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Remembering Katrina

Keeping pets safe in an emergency

Kind News magazine, Aug/Sept 2015

A rescue team approaches a stranded dog after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Chad Sisneros

It's been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Most of you were too young to remember it—some of you weren't even born yet! But the huge storm had a large impact on many lives. It swept away homes—even entire towns.

In the days before the storm hit, thousands of people left their homes. Some had no choice but to leave their pets behind. Where they were going to ride out the storm didn't allow pets. They left food and water for their furry and feathered friends, thinking they would return home in a day or two.

Others refused to leave at all because they didn't want to leave their pets behind. Most had no idea how bad the storm would end up being.

Help arrives

After the storm cleared, people needed help—and so did thousands of pets. The HSUS, ASPCA and many other animal groups set up emergency shelters. Rescue teams went door-to-door looking for animals left behind in the storm and delivering them to the shelters. Animal lovers from around the world traveled to the Gulf Coast to help rescue and care for the animals.

  • Boo-Boo Kitty is reunited with her owner. Photo by Green Mountain Animal Defenders

Temporary homes were found across the country for many of the pets. They were cared for until their families could get back on their feet in a new home. Boo-Boo Kitty was one of them. The Louisiana cat was living up north in Vermont until someone recognized her photo online. Before long, Boo-Boo was back in her owner's arms.

Lessons learned

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster. But it taught us some valuable lessons. One is that there are a lot of wonderful people willing to lend a hand to those in trouble.

Another is that we need to be prepared for emergencies—and emergency plans must include pets.

Shortly after the hurricane, Congress introduced a bill to do just that. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standard  (PETS) Act became law in 2006. It means that the safety of pets, as well as their owners, must now be included in all local and state emergency planning.

You can do it! 

When emergencies like hurricanes or floods happen, families have to leave their homes. Thanks to the PETS Act, people no longer need ot leave their pets behind.

  • Talk it over. Explain to your family how important it is to include pets in emergency planning. Put together an emergency kit for pets. Include pet food, bottled water, leashes and pet medicines. Pack them in an easy to carry container.
  • Make a checklist of the items. Share it with neighbors so that they can put together kits too. Remind them that pets should always wear license and ID tags. That way, if they become separated from pets in an emergency, their pets can be returned to them.

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