Stranded pets now being rescued
By Suhasini Haidar
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A few blocks north of the police barricades on Canal Street volunteers are running a command center for a special sort of operation -- pet rescues.
The command center has been sending out its vans to evacuate animals from the buildings around the World Trade Center complex, what is now called "ground zero."
After the terrorist attacks, none of the residents of the buildings in the area were allowed back in to collect their pets.
Among them was Hiro Oshima, a photographer who lived a block away. He was at home when he heard the first airplane attack. He rushed out with his camera and was clicking photographs when the buildings began to come down.
He ran for his life and thought he would come back later to get Laertes, his 9-month-old Bengal cat. He never dreamed it would be four days before he could. Oshima contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals command center on Kings Street. Laertes had water but no food. "But even the water was filled with soot when we went in to the apartment," Oshima said, "He must have been so scared."
Volunteers here have rescued and treated more than 50 animals since Thursday when they set up the makeshift center -- complete with a mobile operating theater.
That includes cats, dogs, birds, even a gecko. The 3-year-old lizard "Little Dude" was so stressed by the explosions, it shed its skin (geckos shed their skins routinely, but this skin-shedding was brought on by trauma).
To rescue "Little Dude" Humane Law Enforcement agents had to climb 39 floors to bring him back to its owner, Eve Kline, a TriBeCa resident.
"Sometimes the owners feel so guilty that they abandoned their pets," said Jennifer Olsen of the ASPCA. "We have to counsel them, too. But it is so gratifying to see them when they reunite with their pets after all this time."
Not all rescued pets have been reunited with their owners. Authorities fear some of the pets being housed at animal care shelters in the city may have belonged to someone who died or is missing from Tuesday's attacks.
If that is the case, they will probably put the pets up for adoption soon. The ASPCA is receiving offers to adopt the animals from other New York residents every day.
Help for the animals in several forms has poured in as people across the country try to find some way of reaching out. They have donated hundreds of bags of cat food and dog food and animal containers to transport the pets.
One pet transporter, Robert Ake, drove to New York all the way from Colorado to help with the pet rescues.
And as New Yorkers lined up at the police barricades on Canal Street to cheer for their heroes -- firefighters and rescue workers returning from their shifts at the wreckage site -- they also cheered for the "animal heroes" -- handsome dogs who have been sniffing for survivors.
One Minnesota couple even sent "dog boots" to help protect the canine workers from the sharp rubble.
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