As many as 104,000 pets left behind in Katrina - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

As many as 104,000 pets left behind in Katrina

Chaz has found a new family. (FOX 8 Photo) Chaz has found a new family. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

As many as 104,000 - that's how many pets the Louisiana SPCA believes were left behind to weather Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath. But as we near the 10 anniversary of the storm, we will show you some of those animals and how far they've come in this Life Beyond Katrina report.

Helen Hester and Chaz have been through a lot together over the last 10 years.

"The critters like him can also give us a lesson in just keep on going, coming back," said Hester.

Chaz wasn't rescued until November 2005. For two months after Katrina, he was left to fend for himself on the streets.

"We don't of course know his full story, but he was so thin that it's a very good chance he was probably on the street for most all the time since the storm," Hester said.

That's until Hester came along. She was a post-Katrina volunteer who helped rehabilitate animals traumatized by the storm. She found Chaz emaciated, heart-worm positive and scared of humans.

"They had the rehab tent, which was a tent off to the side of the shelter where the most frightened dogs were, and the volunteers would go into the rehab tent and we would read to the dogs so they could get used to human voices and being around people again," Hester said. 

The Louisiana SPCA estimates that nearly 16,000 animals were rescued after the storm, including Chaz, but,only 15 to 20 percent of those pets were reunited with their owners. David Webster was one of the lucky ones.

"Tazz and Troubles were in the last row in side-by-side crates, and that was very exciting," Webster said.

Webster was rescued from his Ninth Ward home after the storm hit and was forced to leave his cat, Creech, and two dogs, Tazz and Troubles behind. But, he would eventually be reunited with them at the Louisiana SPCA's temporary facility in Gonzales. Tazz and Troubles, he says, are happy 10 years later. Creech, though, passed away last year at the age of 16.

"They say cats have nine lives, I think Katrina took all her lives," Webster said. 

As for Hester and Chaz, after six months of rehabilitation and waiting for his owners to come forward, Helen decided she would give Chaz a new home. He hasn't left her side since.

"Eventually I decided he had found his real family, and it was me," Hester said. 

Now, after all he's been through, Chaz is giving back as a therapy dog, visiting schools and nursing homes. And on this 10-year anniversary of Katrina, there's no question we could all learn a lot from Hester and Chaz about the power of unconditional love and putting one foot, or paw, in front of the other even when it doesn't seem like you can.

"It's a time to remember to be kind to each other and be kind to everybody else because we all really do need each other,don't we," Hester said. 

A lot has changed in 10 years, when Katrina hit, the Louisiana SPCA says there was no formal evacuation plans for those with pets, so evacuees had to either leave them behind or stay and ride the storm out. In 2006, the Louisiana SPCA helped get the "pet evacuation bill" passed. Now, emergency officials have to offer evacuation assistance for pets too. The Louisiana SPCA says nearly 90,000 pets were unaccounted for after Katrina and estimates anywhere from 70,000 to 50,000 died across the Gulf Coast. 

Copyright WVUE 2015. All rights reserved.

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