BOOKS: Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster: Life-changing stories and practical suggestions

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:

Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster:
Life-changing stories and practical suggestions
by Allen & Linda Anderson
New World Library (14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949), 2006.
347 pages, paperback. $16.95.

Angel Animals Network founders Allen and Linda Anderson in
Rescued analyze the efforts made to save animals after Hurricane
Katrina. They relate the inspiring stories of committed volunteers
from all over the world who converged on New Orleans, southern
Louisiana, and coastal Mississippi to help the animals who were left
behind when their humans fled, were killed, or were simply unable
to get home after the New Orleans levies broke a day after the
hurricane itself had passed. The Andersons also describe the work
done by various humane organizations, under appalling conditions,
to try to bring order out of chaos. There were some high-profile
individuals involved, such as Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens, the
oil billionaires, who chartered aircraft to transport found animals
to shelters outside the disaster area but most were unknown people
of ordinary resources.

The book is a tear-jerker, filled with stories such as that
of the kind lady who agreed to take in one of the refugee dogs
because her own beloved dog had gone missing six months before–and
discovered to her lasting joy that the dog delivered to her by
rescuers was the very same lost animal.
Although enormous efforts were made to reunite pets with
their guardians, the circumstances were such that there were not many
happy endings. Louisiana SPCA executive director Laura Maloney
estimated before Rescued went to press that while 15,000 animals were
rescued, only about 3,000 were reunited with their people. Other
sources estimate that fewer were rescued, and that somewhat more
were returned to their families. There is agreement, however, that
not even half of the animals have been returned to their previous
caretakers–and reunions are still reported, more than a year
The most important chapter, to our minds, reviews the
lessons learned from Katrina. The first was, “Hurricane Katrina
provided a wake-up call for mainstream Americans to recognize the
importance of saving animals from disaster.” Animals are for
millions of people cherished family members. Official decisions that
ignored this caused major problems. Many owners simply refused to be
rescued and remained with their pets. Some died with their pets
rather than leave them behind. Others had to be separated from their
animals by force, even to the bizarre point where some evacuees were
shot with Taser guns. Studies later showed that separation anxiety
resulting from the loss of companion animals added significantly to
the stress of the bereft evacuees. The Pets Evacuation and
Transportation Standards Act signed into law in mid-October by U.S.
President George W. Bush is intended to ensure that pets will not be
left behind after future disasters.
The second major lesson learned was that individuals have to
take primary responsibility for their pets. Abandoned animals in
most cases suffered horribly, and thousands died long, slow deaths.
The Andersons list some of the common sense precautions that animal
guardians can take to ensure their pets’ well-being during disasters.
The Andersons also mention the need for proper training,
recruitment and assimilation of disaster relief workers into existing
organisations. Although far more animal welfare organizations worked
together successfully after Katrina than after any previous disaster,
there is still a need for improved collaboration.
–Chris Mercer
South Africa

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