Evacuees transported from Louisiana to Texas were not allowed to take their pets with them. Some were forced to leave their pets on the side of the road while they boarded buses. Others were lucky enough to hide small pets in their shirts, pants and bags.
"I tried to hide her in my bag. We made it here," says former New Orleans resident Travante Ray about her pooch Cici. "She did good; she swam through some water. She made sure she was coming with her mommy."
Nearly 400 animals arrived this way. Once passengers arrived at the Astrodome, however, they were not allowed inside with pets. The Houston SPCA sent volunteers to meet the buses and take the pets back to its shelter until the owners could care for them again.
Houston SPCA President Patricia Mercer tells The Early Show's Debbye Turner, "There was a man in his 80s and he was with his wife, who came off the bus in a wheelchair. They were clutching a little white poodle. And he said 'This is Tasha. This is the most important thing in our lives. And this is all we have left.' "
Mercer says, "These animals are all their family. And in many cases, this is all they have left. All of the evacuees who have brought animals with them, who are staying in hotels and are staying in Red Cross shelters, are coming to us for support and for their animals."
Mercer coordinates the shelter and care of nearly 1,000 pets made homeless by Katrina. And it is not just dogs. The shelter is also housing cats, birds — even an iguana or two.
Travante and Samuel Ray now have a place to stay, so they are picking up Cici and taking her home.
"I'm just thankful that we made it here and everything is OK," she says. "And we can start a new life."
While this particular story has a happy ending, the story is much darker for countless pets still stranded in Hurricane-affected areas. After a week of evacuating people, relief workers are now turning to the work of rescuing pets still trapped on rooftops and front porches.
Laura Maloney, executive director of the Louisiana SPCA, has been working on taking pictures of stranded pets and posting all rescued animals on petfinder.com. Visit the Web site if you are searching for a lost pet.
The Louisiana SPCA has had access to New Orleans and has rescued about 400 animals, including animals removed from the Superdome and local clinics. The aim is to rescue as many animals as possible and then collect addresses from families who were forced to leave pets behind.
Here is a list of organizations helping with animal rescue and care:
- Humane Society of the United States 800-486-2631
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 866-275-3923
- American Humane Association
- Noah's Wish 530-622-9313
- Hotline only for New Orleans residents who had to leave their pets behind: 225-578-6111
- Hotline for evacuees in the Houston area who need a place to house their pets: 713-802-0555
If you would like to get involved, here are ways you can help the homeless pets of Hurricane Katrina:
- Donate money
- Donate pet food and supplies
- Adopt a homeless pet
- Provide a foster home for a temporarily displaced pet