To many people, pets are considered a member of the family. Losing a pet can be devastating, especially during a major disaster if you are unsure of the safety of your pet.  During the rescue efforts of Hurricane Katrina, many families were saved but had to leave their pets behind as the rescue efforts did not include pets.  Families were ordered to abandon their pets. Television screens carried images of starving dogs, cats and other animals stranded on rooftops, balconies or staring out of windows. Buses and shelters rescuing the displaced families were not allowed to take pets.  A heart-rending example involved one young boy among the thousands who ended up sheltered at the Superdome. When he tried to board a bus to Houston with his small white dog, a police officer had to take the dog away from the boy. Such mournful sights stirred the emotions of the nation. Questions began to be asked. In one press conference, Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was asked by a reporter “What about the dogs and cats that have been stranded?” His response began “They are not our concern.”

This was a horrific situation for many, compounded with losing the family home and everything in it. Thankfully that was recognized by Congress as one of the lessons learned during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  On October 6, 2006, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (“PET’s Act”) was signed into law, amending Section 403 of the Stafford Act.  The PET’s Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency.

The Act requires the Director of FEMA to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.  The Act authorizes the Director to: (1) study and develop plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency; and (2) make financial contributions, on the basis of programs or projects approved by the Director, to the states and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes, including the procurement, construction, leasing, or renovating of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.

States and local governments outside of the designated disaster area may provide help to these animals, and may seek reimbursement for those efforts.  FEMA developed a disaster assistance policy titled “Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuations and Sheltering,” (DAP 9523.19).  This policy provides specific guidelines on expenses that are or are not reimbursable to states that expend resources on pet evacuations and sheltering when responding to a disaster.

This week, Louisiana is faced with another national disaster, The Louisiana Flood of 2016.  Thousands of residents across state have been displaced and have required evacuation and sheltering.  Thanks to the PET’s Act, pets are also part of the rescue and families are no longer required to abandon their pets.  Shelters are also allowing families to bring their pets.

As of yesterday, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement, alone, reported to have rescued over 600 animals.  There are also many volunteer organizations on the ground providing disaster relief for Louisiana pets.The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team and the Louisiana State Animal Response Team at two such organizations.  Many of the animals rescued will need to be reunited with their families.

If anyone you know is missing a pet, below is a list of locations that are taking rescued animals.  If you would also like to help out in the efforts to help our furry friends through this crises and separation from their family, please considering helping with their needs listed below:

Lamar Dixon Expo Center, temporary shelter

  • Status: Being used as a shelter for animals and people. Nola.com recently reported that more horses than they able to count have been rescued and are at this location.
  • Location:  9039 S St Landry Ave, Gonzales, LA 70737
  • What they need: Volunteers, hay, buckets, brooms, cleaning supplies, cat litter, plastic litter boxes, pet food for dogs, cats and horses.
  • How to help: Drop off donations to be delivered there at 921 Rue La Cannes Drive, Luling, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Donations can also be hand-delivered.

Companion Animal Alliance, Baton Rouge’s city animal shelter

  • Status: “The animals here at CAA are safe and sound,” reads a recent Facebook update, “but many owners and pets have been displaced. Our shelter took in 90 evacuee animals and are expecting more.”
  • Where: 2680 Progress Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807
  • What they need: Leashes, pet treats, pet food, dog toys, cash donations, temporary fosters until transportation is available Wednesday, Aug. 17
  • How to help: Donations can be made in person or online by clicking here. Donations can also be mailed directly to the shelter.
  • Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter
  • Status: Serving as a back-up site for the LASPCA to manage the number of animals affected by flooding.
  • What they need: Leashes, pet treats, pet food, dog toys, cash donations, temporary fosters.
  • How to help: Donate online. Items can also be mailed directly.
  • Where: Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, 1869 Ames Blvd., Marrero, LA 70072
  • Livingston SPCA
  • Status: At least 75 percent of pet foster homes, supplies and medicine have been flooded.
  • What they need: Donations and foster parents.
  • How to help: Donate online or go to the PetCo at 1653 Millerville Road, Baton Rouge, on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to donate or sign up as a pet foster parent.

Zeus’ Place

  • Status: Housing more than 60 pets that were evacuated from flooded shelters
  • What they need: Cat carriers, clay littler, square litter boxes, canned cat  and kitten food. Also, fosters or adoptive pet parents.
  • How to help: Drop those items at 4601 Freret St., New Orleans, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m