Katrina Animal Rescue Custody Dispute

The Washington Post (WP) is featuring a story called “Fangs Are Bared Over MD. Group’s Katrina Dog Rescues”. This story comes in light of the collaborative effort between IFAW, the SPCA and other groups who are partnering to alleviate pet overpopulation in the south. IFAW has had a successful working relationship with the SPCA and holds them in high regard. For this reason, I’m interested to hear public opinion in response to the WP’s article.

The question now, months after Katrina, months after thousands of people roamed homeless in the streets, is: do they have the right to claim their animals that were separated from them in the hurricane?

In short, this is the situation: Following Hurricane Katrina many dogs were rescued, treated, and identified if possible. Those that could not be identified were sent to shelters outside Louisiana and Mississippi, shelters that were momentarily not being flooded with abandoned dogs and cats. The SPCA played a major role in this. Shelters then fostered out the animals. Additionally, the SPCA asked shelters to have foster owners sign an agreement whereby if the rightful owner did not claim their animal by Nov. 1st (according to the WP), they would then have the chance to officially adopt the animal.

Many pets were left abandoned and were thankfully rescued by organizations like IFAW and the SPCA. However, there are often heartbreaking stories behind the abandonment, making it unfair to assume that just because someone hasn’t ‘claimed’ their animal, they don’t wish to locate it.

Furthermore, what is the story behind the foster family?  Why are they so content on keeping the animals and not making any contact what-so-ever with the previous owners?  I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Comments: 14

 
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5 years ago

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Anonymous
7 years ago

Children and animals should NOT be an 'either' 'or' issue. When we take in an animal they come to rely on us for their saftey and protection just as giving birth or choosing to adopt. We choose to take on that respondsibility. We MUST realise that animals are not disposible, unfeeling objects. If you CANNOT PROVIDE for them in ANY situation, DO NOT take on the respondsibility of becoming the GUARDIAN which means 'protector' of a pet!!!

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

Disasters are unfortunate for all concerned. We always wish they did not happen.
In order for all these animals to be cared for, the agencies involved HAD to find foster families for them. As far as the foster families keeping them, it was because they grew to love them, and the animals were happy to be somewhere they would be loved and cared for. I know it must be difficult for the people who have lost their pets, but they did not die--they are having happy lives elsewhere.
What is wrong with the Katrina survivors going to their local shelters and adopting a new animal who needs a home?
Be thankful, all of you, that your pets are in good homes being loved, fed and medicated as needed.

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

Aren't we all so judgemental??? Was anyone who posted here actually in this woman's position??? Did you directly suffer from the effects of Hurricane Katrina? I am the owner of 4 cats. The oldest being 17 yrs old. I live in southern North Carolina. I also live in a mobile home. Anytime a hurricane has threatened our area I evacuate myself, my child and my cats to a safer dwelling. If I go, my cats go. I am able to do this because I have loving friends who live in safer dwellings that will take me and my child and animals in. My cats are LIKE my children as well, BUT, they are not my child! As much as I love them, if I had to choose between my life or my child's vs. my pet's, I would have to choose mine and my child's. When it comes to a human's life vs. an animal's of course we have to put the priority on the human's. In this disaster there were not enough preparations made for the humans let alone the animals. Wasn't the US government ill-prepared? I think it is truly tragic that this woman is without her pets. Has she not suffered enough? For God's sake give them back!!! I know if I were in her position I would want my pets back no matter how much time had passed. Call me selfish. Do we really think that even after a year's time that her pets would not know her or would not bond with her again? I think it's great that so many people opened their homes to these displaced animals, but even if the owners were not able to retrieve their pets by the Nov. deadline, is it really fair to continue to withhold them? I think the people of this disaster have suffered enough!
Also, to Maureen, you wrote that the previous owner made her choice, that she put her own welfare and possibly that of her family first. WELL OF COURSE SHE DID!!! I would put my own welfare and that of my child above my pet's anyday! Call me irresponsible!

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

This story really scares me. I adopted a dog rescued from NOLA after the flood. His foster mom and I made many efforts to contact his original family but had no luck. I was told by the Humane Society volunteer who transported him from NOLA that he felt it was obvious that dog had been mis-treated and that as long as I was happy and the dog was safe and happy, we should just forget about trying to contact the original owners. So I have. Is that wrong? Should I continue to try and find his original owners? It's almost a year since the Hurricane -- wouldn't it be more stressful for him to uproot him once more if his original people were found?
I adore the dog more and more every day. He HAS taken a lot work and money - some for health issues, most for training and socializing, but mostly he has taken my time and emotional energy and I had to let myself believe that he would be with me for life or I would not have been able to provide the care that he needs. I love this dog now with my whole heart and the thought of ever having to give him up brings tears to my eyes. I swear, I think I would run away first. It's dramatic, I know, but I simply can't imagine having to give him up.
I think that what's really important to see in this article is that the two dogs are safe, healthy and are loved and cared for. Could anybody ask for more?

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

I have 7 cats and 1 dog and they would come with me or I would stay. Never, Never would I abandon them. They are like my children and as the previous owner states the two dogs were like her children. Does that mean she would have abandoned her children to brave the hurricane and to starve to death? I don't think so! When you have pets you have a responsibility to care for them for the term of their life. If you don't commit to that you don't deserve to have them. Those two dogs were not in the best of health in the first place which tells you she was not the best caregiver to them. If she loved them as much as she claims she should see the good home they have now and let them be.

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

I sympathise with the lady who has now lost her dogs, but at the end of the day she did leave them behind to fend for themselves, if it was not for the people that rescued them and subsequently fed and cared for them, they would probably now both be dead. Many people braved the hurricane because they would not leave their animals. The only excuse for leaving them would be if you were forcibly picked up and carried away. The previous owner made her choice - she put her own welfare (and possibly that of her family) first, and left the dogs to take their chances. She should just be grateful to know they did not die a long lingering death of deprivation and are happy and well cared for. It would be better if both families could agree on the dogs future, and possibly even if the previous "carer" could receive updatates and photos, but ultimately - she left them - she takes the consequences.
I suppose the bottom line is that it is absolutely disgraceful that a country supposedly as civilised, powerful and elightenend as America could not gather together sufficient resources to help evacuate animals, but then even the humans got a rotton deal. Frankly I'm disgusted.

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

I do feel that people having lost thier family pets do have the right to have them back. However, I do feel that once Nov. has passed that the opportunity be withdrawn. Some people may have had options, some may not have, but either way rescue plans do not have sufficient accomodations included for family pets and many people when faced with disaster panic rather than think clearly. There is so many reasons that a pet may have been left behind, that it would be unfair to try and pinpoint the reasons and say this is what people did. I do see things from both view points. Many people who went through Katrina, lost everything and a disaster such as that does not come along without leaving it's mark. In most cases owners do genuinely love their pets and feel that they are part of the family. Chances are, those who do not, wouldn't bother to claim their pet anyway. Telling owners they cannot have their pet is like telling someone they cannot have their child back. The original owners do deserve their loved ones back. However, original owners should also be aware of the effects the adoptions have on the new owners and their pets. If a pet was lucky enough to be given a loving home and has been with the new family for an extended period of time, the pets should stay with the new owner. Pets are like children, they take time to adapt and to much change and uncertainty is not good for their well being even though the original owners may hurting. By letting go after a certain time, it's not saying that the original owners do not love their pets. I have several pets, and yes I would fight to stay with them in a disaster, but if we were to be split up for whatever reason and I found them again, I would expect to have the right to have them back. However, if I knew they had been given to a loving home and it had been at least a year since we were together, I feel as much as it hurt I would have to let them go, otherwise I would be thinking of myself and not what is in their best interest. If I had been part of Katrina I would expect sufficient time to relocate my pets before I would give up. On another note, adoptive owners should really think about what if the original owner comes, can they honestly deal with loosing the pet after bonding with them? If the answer is no, then they have an idea of how the original owner feels and should seriously consider that if they are adopting these animals because they do run that risk. And original owners should consider the bonding that has taken place in the new home. Bottom line no lawyers, sit down and make a plan that benefits everyone. And somewhere there has to be a way to create a better plan for pets in the event of disaster.

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

Leaving the dog behind was the owners choice. Evacuation before or during the hurricane was warned. The owner should be happy that the dog was rescued, treated, fostered and adopted. While painful to let the animal go to a new home; every day dogs are surrendered, rehomed, abandoned by their owners.
It is in the best interest of their pet, that it be allowed to stay in its new adoptive home. This is not a custody battle that should be fought out in court. Maybe a visit or pictures could be sent to previous owner. If the pet was that important to him/her, it should never be left behind in whatever circumstances.

 
Anonymous
7 years ago

If you truely love your pet you would never abandon them in the first place. When becoming a pet owner you should realize that you will need a plan to take care of your pets in any type of an emergency so stop and think about your action. My family lives in areas where hurricanes hit at lease twice a year. they have had much of their belonging destroyed but never once did they leave any family behind which included dog, cat, large birds and even fish. No we do not have alot of money, they simple know what was important to them and kept them close in times of danger.

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