On Friday, President Bush quietly signed into law a bill requiring states to help evacuate pets in the wake of a natural disaster. The law follows one of the lesser publicized tragedies of FEMA’s bungled evacuation of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Because of a “no-pets” policy, FEMA forced evacuees to abandon their dogs, cats and any other domesticated friends (including service-animals). An estimated 50,000 pets were left to drown, starve or otherwise suffer. And remember all those folks who refused to leave their homes? According to a recent poll, 1 in 5 say they refused to evacuate because they did not want to leave their pets behind.
The documentary Dark Water Rising, now out on DVD, chronicles Katrina’s animal casualties and the tireless efforts of rescuers who worked to save them. The film also offers an unfiltered look at the hurricane’s devastation of New Orleans’ poorest neighborhoods and hints at the kind of bureaucratic ineptitude and infighting that have slowed reconstruction.