: Come here.
COOPER: Lee radios for help. This is exactly why he made the trip all the way from San Diego, to save animals' lives. It's not always possible, however. In the next house Lee finds dogs barking wildly inside, too scared to even show themselves. With no place to put dogs who come peacefully, there's nothing Lee can do but leave food and some water.
BERGERON: Sorry, dog.
COOPER: It's been like this for weeks now. The first days after Katrina we found dogs stranded in trees, dogs on walls, pacing, surrounded by water. This is what helpless feels like. Motoring in a boat, we found animals everywhere, adrift, abandoned by their owners, alive or dead.
(on camera): There are so many dogs which you find that are just starving. And you try to feed them as much as you can. But there's too many of them roaming around. It's going to become a health hazard.
(voice-over): Since then teams of animal rescuers from all over the country have waded into dirty, diseased water trying to coax stranded pets into crates and onto boats. The Humane Society says the operation has led to the rescue of some 5,000 abandoned animals.
Little Chip here is lucky. Cradled in the arms of an Army flight surgeon, rescued with his owner and airlifted to safety. This Shih Tzu taking shelter at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where some 1,000 rescued animals remain.
New Orleans now struggles with the staggering numbers of animals rescued in shelters, how to house them, how to feed them, what to do with them. The Agriculture Department's animal health inspection service says of the 5,000 animals rescued, fewer than 700 have been reunited with their owners.
For those animals that didn't make it to safety, left in houses without air-conditioning, left roaming or chained, there's not a lot rescue workers can do for them now. They just leave them some food and some water, trying to alleviate a few moments' suffering.
BERGERON: Two weeks without food and water a lot of these guys went. We're just trying to get as many of them fed as we can so we can buy time and rescue them later or maybe they'll open up the city and let the owners come back in and take care of the pets.
COOPER: Bottom line is right now there's not enough room at these shelters for all the animals that need to be helped at that. And there are so many of you out there who have e-mailed us saying look, you'd like to help, you want to come here.
We're honored to be joined by two volunteers right now who came on their own dime to come here, Lee Bergeron and Lexy Montgomery (ph). You were in New York. Lee, you were in San Diego. You were watching on TV, you wanted to come.
COOPER: But when you called up the humane societies, they said don't come.
BERGERON: Right. Exactly.
COOPER: What -- why?
BERGERON: They said they had enough, they were fine, they didn't need any help.
COOPER: Is that true?
BERGERON: No. No.
COOPER: So you just came here on your own. What did you do?
BERGERON: I found a place where I could be used and went to the shelter in Gonzales, realized that things weren't being done like I'd like to do them. So we came into the city on our own.
COOPER: What's the problem, Lexy, at the shelter? I mean, you know, there are good people working there but they're just overwhelmed?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally overwhelmed. And if everybody could help on different levels wherever they can, we just found within area where we could be useful on a different level.
COOPER: So basically, what you've done is you picked an area of New Orleans. You didn't really know New Orleans. You just came here, you have your own car, you picked it, and you just -- you're not trying to pick up the animals anymore. Only the ones who are really hurt you're picking up.
COOPER: What are you doing with the rest of them?
BERGERON: Feed and water. We go to each house, we listen down the street. We see them on the road. We put food and water on the side of the road and we come back. We get to know the dogs. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep them alive. Buy some time, keep them alive.
BERGERON: We stay in a certain area. That way we learn the dogs in the area, we learn where they are.
COOPER: Because the official policy is pick up ones, drive them to the shelter, get them registered and all that. You're saying it's overwhelming. You're saying there's thousands of animals you're seeing.
BERGERON: Every other day they shut you down, they don't let you deliver animals to them. So the best thing to do is just staying alive.
COOPER: They don't let you deliver animals to the shelter?
BERGERON: Three days now they've turned us back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No room.
COOPER: So you set up your own little shelter. You put them on petfinder.com because you want people to find them but you're trying to keep feed them where they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Petfinder.com. Keep them alive.
BERGERON: They're better off in their neighborhood or in their home and being fed than being shipped around and using all these resources to process these dogs.
COOPER: I appreciate you guys coming down here. You're doing it on your own and you're doing a great job. Thank you very much.
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