By Bernard Unti
September 6, 8:40 p.m.
Today, on their third day of access to the cheerless city of New Orleans, members of HSUS's Disaster Animal Rescue Teams (DART) helped to carry dozens of animals to safety, taking them out of houses, picking them up in the streets, and collecting them from displaced evacuees leaving the city. One ground-based DART team rescued at least nineteen cats in break-and-enter operations undertaken with permission from authorities. Fourteen other teams were operating across Mississippi and Louisiana. The animal exodus from New Orleans works this way: After the day's patrols end, rescued animals are taken to a triage point outside the careworn city in caravans of small vehicles. There, ailing animals are stabilized, with those in good condition being moved to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, the improvised headquarters of the Louisiana SPCA, The HSUS, and their rescue partners—and a facility that lends itself well to the staging of a large-scale animal rescue. The sicker animals are currently sent to a veterinary hospital at Louisiana State University. Today's good news came even as the story of New Orleans' pets—a new kind of disaster in the making—began to win increased attention from the national media, underscoring the terrible realities of disaster response plans that do not include proper provisions for the evacuation of people with their companion animals. Anderson Cooper and Oprah were planning to focus on the topic in special reports, and HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle was scheduled to appear on Larry King Live on Thursday night, September 8. Still, as serious rescue work began, time was a shadow that hung dismally over the lives of New Orleans' pets. Lost, abandoned, stray, or locked inside the houses, offices, and other structures of a battered city, food and water running out, they were trapped in time and place.