Missouri Doctor Back from New Orleans Relief Effort Says Human Needs Now Being Tackled, but Animal Survivors Dying of Thirst and Starvation

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Stephen W. Stigers, MD, DMD, an anesthesiologist at Doctors Park Surgery in Cape Girardeau, Mo., returned Sept. 5 after a weekend spent helping the massive aid effort in New Orleans. As part of a volunteer physician team organized by Louisiana's emergency response system, Stigers provided medical care to people suffering from the aftermath of the devastating hurricane. What he witnessed while working out of an ambulance in downtown New Orleans echoes some of the most recent reports coming out of that city.

"The suffering was immense, but thankfully, the human needs are now being addressed," says Stigers. "Most victims are receiving appropriate medical care. The big problem now is the animals; many are being left behind to die from thirst and starvation."

Stigers saw dogs and mules abandoned and suffering. He also discovered that in some areas, organizations were not being allowed in to help animals, and people were not being permitted to evacuate with their pets. "Now that human relief efforts are solidly under way, we must tackle the horrific situation still threatening so many animals," says Stigers.

Stigers is a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which criticized federal authorities last weekend for forcing evacuees to choose between their possessions and their companion animals. PCRM psychiatrists said that being forced to leave animals behind aggravates the trauma flood victims have already endured. For many, companion animals are like family members.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine