They called it "The Big One" and for good reason: Hurricane Katrina, which swept through coastal states five years ago, was one of the five deadliest hurricanes on record as well as the costliest natural disaster ever recorded.
While the nation worked to help its friends and family in New Orleans, one NOLA-based business, K-9 Cab Pet Taxi, turned to help the group they knew couldn't help themselves: the pets.
Operated by Pat Spicer and her husband Dan, K-9 Cab Pet Taxi transported rescued animals to the rescue center in Gonzales, Louisiana by the dozen. The Lamar Dixon Rescue Center housed dogs and cats, as well as horses, cattle, pigs, chickens and even exotic animals during the aftermath of the storm.
Not long after the rescue operations began, philanthropists T. Boone Pickens and his wife Madeline wanted to help relocate 20 rescued dogs from Tylertown, Mississippi to Rancho Santa Fe, California.
"Problems arose due to spotty communications, limited fuel and FEMA had contracted every cargo vehicle in the area," Spicer told us. "It was proving to be nearly impossible to accomplish our task." Spicer put out a call to her fellow members of the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) and our CEO, Kevin O'Brien, offered to help. From our offices in Austin, PetRelocation.com coordinated communications and helped get Operation Pet Lift off the ground.
Mr. T. Boone Pickens and his wife flew into Baton Rouge, chartering a 737 flown by Continental Airlines, which accommodated even more rescues to be flown out of harm's way that day.
The plane was retrofitted so that pets could fly in the passenger cabin as well as the cargo hold, their crates secured in the seats of the plane. Pets were loaded on board and flown to Rancho Santa Fe, where they were able to receive improved care and more individualized attention.
It's hard to believe it's been five years since Operation Pet Lift. The effort caught the attention of the world's news media, as well as animal lovers who sent in food and supplies for the abandoned pets. Many pet owners were later reunited with their pets after the floods -- pets that they were forced to leave behind, not knowing what would become of them.
For her efforts in the Katrina pet rescues, Pat Spicer was awarded the 2007 IPATA Millie Woolf Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes a lifelong commitment to the safe, reliable transportation of pets and further advancing the international pet travel community. Pat is a true asset to the pet transportation industry and we encourage pet owners in New Orleans who might be looking for pet taxi and travel assistance to reach out to K-9 Cab Pet Taxi.