"It was a massacre. It was a shooting gallery," said Mark Steinway, co-founder of the animal rescue group Posada Safe Haven. Steinway was among those who discovered the animals' bodies at three school evacuation centers, gathered evidence and urged the Louisiana State Attorney General's Office to launch an investigation.
"We documented as best we could as a crime scene," he said. "It was obvious [the dogs] had been chased around. There were so many rounds of ammunition and so many holes in the walls and so many random shots to body cavities and legs, areas where you know the animals were trying to get away from these guys."
Steinway described one harrowing discovery he made in the one of the parish schools that he said exemplified the wantonness with which the animals were killed.
"Somebody carefully tied up these two dogs in one of the rooms and shot them, and didn't even shoot them at close range in the head to put them out of their misery,'' he said. "They backed up and started shooting, with a shotgun started firing. Pellets all over the floor, bullet holes in the wall. It was a slaughter."
Some of the pet owners who spoke with ABC News said they had waited until the last minute to evacuate for good reason. One woman's daughter had just had a major surgery. Another had a medical condition that prevented him from driving and an elderly father too weak to drive. The waters rose rapidly and communication was difficult at best. Many residents were rescued from their rooftops, their animals clinging to them.
On Aug. 28, 2005, with floodwaters roaring through St. Bernard Parish, officials announced St. Bernard's High School as a shelter of last resort, according to court papers obtained by ABC News.
Three days later, on Aug. 31, officials evacuated the high school shelters and took residents to the Algiers Point ferry landing. As residents were separated from their animals and moved out of the shelters, many desperately scrawled messages on the walls of the school rooms.
"There is 1(sic) very nice dog in there. Please do not shoot her. Her name is Angel," read one message. Another, with a name and phone number, read, "Call me please. I want my pets back."
"In this room are six adult dogs and four puppies. Please save them! Kit."
Plaintiff John Bozes said his black Labrador, Angel Girl, had saved his family's life. Floodwaters had reached the top of the door of his parish home, he told ABC News.
"I walked to the door right there, I go to put my hand on the knob to open it, she got between me and that door and nudged me back. When I looked back I saw water coming through the top of the door and I said, 'Oh boy, we're in trouble.'"
"Everybody, we're under water!" he hollered to his family, who climbed through the attic to reach the home's roof. They were evacuated to St. Bernard's High School, where he said they were told to evacuate without the pets.
"It was a mandatory evacuation -- we either go to jail or get shot, or we leave our pets behind."
Then, he said, he and other owners heard a deputy say, 'Man, once everybody's gone, we're going to have target practice tonight.'''
"There was so much commotion after that statement was made," he said. "We stood our ground and said, 'We're not leaving them.'"
"Next thing you know, we're either leaving … or you get shot."