The ferocity of Hurricane Katrina etched the date August 29, 2005 in the minds of everyone who experienced it. South Mississippians, and the thousands of people from across the country who came to their aid, were forever shaped by the disaster and its aftermath.
Many people would not leave their homes because they could not take their pets. Many people wanted to leave with rescue workers; but learning that their animals would not be accepted in the safe centers, decided to stay with their animals.
Courageous rescuers fought to save the lives of animal right after Katrina, but so many animals suffered and died anyway. There are endless chronicles of volunteer efforts to rescue pets left in peril after their owners fled Katrina. The owners were then prevented from returning to some areas for long periods.
The plight of thousands of animals who perished in the floods, or who waited hour after hour, day after day, for owners or help that never arrived has been documented.
Some were trapped in homes or braved the toxic streets. Most were turned away from the shelters, as the shelters could take in only people. Some were separated from their owners before the storm and never made it home. There are many more scenarios—more than one can count. The basic truth is that we failed them.
No one can stop a category-five storm from ravaging a city, but our failure at every level to plan for evacuation ahead of time and have adequate response to the chaos and crisis afterward resulted in needless death and the prolonged anguish of both humans and animals.
Despite the odds, and with little regard for their personal safety or comfort, animal rescuers worked from dawn until long past dark for over six weeks to meet the need.