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Emergency Planning in a Post-Katrina World

Northern Virginia shelters pull together to obtain trailers to aid pets in disasters

Five years later, the images remain vivid and disturbing: pets left behind in homes ravaged by floodwaters, and homeowners airlifted off rooftops after risking their lives to stay with their animals.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in August 2005, it brought unprecedented attention to the plight of companion animals in disasters—and to the people who, often through no fault of their own, were unable to safely shepherd their pets through the storm.

“After Katrina, I think everybody became a lot more aware of what could happen. We learned from that that there are people who will not evacuate if they can’t take their pets. We also learned that pets get sometimes abandoned, left behind, and the suffering that’s caused when that happens,” says Susan Sherman, interim executive director of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) in Northern Virginia, a private, nonprofit humane society that runs a shelter and contracts with Arlington County to provide animal control services. “So we wanted to try to do something to make it possible for people to evacuate with their pets.”

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