Because of the federal and state governments’ slow response to the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina, thousands of animals died as a result of starvation, lack of water, lack of breathable air, drowning and disease from drinking contaminated water.  FEMA forced animal rescue groups to wait almost a week before allowing in to the hardest hit areas to rescue animals.  Residents who evacuated before the storm were forced to abandon their companion animals since the shelters didn’t allow animals.  After the hurricane, when the floodwaters began to rise, the Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ordered mandatory evacuation of all residents and ordered police to remove residents by force if they refused to leave.  Approximately 10,000 New Orleans’ residents risked arrest by refusing to evacuate and the number one reason for refusing to evacuate was that residents would not leave their companion animals behind.  Eventually the rules were relaxed a bit and a few compassionate National Guardsmen allowed residents to evacuate with their companion animals and even assisted with animal rescue efforts.  However, neither the federal, state or local governments ordered the troops to assist with animal rescues and the no-pet evacuation policy remains in tact.  Furthermore, at the Lousiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, 8,000 lab animals drowned in floodwaters or suffocated from lack of breathable air during the aftermath of Katrina.  Researchers made no efforts to evacuate these animals, some of which were macaques and dogs, and instead euthanized some of them prior to Katrina making landfall.  Upon returning to the LSU lab after the hurricane, researchers expressed sadness over the loss of "data" but said nothing about the suffering the animals endured as they died while trapped in cages.  Most of the fish in the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas were killed and two dolphins were washed out to sea from the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, which could have easily been prevented. 

In response to the outrage over the prohibition of evacuating with companion animals, U.S. Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Barney Frank (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK) and James Oberstar (D-MN) have introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS; H.R. 3858), which would require state and local authorities to plan for people and "pets" in future disasters.  Although this bill is a terrific first step, it doesn't go far enough in that it doesn't account for animals in labs, zoos or marine parks.  Please contact your federal Representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor this life-saving bill and to expand its scope to include ALL animals so animals will never again be ignored in future disaster plans.  Please contact your federal Senators and urge them to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.  But don't stop at the federal level.  Contact your state senators and representative and your local officials and demand that they pass similar legislation/ordinances that will provide for animals in disaster preparedness plans.  Similarly, please contact Senator Susan Collins, Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and President Bush and DEMAND that they implement an evacuation and rescue policy that includes all animals.  Tell them that animals MUST be a part of any disaster response policy.  This policy should allow residents to evacuate with their companion animals and require troops to assist animal rescue groups in the animal rescue effort.  Furthermore, aquariums, zoos and laboratories should be required to take steps to protect the animals they exploit. 

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
202-456-2461 (fax)

Senator Susan Collins, Chair
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2523
(202) 224-2693 (fax)
Send an e-mail to Senator Collins

For more information on the PETS bill, CLIC HERE.

Even after all 8,000 lab animals were left to die at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center, plans are underway to rebuild the lab using federal funds consisting of taxpayer money.  The horrid deaths suffered by the LSU animals could have been prevented had the University officials made appropriate arrangements ahead of time.  This is illustrated by the fact that Tulane University, also in New Orleans, housed more than 5,000 primates at the time Katrina struck and none of the 5,000 animals died as a result of the hurricane or flooding that followed. 

Please contact Health and Human Sesrvices Secratary Mike Leavitt and urge him to deny LSU any federal funds to rebuild their animal research laboratories in light of their incompetence to care for animals and provide for their safety. 

The Honorable Mike Leavitt
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Department of Health and Human Services
Executive Office of the President
200 Independence Ave. S.W.
Rm. 615-F
Washington, DC 20201
Tel: (202) 690-7000
Fax: (202) 690-7203