Stranded Pets Fill Home of Bayou Bengals

Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine has adopted thousands of pets left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Many now reside in the university's coliseum, where animal lovers — including the school's cheerleaders — take care of them.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Hurricane Katrina separated many people from their beloved pets. Animals are not allowed into evacuation centers and many hotels, but thousands are now in their own shelters, like the one NPR's Christopher Joyce visited in Baton Rouge.

Unidentified Woman: I'm sorry.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE reporting:

Outside the Parker Auditorium at Louisiana State University, there is a wall covered with photographs of pets; Pekingese, Border collies, retrievers, Siamese cats and tabbies. They came from New Orleans, but no one knows where their owners are. Susan Prevost(ph) is an evacuee. She's looking for her brother's dog.

Ms. SUSAN PREVOST (Hurricane Survivor): I'm here searching the walls for Chelsea(ph), a golden-collie mix. And the dog is 10 years old, fun-loving, friendly, long-haired and had a blue collar that said `Nantucket' on it.

JOYCE: The dirt-floored arena inside is usually host to rodeos and stock shows. Today, there are some 1,000 dogs in rows of cages. The cats are housed in the hallways outside the arena. Ginger Guttner is with the LSU veterinary school. She says these animals are waiting until their owners can find a place to live where they can keep their pets.

Ms. GINGER GUTTNER (LSU Veterinary School): This shelter was set up for owned animals. We know who all the owners are for each of these. We had one veterinary clinic in Metarie bringing 175 animals at one time.

JOYCE: There are lots of vets here and stacks and stacks of pet food. There's a long list of people who've offered to adopt the pets that aren't claimed.

Ms. GUTTNER: People have asked us, you know, why have we bothered to do this when so many people need aid, as well. You know, why bother to help animals? And that's been our response, is that for so many people, it's not just a pet; this is a member of their family. It'd be like leaving their child behind.

JOYCE: Owners come by to visit their pets. Volunteers stream in every day to walk the dogs, pet the cats and clean all those cages. And some like Shirley Moore go the extra mile. She's been going into the city to rescue pets left behind. She runs a group called saveadog.org.

Ms. SHIRLEY MOORE (Saveadog.org): I have a beautiful yellow Lab that was left. She is totally housebroken. She was going outside to go the bathroom and then coming in and lying on the couch waiting for the owners. And we took her out. She's been sleeping in my van, along with me, every night.

JOYCE: The pets that make it here can look forward to regular baths, grooming and one square meal a day. Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

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