Hurricane Katrina was a disaster for cats and dogs as well as for people. We are told that a quarter of a million cats and dogs and other pets were left behind and about 150,000 died during the hurricane and its aftermath.
My research indicates that one of the reasons for this very high fatality rate is because cats and dogs had to be left behind by the authorities who were rescuing people.
The people who did not evacuate the area waited for assistance with their cats and dogs. Help came but not for the animals. Often rescuers refused to take animals on board. They insisted that pets be left behind. Dogs and cats were left on rooftops to die of starvation and dehydration. When it was over, rescuers returned to find their lost cats and dogs. Sometimes they succeeded and these stories were highlighted in online media. But there were obviously tens of thousands of tragic stories.
The government had underestimated the bond between pets and their owners. This led to a change in the law which is designed to avoid the sort of situation that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
Less than a year after hurricane Katrina, the Pet Evacuation Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006 was created.
As I understand it, this statute places demands upon state and local governments to factor pets into their evacuation plans. It authorises the use of funds for rescue workers to construct shelter facilities for the temporary accommodation of cat and dog owners with their pets (and service animals). In short, it appears to place an obligation upon the authorities to keep pets with their owners when rescuing them after a natural catastrophe such as Hurricane Harvey.
Over the forthcoming days, I would expect the online media to report on the rescue of cats and dogs. I would expect there to be some stories and I would also hope that the success rate is far higher than in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck.
During Hurricane Katrina a substantial number of pet owners stayed behind with their cats and dogs, shunning the chance of rescue for themselves. Some of these people no doubt perished. It highlights the very strong bond between animal and human. During rescue situations such as those that took place during Hurricane Katrina it does highlight how humans are prioritised over animals in these emergency situations. That weakness has now been dealt with and we await to see whether the objectives in 2006 statute have been met.