Katrina 10 year anniversary: Making sure everyone gets on the rescue boats

44% of the people who refused to evacuate during Katrina did so because they could not evacuate with their animals.My team is hot, sunburned, and dirty… just another day training hard at the Katrina Commemorative Boot-camp in Gonzales, Louisiana.

We are honored to be here among our peers from so many organizations and agencies determined to keep improving our local and national capacity to help animals in crisis. For 8 days, animal rescue experts from around the country are teaching advanced life saving techniques to the best of the best so that we can spread these lessons throughout our local communities.

Last evening a responder named Pam told me a story about how she came to join animal rescues during Katrina.

Pam drove a bus for medical patients day after day during the aftermath of the flooding. She had to watch countless times as patients tied their pets to posts, benches or poles before boarding because pets were not allowed on the bus with their owners. She will forever be traumatized by those events and she was determined to make a difference.

Can you imagine having to choose between seeking medical care and abandoning your pet?

Pam and hundreds of other Louisiana residents fought for new bills at the state and national levels to allow and even demand that pets be allowed to accompany their owners during disaster evacuations and sheltering.

We have come so far in 10 years since Katrina events displaced or killed approximately 250,000 dogs and cats to keep families whole but we still have more to do.  

When catastrophic disasters strike, animal owners often need help, help from animal rescuers like the IFAW Animal Rescue team.

As the strongest international all species animal rescue team, we constantly share lessons learned with our partners around the globe.

We are grateful to share the Katrina Commemorative Bootcamp with 2 of international responder leads, Dr. Elena Garde from the IFAW-GAAP South America ERN and Radhika Bhagat from the IFAW-WTI India ERN.

IFAW’s International Emergency Relief Network (ERN) partners assess communities most at risk to tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and flooding, to determine how to best prepare people before a disaster strikes.

Elena and Radhika work in extremely high risk areas prone to natural disasters. Our teams in both countries are developing and implementing Best Practices for animal rescue based on lessons learned just like those we learned from Hurricane Katrina in the US.

Yes, it is important to look back 10 years to remember those we lost and those we saved, it is our nature to reflect and pay our respects.

It is critical however, that we also look forward, forward to a time when all states in the US and all countries recognize that animals are a part of our hearts, souls and our families.

Everyone deserves a seat on the next rescue boats we put into the flood waters, everyone.


Katrina Bootcamp


During the Katrina Commemorative boot-camp, IFAW is joined by our partners ASPCA, Code 3 Associates, Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, RedRover, USDA APHIS Animal Care, American Humane Association, and the National Alliance of State Animal & Agriculture Emergency Programs to instruct advanced training in slack water rescue, humane animal handling and capture, decontamination, pet first aid, wildland fire rescue, assessment, emergency sheltering, and large animal technical rescue.  


Read more Hurricane Katrina rescue stories.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy