Emergency evacuation brings Louisiana orphan animals to Helen Woodward Animal Center, temporary foster families needed

Helen Woodward Animal Center
Helen Woodward Animal Center seeks the public’s help in securing temporary foster families for the latest arrivals from Louisiana.
(Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center)

Local foster homes are urgently needed for dozens of dogs and cats rescued over last weekend from Hurricane Ida-impacted areas in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe took in 65 animals on Saturday, Aug. 28 which were flown by private jet to El Cajon’s Gillespie Field airport by pilots working in partnership with Greater Good Charities. The animals were evacuated from overwhelmed shelters in the hurricane’s path.

Jessica Gercke, spokesperson for Helen Woodward, said now that the animals are safely at the center, the nonprofit is seeking foster homes, and eventually permanent adopters, for the 40 cats and 25 dogs. Some of the animals are pregnant, so Gercke said there will also be kittens and puppies at some point in the near future.

“Greater Good Charities said they would be willing to bring out another plane and get more animals to bring out if we can get 100 more foster families,” Gercke said. “Essentially, fostering would provide space for two animals because it will get an animal into a home and then open a spot in the shelter for another animal.”

Erin Robbins
Erin Robbins, Greater Good Charities director of Pet Transport Program Good Flights
(Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center)

As word spread last week of Hurricane Ida’s impending arrival on the Gulf Coast, animal shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi already stretched beyond capacity found they had no safe space to offer housing for any incoming animals. The evacuation cleared some cages for new arrivals.

Ida arrived as a Category 4 hurricane on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf coastline. As shelters hoped to withstand Ida’s destruction, residents in need of evacuation have also been concerned, knowing they would need to leave their homes and take cover but not all emergency shelters allow pets. As a result, Greater Good Charities has been receiving calls nonstop for animal evacuations from area shelters, according to Erin Robbins, director of the Seattle charity’s pet transport program, Good Flights.

“At least three of the individuals I spoke to were in tears,” Robbins said, in a statement. “One of the Louisiana shelters is under construction, so their current temporary location is on local fairgrounds in the cow stalls. They are literally outside with a hurricane on its way. It’s a time when we truly wish every home that is able would open up their hearts to foster. If we could open up more spaces in San Diego, I would turn this plane around and send it back out to pick up 300 more.”

Fostering could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Helen Woodward covers cost for food, bedding and other needs. Those interested in opening up their homes to the animals can visit or call Helen Woodward’s fostering program at (858) 756-4117, ext. 375.

Helen Woodward Animal Center Adoption Services Director Hella Tyler said that this is one of those times when animal rescue truly becomes a life-saving mission: “Without a place to put these dogs and cats, many of these orphan pets would face a tragic end. We couldn’t say no.”

For more information on how to help Greater Good with current rescue needs, visit

— Karen Pearlman is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


2:14 p.m. Sept. 2, 2021: This news release has been updated with a San Diego Union-Tribune story.