Hurricane Katrina: Benefits Dogs and Other Pets

Love can bring good from the bad.

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast early in the morning on August 29, 2005. The storm was a Category 3 when it made landfall, with sustained winds of 100-140 miles per hour. The storm itself caused a great deal of damage, but its aftermath was catastrophic when levee breaches led to massive flooding. Katrina is one of the deadliest storms in US history - more than 1,800 people died. The exact number of animals that died is unknown but it’s estimated to be in the tens of thousands.


People were ordered to leave their pets behind when being evacuated after the storm and flood. Many people refused to go, and many died because they did not want to abandon their beloved dog or cat. Some people used any means they could to bring their pets with them. One man put his large cocker spainel in a big black trash bag. The dog made the whole trip, helicopter and bus ride, with his nose sticking out the top of the bag. Other people reluctantly left without their pets, leaving extra food and water for them, with the understanding they could come back for them in a few days.

Scenes of animals left behind outraged many people. Dogs could be seen left on rooftops or staring out windows while their owners were carried away. One dog was shown swimming through the foul water desperately trying to reach his owner in a rescue boat. At a press conference, one reporter asked the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "What about the dogs and cats that have been stranded?" His response began "They are not our concern..." Fortunately, the ASPCA and other wonderful organizations did care about the stranded animals. Thousands of pets were saved. Some dogs and cats made it back to their owners and many were adopted.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a turning point in our history with pets. Due to an outcry from the public, the legislature passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act with near unanimous support in 2006. The act requires pets to be included in rescues during natural disasters. Lawmakers finally realized how much people care for their pets, and how much they are willing to sacrifice for them.