Erie Co. SPCA reflects on Katrina, 10 years later

SPCA staff members in New Orleans in 2005

TONAWANDA, N.Y.(WIVB)- It’s been 10 years since several Erie County SPCA staff members got a plane to New Orleans.

The crew went to help thousands of lost and abandoned animals, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The group asked for community support to help send them down south, and within just 24-hours, they had raised $30,000.

They were able to reunite many of the animals with their owners in New Orleans. Others, found a new home right here in Western New York.

Like Elmer: He was rescued by Erie County SPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigator, Lindsey Styborski. 10 years and 100 pounds later, he reunited with her Friday afternoon.

Another dog, Brandy, also found a forever home in Western New York. But her owners told News 4 Katrina has never left her.

“To this day if it rains she doesn’t want to go outside,” said Peter Costanzo.

Several Erie County SPCA staff members said it’s hard to believe it was ten years ago.

“It feels like it was yesterday,” said Deputy Director Beth Shapiro.

And it wasn’t just dogs and cats that needed help.

“It was stunning. I mean there were horses, dogs, cats, iguanas, rabbits. And hundreds and hundreds of people trying to take care of thousands and thousands of animals,” said staff member Amy Jaworski.

Aside from starvation and exposure, the animals faced another obstacle: chemical burns.

The runoff mixed with dangerous chemicals in the area and got into much of the standing water the animals were found in.

“I actually crawled under a house to rescue a dog that was trapped underneath a home, and he was covered head-to-toe with chemical burns,”Styborski recalled.

A kitten named Dixon had similar burns. He was rescued by Pam Hylinger, who also works for the Erie County SPCA.

“The whole experience was very humbling. He’s very lucky to be here,” she said.

Because the Erie County SPCA raised so much extra money, they donated $25,000 to the Louisiana chapter so they could rebuild.

Following the devastation of Katrina, now nationwide, owned pets are factored into evacuation plans, something that wasn’t in place ten years ago. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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