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September 18, 2005



I completely agree with you. Why own a pet if you are just going to desert them in an emergency. We live in an area that COULD get hurricane damage, so attached to our hurricane evacuation plan, we've attched ALL pet friendly hotels. I think its at http://www.petswelcome.com/.

We are prepared for just in case!!

Alice H

Debates about whether animals would have been left behind or not aside, I hope everyone is at least thinking about emergency plans for their families including their pets. I hope these plans include who will care for your pets if your family is displaced for a long period of time, and how your pets will be transported to their safe havens.

We have four cats and a dog, and we have lined up family members that mostly live out of state that will each take a pet or two in case of an emergency. We've matched the households to temperament - for instance, my mother doesn't believe that cats should be kept indoors but we do, so my mother will take the dog.

Robin P

I have to commend you on this post. You've got quite a heated discussion going on here.
Right now, we can't afford a pet. In addition to all the daily,weekly and yearly expenses to keep the pet happy and healthy, I would have to pay an additional $50 per month as pet rent in my apartment complex.

If I had been in Hurricane Katrina and I had had a pet,would I have taken it or left it behind?....who knows? People make the best choices that they can. If they make a mistake,they have to live with that.

We never really know what we'll do until we are looking that situation in the face. Guessing is just guessing.
Let's hope we all learned something from this disaster and that we all begin to make an emergency plan for our family and pets just in case we ever need it.
Let's hope we never do.


Well, we can try to *understand* the point of view of the evacuees, but does that mean we can't look for root causes as a way to help too? And while I similarly don't adhere to the argument that government has no role to play here, I do have to say that expecting government to immediately bail you out in a situation like this is taking an awful big risk. Frankly I think our kids deserve more, and I think everyone here would agree.

Now when you say it's impossible for me to say how I would act in their situation, let me remind you that you don't know me and I don't know you. And even though I think it's a little tacky to play "who went through the worst natural disaster" on the Internet, I will say that I have more than a passing familiarity with getting through such a thing. That aside, it is my opinion that even the poorest can practice elementary emergency planning. Keeping even a week's worth of food for emergencies is not overly resource intensive, for instance. Further, stocking some emergency supplies doesn't have to be done all at once, but rather can be spaced out over time. Think of it as a 401(k) plan for survival. And while natural disasters are outside of our control, how we react to them is not.

Bottom line, I think if all of this vitriol and sarcasm is to serve a purpose, it should be to have every reader think...really think...about their situation and come up with an emergency plan, for all the heartbeats who are under their care.


My point: Charity is not only monetary or physical help, but also in trying to actually see the world from the evacuees' point of view. In this case, I believe that the majority of people who were in that situation did the best they could with the resources and information they had. I have heard an overwhelming amount of criticism of what people should have done -- that it was incumbent on each person to take care of themselves. But while I agree government can't do everything, not even Bush agrees that the government had no role in this and no responsibility in what is happening in the aftermath. To say that you know how you would act in their situation is what I believe to be an impossible claim. These are some of the poorest people in the country and many were in a bad way before their lives got blown away then submerged. I agree that we need to have an open debate about how to safeguard against these experiences, but I disagree that having "at least one month's pay in the bank" is even in the same league as plausible advice for most people in the underclass in this country.
On a side note: Thank you for this debate. I have had a lot of these opinions simmering for a while and I appreciate the opportunity to get them out. We will probably never agree, but it is good to start to at least try to hear each other. I respectfully bow out of the discussion for now, but am glad that this forum exists.


I'm not sure I understand. Because we're debating on the Internet, somehow that constitutes a refutation? Jennifer, you said the vast majority of the people in this country couldn't afford to buy a pair of jeans in their best week. I'm taking issue with that assertion. I further take issue with your revised assertion that "most" people do not have any disposable income to speak of, which seems to me to be a backtrack of some kind.

In my experience, most people who have cash flow issues suffer from cash *management* issues. Simply put (again), if you can't afford to buy new jeans on your best week, then maybe the financial responsibility of having a pet is out of reach for the time being. I don't see anything particularly controversial or judgemental about that statement.

Second point, the $2k has not been rescinded, nor was it ever rescinded (source on where Bush said it was, please?). It is, however, no longer being offered in the form of debit cards as of this writing because of the potential (and realized) fraud in the debit card program. It is instead being issued as checks to qualifying families or as direct deposit where practical. And the stated purpose of the $2k is not to rebuild one's life, but rather help bridge the gap during a time where funds may be needed. You say as much, and I agree. But it was never billed to be anything more than that, and I never said it was. Rather it was in response to your challenge about what an evacuee could afford "now."

Your point about counting on government handouts is well taken. You know, I almost responded to your question with the rule of thumb that everyone should have at least one month's pay in the bank. But since you would likely respond with "people can't afford jeans, how can they afford to save" rhetoric, I chose to mention the FEMA/Red Cross program. But since we're here, true no one should be relying on getting $2k after a disaster. But then I'm thinking foresight and saving would have rendered that aid irrelevant anyway, especially for those living under sea level.

Third point: Yes, many people have gone through hell. Isn't it incumbent upon us, though, to try and improve things so that the hell is minimized? Part of that hell was undoubtedly spurred by people thinking they had no choice but leave their animals behind to an uncertain faith. I'm saying there didn't have to be "no choice" (and incidentally, also saying that being in a position where there's no choice is often the result of a choice). I'm also saying responsibility for that situation has to rest on the individual...government can't do it without becoming bloated and intrusive. So critiquing the exercise here just might help some of those evacuees take a hard look at their situations before the next emergency hits.

The alternative is being intimidated into refraining from comment, in which case nothing would be learned at all.


Goaltender, I am glad that we can both have and debate our nice, neat opinions in a vacuum, outside of the filth and fear of this actual hurricane, and outside of actual poverty. Discussions which invoke hypothetical Maseratis as interchangeable with jeans or pets are very nice, but I was trying to share the concept that most people do not have any disposable income to speak of, and these folks have significantly less than usual now. The 2K that FEMA is promising has been dangled in front of evacuees twice now and retracted -- last I heard Bush said it was being rescinded, but you may have more current information than I do on this. Two grand is not very much money to rebuild a life with in any case, in any town. It is a good faith token, but cannot be more than that. And as I have heard so many times, nobody could or "should" count on handouts from the government, right?

Seriously, the sarcasm is unnecessary. I was just trying to share my view that these people have already gone through hell. Do they need to be told they went through it wrong by every person from the safety of their homes?

All of the above is my opinion. Thank you for letting me share it.


Jennifer, yes I am serious (nice interjection of the "wow," by the way, as if anyone could have a different opinion). I'm serious when someone says the "vast majority" of this country's 300 million people can't buy jeans at Walmart on their best week that I think there's quite a bit of overstatement there. Presenting your assertion as "fact" doesn't magically make it a fact. But I'll actually give facts. A pair of mens Wrangler jeans at Walmart runs $15. You're telling me the "vast majority" of this country just can't part with $15? Pull the other one.

And speaking of facts, I don't think there's anything wrong with the concept that if you cannot afford a pet, you ought not have a pet. To have one despite the crushing poverty you seem to think the "vast majority" of this country suffers is simply a bad choice. It has nothing to do with "deserving" a pet. It has everything to do with being able to AFFORD the pet.

Say, let's switch this around. Golly, everyone DESERVES to have a Maserati, but does that mean we should hold harmless the poor person who decides to sacrifice everything in order to get one?

And as for what these people can afford now, did I not just hear in the news about $2,000 debit cards being passed out to evacuees? And in lieu of a debit card, FEMA is arranging for $2,000 cash gifts to be sent to their bank accounts.


I think you make an excellent point about people thinking they were doing the right thing – sometimes that is the best we can do (especially given the circumstances). And I agree that all these "should have"s don't do anything to help the folks in need.

Honestly, before Katrina I had not considered an emergency plan for my family (and I do have a pet), but now we are working on ours. Who knows how useful it will be if something actually happens though...I cannot imagine what the people in the Gulf coast experienced nor what they will endure in the future, but I pray for them and am grateful to the people and animal rescuers (like Leslie) who have been there helping out.


I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be able to voice their opinion, and I do think that the pets who were left behind is a tragic story. However, I heard a thread of judgment about those pet owners in the original post and I wanted to post my thoughts about why the pets might have been locked up, etc -- my opinion, again. Leslie basically asked for a reason -- it may not be enough for her, and I have no idea what it was like to actually be there helping as she was, so I'm not claiming she's 'wrong,' just that she might consider the possibility that these pet owners may have thought (incorrectly) that they were doing the right thing. But I have been quite frustrated by the rising tone as the American public wades through the wreckage of New Orleans and these people's homes that they should have had an evacuation plan, that they should have been able to leave, that they should have taken the pets and not the baby's clothing/diapers, that they should have been able to afford jeans at Walmart... It just makes me sad that we can't see that the grace of angels is the only reason we aren't all in the same position.


Wow - this is quite the discussion. I just started visiting this site and am amazed to see such a heated debate. I have to chime in here and ask why everyone is being so harsh to the original writer? It seems to me Leslie is commenting on the fact that SHE could not leave her pets and is horrified at the animals who were locked in a room with no food or chained to the house with no chance to escape. I can't find the place in the post where she said that people who did leave their pets behind are bad people, so why is everyone getting so upset? I also don't see where she said she would *abandon* her children for her animals...

Everyone has to make *their* choices and if you would make a different one, fine. But isn't calling someone a bad mother just as judgmental?

The fact is we should all have emergency plans for our families - whether they include pets, babies, or even elderly.


Wow, ok -- are you serious? Yes, that is what I meant. There is a massive underclass in American society, one that outnumbers those of us who have extra money to spend. I don't think that's a very well hidden "fact."

"Fact, if a person is impoverished and can't buy jeans at WalMart on his best week as you say, then maybe taking on the responsibility for proper care of a pet isn't the best thing to be doing." I'm sorry, where's the fact here? That you think they shouldn't have a pet? I am sad that you think only the middle class and above(those who have disposable income) deserve the company of animals.

But even if we thought 'most' people could afford jeans on their best week, what do you think these people can afford now?


And I'm sorry, I have to comment in turn:

"The vast majority of people in this country can't just "go to Walmart for jeans" any old time they feel like it on their best week, not to mention when they've just lost everything to a natural disaster."

I'm sorry, the vast majority of people in this country can't buy jeans on their best week?!? Where do you think we live? Don't you think this is overstating things just a little bit?!?

"...but this post implies that only those who have disposable income should enjoy their company."

Well, that's one way to put it, sure. Only I didn't imply it...I flat out said it. Fact, having a pet is a responsibility. Fact, that responsibility includes disposable income to purchase food and vet care AT BEST. Fact, if a person is impoverished and can't buy jeans at WalMart on his best week as you say, then maybe taking on the responsibility for proper care of a pet isn't the best thing to be doing.


I'm sorry, I have to comment...

"And if you had to make a choice between evacuating in a small car with my family and clothes for everyone or my pets, come on, wouldn't you take your pets and go to Walmart for jeans once you got out?"

This assumes so much about what people can do, what they can afford, what options they have available to them. The vast majority of people in this country can't just "go to Walmart for jeans" any old time they feel like it on their best week, not to mention when they've just lost everything to a natural disaster.

I love animals as much as anyone, don't get me wrong, but this post implies that only those who have disposable income should enjoy their company. While it's tragic that some of these animals died because they were in a locked room or tied up, I can understand that the evacuees thought they were doing the right thing by their beloved pets. To me it is a sad symbol that many thought they would be back soon.

I think in these days of recovery we would all be in a better position to try to be charitable to those affected in our thoughts, and not just our deeds.


Well, I'm going to respond to each person in turn. But as a general comment, I find it interesting that the common thread running through this comment thread is that someone is being "judgemental," as if that's the worst sin someone can be guilty of. And incredibly, some of the people complaining about it are in turn lobbing their own judgements against Leslie's post.


Katrina Evacuee, I'm sure you went through a very hard time and I think we all sympathize with your plight. But I don't think that gives you a monopoly of opinion on emergency planning or absolute moral authority on the subject of the hurricane. Further, you have no idea if Leslie hasn't ever faced a life-threatening situation, which is an amazing assumption on your part (for that matter, we have no idea if you're really a Katrina Evacuee, do we?!?). Indeed, I think your thoughtful response (where you flat out insult Leslie) makes my case for me. See, you say "when you are actually faced with a life-threatening situation" and use that imagery to paint a particular picture. My point, stated quite clearly, is that the time to plan for that life threatening situation is not when it's hours away from your doorstep. It's weeks and months before that. If you have friends who had to leave their cat behind for want of an emergency plan, well, whose fault is that?

And at the end of that diatribe, you insist upon an apology. I don't see anything to apologize about, unlike calling someone who is debating in good faith "insane" or a "liar." I don't think anyone insulted you personally here, and I find it interesting (and sad) that you have to resort to insults and intellectual bullying.

In your next post you offer plenty of excuses. OK, so the triplets were a surprise. That has very little to do with leaving their pets to die. If they indeed loved the animal as you say, then I'm sure they could have found room in their car for such a beloved life (and that you allow that the animal was a cat, not a large animal, further damages your case, incidentally.). The bottom line in the case of your example is they made a deliberate choice to leave that animal behind, largely due to a weakness in (or absence of) an emergency plan. I'm saying such a choice didn't need to be made if a proper plan was made beforehand.

And as for the rationale that "no one saw this coming," I dispute that. No less an authority than National Geographic published findings about what would happen to NO if the levees ruptured. It was published several years ago. Further, the Times-Picayune published similar reports numerous times YEARS before the hurricane hit. So the weakness here wasn't that no one could foresee what would happen. In fact, the city of NO DID have a plan for just this contingency. The weakness was they didn't follow their plan. Seems there was a lot of that going around.

To wrap this all up, you don't need supernatural powers to see into the future in order to make an emergency plan.

Now, to Libby who is disgusted with my post and calls it "ignorant" and "judgemental." Libby, I believe in self-sufficency enough to reject your starting point that poverty is not a choice. But more to the point, if someone is as impoverished as you claim, why do they have a pet in the first place?!?


I am shocked to hear mothers say that they would abandon their children in order to save their animals. In order to buy a pet, you often need to prove that you are willing and able to take care of it, but no check is made to assure that people will be good parents and is this the result? I think that if you decide to give birth to a child, you accept the lifelong responsibility for that child. I think that suggesting your children's right to having a father is cancelled out once you buy a dog is a bit extreme. Do you think that your children, once adults, would appreciate the fact that you decided to sacrifice their father in order to save your pets? I wouldn't want to have to explain that sort of decision to my children.


I have attempted to reply several times, and I just can't do it. Nothing can tactfully convey my disgust with Goaltender66's ignorant and judgemental comments. Why rely on the bus? Because poverty isn't a choice. Poverty removes choice. When you have no choice, you take what options are available to you, inadequate though they may be.

People don't willfully choose to be without resources or recourse. Raw intellect will not save you from sudden calamnity. When you have nothing, you take what you can get, and pray that it's enough.

A Cat Lover Speaks

While I understand the cause was noble, I am stunned that an expectant mom would voluntarily go into a city that has had it's atmosphere declared toxic at one point. Is this a fictional account? It just seems unreal.

Katrina Evacuee

This reply is for Goaltender who says that my friend with the small car shouldn't have the pet in the first place. They have had that animal for YEARS. The children came later. Triplets. Imagine the surprise. Should they just have gotten rid of it and declared there was no more room in their life for it now that their family had grown? They LOVED it. It was a member of their family just as you say.

And we're discussing animal evacuations, what about all the stray animals in the city? Where were the evacuation buses for them? Did they evacuate the zoo animals? (no they didn't, because the risk to the animals during an evac was greater than the danger of the emergency in the first place. It just turned out that this time the risk went the other way).

As for making a plan, no city in history has ever had this kind of devastation. There is NO WAY to plan for something like this. And again I say that hindsight is just so convenient. How dare you.

But seriously, those are not bad people. NONE OF THEM would have left animals behind if they had supernatural powers and could have seen into the future, or else they probably would have done as you suggest and never had an animal in the first place if they could have forseen that their family would grow so quickly. They are doing the best they can.

Give the evacuees a break. It was desperate times. You do not know until you have been here. And I'm not talking about hindsight, I mean been here when your LIFE IS IN DANGER.

Katrina Evacuee

Leslie, You are insane. You have stated that you would rather stay behind and die with your animals and leave your children motherless than make the hard choice.

Many of the animals who are still in the city DID have people who stayed behind. Those people are now dead. Many other people did what you say you would do and stayed behind with their animals for the storm, but were then forced to evacuate later during the flood and were NOT ALLOWED to take their animals with them.

I think you are a liar when you say you would stay and die with your animals rather than go with your children.

I know what you saw and you are wrong. I am here now. I had to evacuate. I know what it is like to SERIOUSLY have your life in jeopardy. You do not. You have some fantasy of "what if" and the convenience of hindsight to look back and say what you "would have done". NO ONE who left an animal behind would have done it if they knew then what they know now. Don't be so judgemental.

YOU did not have to evacuate and flee for your life. When are ACTUALLY faced with a life threateing situation, you will better understand. NOT EVERYONE COULD take the animals with them. My friend left enough food and water for the cat for a week and they are sick about it now. No they did NOT have room in a tiny hatchback car for an animal crate when they have three children in big carseats. And AGAIN, NO ONE thought they would be gone more than a day or two.

I hope your children do not know that you value them so little that you would rather see them motherless than leave a dog behind. Give me a break.

How dare you sit in judgement of other people whose lives were in danger. I'm sorry about those animals AND even sorrier about all the people who are now dead. I think you owe some of those evacuees an apology.


I don't think it's being judgemental to suggest that planning for an emergency should take into account ALL members of a family...including the pets. If anything it's making a valid point about the weaknesses of a particular emergency "plan."

Frankly, sad stories aside, if one's situation (small car, etc) doesn't allow for taking one's pets in an evacuation, then either that person needs to change the situation or rethink having a pet in the first place. The time to come up with an emergency/evacuation plan isn't 48 hours before the storm hits. So an evacuation bus won't take your pet? Why rely on an evacuation bus to begin with? If anything, Katrina showed us that if you're going to rely on government to save your bacon in an emergency, you are liable to feel very disappointed...assuming you survive long enough to feel anything.

In closing, a lot of people here are saying there was a choice made between a human and an animal. My point was that such a choice didn't have to be made.


I knew I would get flack for this post when I submitted it. I knew someone would call me judgmental and say that I shouldn't have my opinions because I have never been in that situation. But sometimes you just have to get something off your chest, you know? And sometimes you just cannot help but feel a certain way about something. That is the beauty of America and everyone is entitled to an opinion, right?

In the interest of keeping my post to the allotted dotMoms size, I didn't expand enough on what exactly I felt was wrong. I completely understand that hard choices were made and that many people tried to get out with their pets and the rescuers did not allow them to take them. What I have a problem with is the people who doomed their animals to die. The ones who chained their dogs to the front door so that when the flood waters came, the dogs could not get away and drowned immediately. Or the ones who left their cats in a small locked room. Even if the evacuation had only been for a few days, they had to know that the sweltering temperatures in New Orleans would eventually "cook" their dear animals. I have seen the horrors first hand and in 9 times out of 10, these animals would have fared better if their humans had been kind enough to just let them go out of the house and run free. They'd have had a much better chance of survival.

I commend the folks who managed to get out of the house with their animals, as all of my friends from New Orleans with pets did. That is wonderful! But honestly, if I were in a similar situation and could not take my pets, I would be one of the "crazy" ones staying with them. I'd send my husband on with the kids and stay with my other "children". I just would. I know myself and my love for my dogs and my life would be over if I had to leave them to die. No way I could do it. And if you had to make a choice between evacuating in a small car with my family and clothes for everyone or my pets, come on, wouldn't you take your pets and go to Walmart for jeans once you got out?

Sorry, I know I come across as harsh and judgmental and I really don't mean to do so. But after my work down there, I am just heartbroken about how many animals died for no reason. I am equally devastated about the human loss and pray that this sort of thing will never happen again. I agree totally, we need to learn from this experience and do what we can so that it doesn't happen again!

A Cat Lover Speaks

I am an animal lover, my cat lived to be almost 30 years old. I felt she was the closest thing I had to a sister. However, had I a choice between saving my sister or saving my cat, well it would be my sister. Keep in mind that during any disaster a person is at the mercy of many different circumstances and while we would all like to believe that a little "planning" makes it all so simple (i.e. I take the kids, you grab the pets) if your life is in jeopardy, not pretend, not a rehearsal, but true jeopardy, well you might re-evaluate things and be a bit less quick to judge the actions of others. many of the evacuees thought that rescuers were going back for their animals, some evacuees thought their husband, wife, friend, coworker,etc. had the pet and found out later they did not and still others thought they would only be gone a day or two at most. Additionally, it has widely been reported that rescuers refused to put animals in helicopters, boats, etc. as well. This was an unbelievably difficult situation, where there were too many victims, human and fur. Instead of pointing fingers, I think it's far more effective to problem solve and ask "Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?" and "How can I comfort those that have experienced loss?" This isn't a time when lecturing others about how "wrong" they were makes much sense to me. Comfort the bereaved, they need comforting. Send them the Rainbow Bridge Poem as they need hope too.

katrina evacuee

As an evacuee myself, I promise that everyone who could have taken their animals did. We saw hundreds of people with their dogs and cats in the car during the evacuation. We were fortunate enough to own a minivan that had room for three kids and two dogs. Not everyone is, nor did they have a place to go that would accept their animals when their very lives were in danger.

I know personally of several people who were unable to take them and did everything they could thinking that they would return in just a few days. NO ONE ever thought it would be this bad.

I have one friend who has 4 year old triplets and 1 small car. He loaded up his wife and the three kids and enough clothing for a few days. They did not have room for an animal in their tiny car during a crisis and would have impeded their ability to evacuate safely in a timely manner. They are heartbroken at people like you who accuse them of abandoning their pet.

Many of those evacuation busses refused to take people's animals.

Save your children or save your pets. Or better yet, lose your life over your pet? I doubt you would choose death over a pet, no matter how much they mean to you.

They are heartbroken over what has happened already.

Don't be so judgemental until you walk a mile in their shoes.


Although I agree with you on a personal level (I would do almost anything to save the dogs) - I also agree that we really must be careful in judging. Remember so many of these people didn't even have enough money to get out of town. They couldn't afford the gas (if they even had a car), they had to stay in a shelter (because they couldn't afford a hotel room), they couldn't even afford the bus tickets for all their family members to travel to safety. When the helicopters came to pick people off their roofs, they couldn't take the pets.

Now, having said that, I'm sure that there were other less than humane pet owners there who should have done better by their pets - no doubt. But I think you need to be careful lumping them all together.

Yes, my dogs were my "first" children, and there's not much I wouldn't do for them. However, given a choice of my dogs or my kids, I'm always going to pick my kids. Always. Yes, I have an obligation to both, and I'd be heartsick, and devastated, but I don't even have to think about it. Always I will pick my children.

Hopefully none of us will ever have to ever make this choice. That would be the best scenario!

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