Notes: Donating to animal victims of Hurricane Katrina

Bravo to all the people who are donating money and supplies to help the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina. Your compassion and empathy are much appreciated and are helping thousands of animals. How wonderful it is to know that there are shelters in the affected areas holding and caring for the pets of human victims who need some time to get back on their feet. Those animal care facilities are uniting people with their pets during an impossibly tough time, a time when the humans especially need the love and comfort of a beloved companion.

As for those animals that have not been reunited with their human families, your support is helping to keep them alive. It’s helping to arrange their transportation to other states, even to here in the Williamette Valley, where they can be cared for until a permanent home can be found.

I think this is wonderful. I want to see every animal given a chance to live and find a home. But I have to ask: What about the animals in this state? Did you know that thousands of animals here are homeless every year, through no fault of their own? And that many homeless animals die here in Oregon, from neglect, from illness, from accidents, or from being euthanized in a shelter that has no more room?

One of the positive outcomes of a terrible natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina is that loving and caring people from around the world donate to help fix the problems. I am so happy to see that taking place; the people affected do desperately need our help. We also need to be cognizant of the fact that there are animals needing our help and financial support right here, in our area. Expanding that beyond pets, there are children here in Linn and Benton Counties who don’t have enough to eat on any given day, and families who can’t find adequate housing, and elderly people who have trouble paying for their necessary medications and food. Are you helping the people close to home, too?

I would ask that if you were fortunate enough to be able to spare money to help people in other areas, that you reach down in your pockets and spare some to help those close to home, too. Being an animal lover and involved with animal welfare issues in our area, I think it would be great if you would make a donation to a local humane society or rescue in addition to the ways you’re helping national organizations like the ASPCA, Best Friends, and American Humane Association. But if there are other ways you want to help, please seek out the appropriate area non-profit organization and make a contribution. We are very lucky here to not have to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane, but we have our own problems that need solving, too.

RABBIT FEVER: No, I’m not talking about an extreme passion for bunnies. Last month in Corvallis, we saw proof of tularemia, also called rabbit fever, in a dead squirrel. The disease is so dubbed because it can affect rabbits and rodents, but it also can impact humans.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can only be passed to humans when they handle blood or tissue from an infected animal, eat that animal (if the meat is not well cooked), or get bit by a flea or tick that transmits the bacteria. It is not extremely rare, but it’s not very common in humans, either. Watch for swollen glands, skin irritation, and flu-like symptoms if you’ve been hunting or handling a lot of animals. It’s easy to treat with antibiotics.

I want to put any fears at rest – this is not something your pet rabbit is likely to give you – there are no documented cases of a pet rabbit in this state even getting the disease (they don’t eat other rabbits or rodents, which is the most common form of transmission), let alone passing it along to its owner.

However, local dogs and cats have a very small risk of potentially getting the disease because they do sometimes hunt and kill small wild animals. This is a very good reason not to let your pet roam unsupervised. And if your pet does show signs of getting ill, such as fever and loss of appetite, it’s never a bad idea to visit your veterinarian. It can be cleared up with antibiotics for dogs and cats, too.

Is this a big risk that you should spend sleepless nights worrying about? No. But it’s good to be informed. And when you hear the words “rabbit fever” – you’ll know it’s not referring to someone getting really excited, or a new dance move, or even something you can get from your pet bunny.

GETTING AWAY WITH YOUR PET: September and early October are some of the nicest times to visit the Oregon Coast. Don’t leave your pets behind! Many hotels along the coast accept pets. Check for a list of several such places. These aren’t dives, either – many of the accommodations that accept pets are some of the nicest on the coast.