Gail Buchwald with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and host Steve Curwood talk about what happened to pets in New York City that have been displaced or orphaned as a result of September 11th.
CURWOOD: A number of people are still unable to return to their homes in lower Manhattan, more than a month now after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But one small comfort is that the pets of those folks who still can't go back to their homes, and the pets of those who died in the tragedy, are being taken care of. Joining me from the A.S.P.C.A. shelter on East 92nd Street in New York City is Gail Buchwald. Gail, how many of the animals at the shelter with you there are connected to the September 11th events?
BUCHWALD: Well, right now, we're very fortunate to have only two that have been orphaned as a result of the disaster. We have one dog, named Leo, he's a beautiful - I'm looking at him now, he's a fluffy chow mix, and we named him Leo because he looks a little bit like a lion. And we have a beautiful longhair gray 11-year-old Persian cat that came in, who was - unfortunately her owners couldn't keep her, because they had been displaced and they're living in lots of temporary homes and they gave her up.
CURWOOD: So, what happened to the animals in New York whose owners were victims or somehow displaced by September 11th?
BUCHWALD: Well, the good news is that we here at the A.S.P.C.A. were able to retrieve and rescue approximately 200 animals, where they were stranded in homes that had been evacuated. Most of those animals were reunited with their owners. We delivered medical care to over 300 animals, some of which came in with their owners, and those that didn't, as I said, we reunited them with them. For those who unfortunately lost their owners because the owners perished, we placed them in foster homes until next-of-kin or friends and neighbors came forward to claim them. And, as I said, in only a very few cases no one did come forward to claim them. Or those who were the remaining survivors of the person who was a victim did not want to keep the pet, and in those cases we have put them in wonderful foster homes and now they're up for adoption.
CURWOOD: What type of response have you gotten from people both in New York and around the country about helping out?
BUCHWALD: Oh, the response has been overwhelming. It's been really heartwarming to see. In fact, for a while during our disaster period, while we were heavily engaged in the rescue mission, our phone lines were nearly paralyzed by the number of calls, the outpouring of people calling to find out what they could do to help. We also received calls from people as far away as the Midwest and California, the West Coast and the Midwest, asking if they could foster an animal or adopt an animal, and they were willing to fly into New York and take an orphan from the World Trade Center area. And so it really was astounding how many people came forward.
CURWOOD: There are a number of studies out there that show animals can be very comforting to us human animals.
CURWOOD: What sort of evidence do you see that the people of New York have been seeking this kind of comfort? What's happened to your adoption rate there?
BUCHWALD: Well, there's no question our adoption rates are up, significantly up for cats and also marginally up for dogs. And we do believe people have really reached out to adopt a companion animal, in large part because of the alienation and isolation that many of us feel in the face of a disaster. There's no question that animals can bring therapeutic benefits as well as health benefits to their human companion, and that's been scientifically studied and documented. So it really is remarkable that those people out there who had been considering adopting a pet were able to find it in their hearts to bypass the puppy mills and bypass the pet stores and come to adopt shelter pets that really had no chance of getting home.
CURWOOD: Gail Buchwald is director of A.S.P.C.A. Cares, in New York City. Thanks for speaking with us, Gail.
BUCHWALD: You're very welcome.
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