Sen. David Vitter of Metairie and Rep. Sam Farr of California were recently named Humane Legislators of the Year by the Humane Society. According to a report in the Times-Picayune by Jonathan Tilove, Vitter was cited for his strong leadership in the Senate that obtained funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture that broadened their oversight of circuses, laboratories, zoos and puppy mills. The Department of Agriculture also targets the illegal practice of “soring” show horses wherein trainers, in order to achieve a high-stepping gait, impose pain on the horses’ legs and hooves; additionally this department’s other causes include strong enforcement of humane slaughter laws and animal-fighting laws; the needs of animals placed in shelters during times of disaster; and easing the lack of rural veterinarians.

According to the Humane Society announcement, Vitter has been a champion and advocate over many years for legislation that required accurate labeling of furs, cracked down on dog- fighting and cockfighting and banned the creation of obscene animal videos involving torture. He has also fought to strengthen the law against shark-finning, the savage practice of cutting off fins and tossing the still-living creatures back into the water.

Wayne Pecelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, had high praise for Vitter. “We commend Sen. Vitter for extraordinary leadership in advancing key animal protection laws and assuring that they are properly enforced,” Pecelle said. “He is a determined advocate, and he recognizes that our society has a responsibility to care for other creatures and to show them mercy.”

Also recognized for her own humane work for animal rights was Sen. Mary Landrieu, who received an award in recognition of her work against horse slaughter and show horse “soring” and for the protection of wild horses and burros.


I am convinced that if there is such a thing as elevating Sunday rides to an art form, my mother possessed this gift. After Mass on Sunday mornings, usually in spring, we’d hear her spur-of-the-moment command: “Get in the car; we’re going for a ride.” These junkets would take us to fascinating, enchanting places that would last for hours – the moss-draped River Road, shimmering Lake Catherine and the Rigolets, far into the swamps on Highway 90, remote ferry crossings over the Mississippi River and once right into the middle of the field that was the Bonnet Carré Spillway when the locks were closed. But the trip that was most bewitching to me was when she took me to see the Strand of Pearls houses (as I called them) in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward. They looked like houses dressed for a wedding and took my breath away.

They’re actually called The Two Sisters, the Doullut Steamboat Houses, the first being built in 1905 by steamboat captain Milton P. Doullut on Egania Street, with an incomparable view of the Mississippi and downtown New Orleans from the upper gallery. The second sister rose daintily on the other side of Egania eight years later, built for Doullut’s son Paul, also a river pilot. Milton Doullut’s wife is believed to have been the first New Orleans lady to hold a river pilot license. Placed on the Historic Register in 1977, the two houses with their lacy delicate exteriors nevertheless withstood the onslaught of Katrina. The construction of these confectioneries was influenced by the wedding cake design of steamboats and a Japanese pagoda built at the 1904 World’s Fair held just up the river in St. Louis. Festooned along the upper galleries like elegant necklaces are giant cypress balls dangling in a double garland, rising above a sweeping double staircase. Crowning the exquisite gingerbread structures are the pilothouses that watch the river, one still replete with the ship’s brass telegraph bearing the legends “full stop,” “astern,” “slow” and “half.”