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Cats and pups — spared Hurricane Ida’s wrath in Louisiana — arrive in Chicago

“There are so many Chicagoans who love to help pets in need” by becoming foster families, said the CEO of PAWS Chicago.

A dog rescued from a shelter in Louisiana that was in the path of Hurricane Ida is welcomed at PAWS Chicago Medical Center in Little Village on Wednesday.
A dog rescued from a shelter in Louisiana that was in the path of Hurricane Ida is welcomed at PAWS Chicago Medical Center in Little Village on Wednesday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

More than three dozen dogs and cats from Louisiana shelters in the direct path of Hurricane Ida arrived at PAWS Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.

Twenty-three cats and 15 dogs made the nearly day-long drive from Louisiana to Illinois, stopping briefly in Springfield, where PAWS Chicago met the transport vehicle, exchanging a vanload of pet supplies, donated by the organization and community, for the rescued animals.

The pets were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers, some of whom draped leashes around their necks and cheered as the van pulled into the parking lot.

One by one, volunteers took crates of cats and dogs on leashes into the Little Village medical center and shelter. “Welcome to PAWS… Oh, you’re gonna be so loved,” one volunteer told Ceceila, a young shepherd mix as she walked into the facility.

Dr. Emily Swiniarski, a veterinarian and the chief medical officer of PAWS Chicago, expected the animals to be “stressed and scared.”

“They went on a very long car ride, they’ve been through a lot just coming all the way from Louisiana and also the conditions there being that it’s currently in a state of emergency,” she said.

The animals underwent medical examinations upon arrival. Several tested positive for heartworm, from which it can take up to three months to recover, Homan said.

Some animals could be ready for foster homes in the coming days. Swiniarski hopes to put some of the pets on the adoption floor by next week. PAWS Chicago spokesperson Julia Poukatch said the organization is always looking for foster family prospects.

“Fostering is the best way that people can help,” she added. People interested in fostering or adopting can find more information at PAWSChicago.org.

Chief Executive Officer Susanna Homan said she received calls about taking animals in from several shelters located in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas of Louisiana last week as the facilities braced for the disastrous storm heading their way.

“They came to us because they wanted to clear out their shelters of existing animals,” Homan said. “When a hurricane is coming, the shelters know if people are gonna lose their homes, there’s gonna be desperate need for space for animals.” The dogs and cats arrived in Chicago as Louisiana is beginning to clean up the mess left by Hurricane Ida, one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the state’s boot.

Swiniarski said it means a lot for her team to be part of the national response and recovery effort. “We can’t all run down to Louisiana and give help even though we really desperately want to,Swiniarski said. “And so it’s nice to be part of a way to give back to the nation, to the communities, and to really assist with the disaster.

“The whole team looks forward to this transport, it’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it because it’s just so rewarding to see them come out and go to adoptive homes.”

PAWS Chicago has about 140 animals at its West Side facility, and could hold up to 180 comfortably, leaving room for the Chicago organization to take in more animals if needed, Swiniarski and Homan said.

“We’re going to need to continue to support these shelters and bring more animals to Chicago, where we’re lucky... there are so many Chicagoans who love to help pets in need,” Homan said. “We know that we can find homes for them and we can give them the medical treatment they need.”