News Index > Apr-Aug 2006 > Aug 2006
Searching For a Way Home

Tears and heartbreak after Gulf hurricane reveal bond between pets and their people
The man tried not to cry.

He said he didn't want to give up his dog, a 2-year-old Labradoodle named Cisco who used to snooze by his feet while he and his wife watched TV.

The man survived Hurricane Katrina but lost his wife to the floods. He moved to Fort Worth, where he had no job or home. Alone and barely able to care for himself, the man dropped Cisco off last month at the Humane Society of North Texas in Fort Worth.

"This dog was their cherished family member," director Tammy Hawley said. "It was heartbreaking."
The floodwaters have long since subsided, but one year after Hurricane Katrina barreled through the Gulf Coast, the gut-wrenching tales of lost and abandoned pets still linger.

Even now, Katrina pets like Cisco turn up at kennels from Texas to California. People still post pictures of lost pets online, not knowing whether they are dead or alive.

In the past year, thousands of pets were reunited with their owners. Others found new homes. More than two dozen custody battles for Katrina pets have emerged across the country, some producing accusations of racism and class prejudice. Two cases are in North Texas.

Interest in disaster preparedness for pets has soared in recent months.

Last weekend in New Orleans, 100 mourners gathered for a jazz funeral march to honor pets. Some brought their surviving dogs. Others clutched tattered pictures of lost or deceased pets.

An estimated half-million pets were victims of Katrina, but it is virtually impossible to know how many animals died.

"Honestly, we don't even have a guess," said James Bias, president of the Texas Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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