Saving the Four-Legged Refugees

On the run last week out of a city sinking beneath floodwaters, a man spotted a sight by the side of the road that tugged at his heart.

A female cat and four kittens nested amidst some rubble, destined to die if left behind.

The man could not abandon them, he later told Houston Humane Society employees, who kept his name confidential.

“He was distraught when he had to leave them here,” said Courtney Frank, a spokeswoman for the animal shelter. “I think they grew attached to each other on the long trip here.”

The cat and her playful charges are now safe and sound at the Humane Society’s shelter along with about 70 other dogs and cats from New Orleans.

Most, like a Yorkshire terrier named Pumpkin, are there for a temporary stay while their displaced owners find lodging that will take their pets. During their time at the shelter, the pets are given vaccination for rabies and other diseases and are spayed or neutered at no cost.

“So many (evacuees) don’t have any of their pet’s paperwork and it’s lost now,” said Richard Perez, the supervisor of the Humane Society’s animal clinic. “They’re finding they can’t get into apartments if they don’t have the required documentation for their animals.”

Other pets were brought in by owners or strangers who could no longer care for them and “want them to go to a good family that can,” Frank said.

The Humane Society in Houston has been inundated by callers from Maine to California interested in adopting the animal refugees from the storm. About 30 were adopted over the Labor Day weekend.

“We had one woman from Colorado say she’d drive down here and pick up a dog who needed a home,” Frank said.

New Orleans evacuees are calling as well, asking if the pets they were forced to leave behind had been brought in to the shelter.

Meanwhile, the adult cat rescued by a stranger will have to work for her stay. Another kitten was brought in Tuesday, a local stray abandoned somewhere in the city.

“We’re hoping Mom will feed her, too, because she’s starving and needs mother’s milk,” Frank said.

To assist Katrina hurricane victims searching for their missing pets, numerous Web sites have cropped up on the Internet. One of the most comprehensive is

The Houston Humane Society’s Website is .

(Contact Tamara Koehler of the Ventura County Star in California at