Pet evacuations went smoothly for most
A Tail Talk article by Gloria Dauphin published September 18, 2008
Those of us who evacuated for Hurricane Gustav with our pets -- and, thankfully, many more of us did than during Katrina -- experienced various challenges, from living with our pets without electricity for a few days, to walking our dogs in hotel parking lots, in the rain and wind, to having our cats live in their crates in hotel bathrooms.
And there are those who participated in the city-assisted evacuation plan, designed for residents, including pet owners, who had no means to evacuate on their own. They either didn't have reliable transportation, friends or family with cars that could help, or enough money to leave the city when the mandatory evacuation was called. What they did have was courage, faith and blind trust in a process that promised to safely evacuate them and their pets.
Imagine for a moment walking to a crowded public transit terminal, having an ID badge placed on your wrist, signing forms and releasing your four-legged friend to a team of animal-care volunteers. Pets that were too large to be placed on a lap and travel with their owners on chartered buses were placed in a carrier and loaded onto a refrigerated truck. You wouldn't see your pet again until the two of you arrived at adjacent human and pet shelters. The evacuation process did work, but reports indicate that the human shelters and re-entry into the city need to be improved.
When residents and pets returned to New Orleans, their pets were brought to the Louisiana SPCA shelter, where the humans and pets would ultimately be reunited. What we heard from so many was that their pets were treated much better than they were. Human shelters were overcrowded, or humans got bused into different cities than their pets were taken. That explains the weariness, frustration and even loss of dignity that I saw on the faces of many re-entering the city at Union Passenger Terminal.
However, when they came to the LA/SPCA shelter to finally be reunited with their pets, I saw that frustration and weariness immediately evaporate. I saw furred friends jump into their humans' arms with joy. The humans and pets who participated in the city-assisted evacuation plan are my heroes of the storm.