Throughout the past few months leading up to my NOLA trip, I have been researching the events that occurred there in 2005. I have read articles, watched documentaries, and had countless conversations with friends and strangers surrounding Katrina.Every page I turn, hour of film I watch and conversation (or debate) I have, new information floods in. With every encounter I find myself amazed at how many different ways Katrina affected the residents of NOLA and the world.
Most recently I watched a documentary called, Mine. This film relays the personal stories of Katrina victims who experienced secondary victimization when trying to find their pets. Evacuees were not allowed to take their pets with them when they left their homes. The Super-dome, shelters, and even hotels did not allow pets. If you have ever owned a pet, you can understand and empathize with these people. A pet is a member of your family, your best friend, and sometimes your only companion.
Animals were relocated in the same way that individuals were displaced during Katrina. Animals were taken to over 500 shelters across the US and Canada. Pictures and descriptions were displayed on various websites, but the owners were not given any instruction as to how they would find their pets. With no permanent address, or access to the Internet, it became very challenging for owners to find their displaced pets.
Many of the animal rescuers developed a bias towards the New Orleans pet owners. They saw the condition the animals were in, and placed judgement on the owners. One individual even had the audacity to say that, “Katrina was the best thing to happen to these animals”. If an animal was not spayed or neutered, or did not have up to date shots, the owner was titled “unfit” and the animal was put up for adoption. If the owner didn’t have enough money for a lawyer in order to take legal action, there was nothing they could do to reclaim their pets. Consequently, thousands of pet owners, trying desperately to put their families back together became victimized once again. The pet owners in the documentary explained that material possessions lost during the hurricanes were replaceable, but their pets were members of their families, and therefore irreplaceable. A great loss was experienced once again.
The blame put on the victims of Katrina which is apparent here, and that has been discussed by my peers, just blows my mind. It hurts my heart to think that I live in a society that can view and treat people in such a way. It lifts my spirits that blogs such as this one exist, because it means that individuals exist who care,and want change for the residents of NOLA. I encourage you to keep reading our blogs as we continue to learn and aid the victims of Katrina. As long as individuals like yourselves keep your hearts and minds open, the capacity for a better world remains a possibility.
Thank you for following us on this journey,