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NEW YORK - The Westminster Kennel Club has announced that it is making donations totaling $35,000 to a number of organizations to support victims of the devastation of the hurricanes in the Gulf States.

The first donation ($10,000) went to the Take The Lead Disaster Fund. The fund was established to assist people in the world of dogs who live in federally designated disaster areas and have suffered loss as a direct result of any disaster.

Additional donations have been made to agencies in Louisiana and Texas in support of the housing of family pets and in the recovery of lost pets due to the disaster. Funds have been sent to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association ($10,000), the Louisiana SPCA ($5,000), Houston SPCA ($5,000) and AKC Companion Animal Recovery ($5,000).

These agencies are providing safe haven for the pets, which allows for the people to devote their time and energies to their own personal health and safety issues. They are also active in rescue efforts of lost or abandoned pets in all affected areas, in hopes of eventually re-uniting pets with their families.

People have been refusing to evacuate themselves from dangerous situations because they were not allowed to evacuate their pets as well. In some cases, people have been forced to leave their beloved pets behind, adding to the psychological burdens brought on by the tragedy. That bond between people and their pets is understandable as pets are often thought of as members of the family. Complicating the issue is the fact is that those family pets might be all that someone has left after the devastation of Katrina.

"We want to help provide some peace of mind for these families as they battle for survival and recovery," said Westminster President Peter R. Van Brunt in announcing the donations. "The safety and well-being of their family pets will be an important part of the recovery process."

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