Katrina Evacuees Relieved To Be With Pets
Posted September 7, 2005 9:18 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people were forced to evacuate New Orleans on buses and leave their pets behind.
Malcolm Flot worried that he too would have to leave behind his dog, 8-month-old Sparky, when he began his journey with about 400 other evacuees from the Gulf Coast to Raleigh.
"That was my main worry: Would he be allowed on the helicopter or plane?" Flot said. "You are basically taking this one day at a time."
Flot added that he never would have been able to explain to his two young daughters why they would have had to leave Sparky behind.
He said that while he and his family were in their house surrounded by water, Sparky became even more valuable during the crisis.
"He kept the girls real happy. He kept them from crying," Flot said.
So it came as a pleasant surprise to Flot and about 11 others families at the Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center when their pets were allowed on the plane when they headed toward Raleigh, Flot said.
Wake County Animal Control also has set up a portable shelter for the pets.
Of the animals, officials said, one dog has blisters on his feet from walking on the hot pavement in New Orleans, and some of the other pets are skittish and showing signs of stress.
But overall, officials said, the animals are okay and with their owners.
The dogs and cats in Raleigh can even stay inside the shelter with their families; a separate room for pet owners has been set up for sleeping.
That was a big relief for 68-year-old Arthur James, who owns a dog named Tippy.
James has had the dog for four years, and he said he would never abandon a dog he has raised.
"I love the dog. The dog is a part of me," he said.
Wake County Animal Control and N.C. State's College of Veterinary Medicine will help look after the animals. Security guards also have taken the pets on walks, and local pet groups and stores have donated toys and beds.
Shelter leaders said with the trauma these families have been through, the pets can only help.
"The animals not only serve as protection, but relief of stress and provide some assistance of family order," said Dr. Dianne Dunning, the director of the Animal Welfare Program at N.C. State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
If you would like to donate supplies for the pets, please drop them off at the
Wake County Animal Control and Adoption Center on Beacon Lake Drive. The center is located behind WakeMed.