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Pets Wait for Rescue, Too

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The search and rescue of loved ones along the Gulf Coast includes pets. Hundreds of dogs, cats, birds and other animals are still trapped in homes. Others roam freely looking for food and a familiar face. Bob Reeder is a Humane Society rescuer. He's been going street to street in Metairie, Louisiana, pulling animals from homes, picking up strays.

Mr. BOB REEDER (Humane Society): Yesterday, one lady who had seen animals drowning come up to us and couldn't get the vision from her mind and she was--as she was telling me this, she just broke down and cried and I had to actually sit her down. She just couldn't carry on any longer.

MONTAGNE: The Humane Society says it has rescued about 400 pets so far. Melissa Roberts searched for her cat in New Orleans and got help from two animal welfare groups.

Ms. MELISSA ROBERTS: I had been contacting every animal organization on the face of this planet and Noah's Wish were able to contact the Home and Humane Society, and someone from the Home and Humane Society got to her, and ever since our cat got rescued, I've been online trying to help other people who are in the same situation.

MONTAGNE: Many agencies have set up hot lines for families trying to locate pets. Yesterday, the Humane Society phone's system shut down after it was overloaded by hundreds of calls like this one.

(Soundbite of call)

Unidentified Woman: My cat has been left behind. The address is in Metarie, Louisiana. The cat's name is DC(ph). She's all black, about eight pounds with green, gold eyes. If you could please help her and contact me and give her a hug.

MONTAGNE: Animals usually are not allowed in evacuation shelters. In San Antonio, the local SPCA set up temporary housing for pets until their owners find new homes. Cathy Rosenthal helped take in some of the animals.

Ms. CATHY ROSENTHAL: We went down to Kelly Resee(ph) here in San Antonio, Texas, where the evacuees were coming in and we took over 110 dogs and cats, rabbits, hamsters, parrots and cockatiels. We take a photograph of the animal and the pet owner and this helps us make sure that we get the right pet back to the right person.

MONTAGNE: More than 600 pets are being housed near the Astrodome in Houston. Hundreds more are in foster homes across Texas and while local and federal agencies are being criticized for their response to Katrina, Cathy Rosenthal says animal groups were ready.

Ms. ROSENTHAL: Ten years ago, many groups started to get together and plan for disasters. We realized that animals are not part of disaster plans and therefore many people here have to leave them behind or they stay behind in harm's way and dangerous way because of their pet.

MONTAGNE: That's Cathy Rosenthal of the SPCA in San Antonio. And for links to some of the agencies helping animals in the aftermath of Katrina, go to npr.org.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.