WSVN — It was on this day 10 years ago that thousands of New Orleans residents made the decision to ignore evacuation orders. It was a decision that cost them and their pets dearly. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero reports on what happened then and how it impacts us now.  

As we mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it’s worth a look back on the tragedy and the heartbreak for people and their pets.

Mark Martin: "You can still hear some of them crying in the houses."

7News was there as starving and traumatized pets were being saved weeks after the storm passed. They had been left by owners expecting a quick return.

Nefretti: "I feel awful that they were left in the house all that time, but we were expecting to be back home within two days of the storm."

Dogs and puppies left in schools out of desperation were shot and killed despite pleas from owners scrawled on classroom walls that they be saved. Among them, Angel Girl.

John Bozes: "She was all I had. She was all I had."

At the time, emergency responders saved people, not pets.

Fay Bourg: "I have nothing. No car, no home."

Fay Bourg says she and her dog Hunter were saved from rising water, but her rescuers threw her dog out of the boat. She tried to go in after him.

Fay Bourg: "I jumped and he grabbed me. My foot hit the water and he pulled me back in the boat, handcuffed me."

Fay says the last time she saw Hunter, he was desperately paddling behind the boat, but unable to keep up.

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers from across the country, many pets lost during the storm were reunited with their owners. Others were put up for adoption, but some new owners did not want to give the pets back.

Fay Bourg: "I can’t even talk about him."

A California couple adopted Fay Bourg’s dog and refused to return him.

Carmel Cafiero: "And how important is having him back to putting your life together?"

Fay Bourg: "Very important. I just feel like I’m so lost without him."

After a year of trying to get Hunter back, Fay committed suicide. Other cases had happier endings — eventually.

Pam Bondi, then a prosecutor, now Florida’s Attorney General, at first refused to return Tank.

Pam Bondi: "I promised I would never let anything bad happen to him again."

But she later gave the St. Bernard back to the family who had lost him in the storm.

Carmel Cafiero: "Today, our pets have protection from being thrown out of a boat. A law passed after Katrina requires pets and service animals to be part of evacuations in the event of a disaster."

The storm also bought home the need to ID our pets with microchips and tags. And, in the event of an evacuation, we need to have a plan for pet-friendly hotels or shelters.

After Katrina, we are all far more aware of the need to protect all the members of our families. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
You can also send a tweet to @carmelonthecase

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