No pets left behind in New Orleans evacuation

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Authorities evacuating residents from New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav are making amends with four-legged friends after thousands of pets perished in Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

Animal welfare groups tried to make sure that evacuees had their pets with them, while shelters away from the Gulf Coast accommodated animals this time around.

Many owners stayed in the city during the catastrophic 2005 hurricane because they could not take their pets to shelters and could not bear to leave without them.

“This city has been hit so badly, they’ve lost so much, and the last thing they have to hold on to is their animal,” said Laura Bergerol, a volunteer with Animal Rescue New Orleans.

The group stacked up boxes for residents who planned to carry their small pets with them as part of an evacuation on buses and trains through the Union Passenger terminal.

Pet owners stood in line to register their furry friends. Then they were given a machine readable band to tag on to their pet, in case they became separated.

Among the horrors of Katrina three years ago were dead dogs bobbing in the drowned streets of the city, 80 percent of which was flooded.

Dog owner Julian Coleman lined up to register his feisty Rottweiler-German shepherd puppy Ali.

“I didn’t want to just leave him to get hurt, like so many did in Katrina,” Coleman said as Ali jumped up. “It makes me feel a little safer having him with me.”

Evacuee Sylvania Moore was anxious about being separated from her mother, but relieved to be able to take her shitsu, Buddy, with her.

“He gets to ride the bus with us, which is good,” said Moore, clutching Buddy in her arms outside the Amtrak terminal. “It’s a relief that we didn’t have to leave him behind.”

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; editing by Mary Milliken