Video: Saving animals

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/8/2005 7:43:39 PM ET 2005-09-08T23:43:39

It's part of the anguish permeating this disaster that so many people faced leaving a precious four-legged family member behind. There are an untold number in New Orleans alone, scared, scavenging for food. Teams are racing to rescue these Katrina victims — and in some cases, the owners who just wouldn't leave without them.

On a deserted street, Robert Elmwood and Ebony are looking for a way out. Down the way, Peter Block sits with Venus, Sarina and Jasmin. Like many still in New Orleans, they stayed because they just couldn't abandon their pets.

Initially rescuers wouldn't take animals. Those rules are changing, but many evacuation shelters still don't allow them. When one disaster victim was asked, "If you were forcefully told to leave what would your reaction be?” The reply was:“Shoot me, 'cause I'm not leaving without my pets."

At the NBC work site in New Orleans, people even left their pets with NBC, including ones named “Storm,” “Freeway” and “Katrina,” because NBC stayed in the area.

They are the lucky ones. Many others still wait on houses, cars and porches along flooded streets, stranded and struggling to survive. Some are with their owners and some are without.

City officials fear they could spread disease. Rescuers say there are so many, it's hampering their work. Animal welfare groups and volunteers are overwhelmed and outnumbered thousands to one. And those forced to abandon their pets are desperate to get them back — to the point of handing over their house keys to strangers, who go in, rescue and reunite pets and owners.

But the endings aren't always so happy. Juan Cabreara is off to a disaster shelter and must say goodbye to his dogs. The animals will go to a live stock facility 50 miles away.

It’s been 10 days and Katrina still has the power to separate families, creating a landscape full of pets and broken hearts.

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