My sister works for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry in Emergency Preparedness, and is part of the pet evacuation team. When she and her team were setting up a pet evacuation shelter in Alexandria, LA for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, she asked if I would volunteer. I love animals, and as an evacuee myself staying with my friend Rose Anne St. Romain in Mansura, LA, I decided to help out. The experience was rewarding, joyful, heart-breaking and eye-opening. I learned the do’s and don’t’s of evacuating with your pet. I also learned that my sister Robbie is a super hero. The emergency preparedness team implemented the first of its kind mobile pet evacuation shelter that can be dispatched to hard-hit areas. The team also advocated for and created a co-habitation shelter toolkit that provides guidance for those who evacuate with pets. This toolkit aims to reduce stress on families, animals and first responders, as well as consolidate and economize resources necessary to house humans and animals separately by having them housed together.
Because there were so many animal casualties during Hurricane Katrina and those that followed, Louisiana enacted a law that makes it illegal to chain or confine pets and livestock during disasters. Basically, the rule is to take your pet with you when you evacuate.
My sister and I discussed the need for families and residents to be better educated about how to evacuate with their pets. Of course, I immediately thought of a song. I wrote the song, “Take Your Pet with You,” and last week, my sister and I, along with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Civil Service, filmed a music video to go with the song that I recorded in UltraSonic Studios with engineer David Farrell, producer Scott Billington, sousaphonist Kirk Joseph of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, trumpeter Kevin Clark of the Dukes of Dixieland and percussionist Michael Skinkus. Here are a few photographs from the studio session.
Thank you to the countless civil servants, first responders, civilians, politicians, and artists who came together and often donated their time for this project to save the lives of animals. I cannot wait to share the song and video with you. The music video will be released by the Departments of Agriculture and Forestry and Civil Service shortly.