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Field Trip: Parting the Waters

Out of Katrina’s ruins, a haven emerges

Even before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, life for homeless pets in Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish was no day at the dog park.

The animal shelter was a ramshackle collection of trailers, outbuildings, and outdoor cages unprotected from the weather. By some accounts, it was also a warehouse for unwanted pets, badly understaffed, and constantly in need of basic repairs. There was no air conditioning to stave off the swampy Louisiana heat, and during winter cold snaps, only a few space heaters provided warmth.

Then came Katrina, leaving unimaginable destruction in its wake and forcing a mass exodus from the flooded parish where almost every home had become uninhabitable. For nearly two years, the shelter’s main building lacked its own sources of electricity and running water, relying on wires and hoses from a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer.

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