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Katrina's Silver Lining

The storm taught responders that animal welfare groups must be part of the plan

The storm taught responders that animal welfare groups must be part of the plan

The images of Katrina’s animal victims—like this dog, who sought safety in an air conditioning cage when his home was flooded—galvanized the nation to insist that animals be included in future disaster plans. TIM CARMAN/THE HSUS
The way Scotlund Haisley remembers the incident, it was past 10 p.m., well past dark, and he and his team—along with several emergency vehicles, full of sickly and dehydrated animals rescued from the streets and flooded homes of New Orleans—were facing a locked gate.

It was early September 2005, the height of the Hurricane Katrina response effort, and the locked gate was barring rescue teams from the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La., the site of the emergency animal shelter set up for rescued pets. No matter how the teams argued their case, no matter how ill or badly injured the rescued animals were, the center’s security guards weren’t about to crack open the gates.

“We had dying animals,” recalls Haisley, then executive director of the Washington Animal Rescue League, now senior director for the Emergency Services department of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “One had already died in my vehicle.”

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