Sept. 10, 2005 -- Many people who refused to evacuate from New Orleans did so because they didn't want to leave their beloved pets behind. For the animals who were left on their own, there's now a race against time to save them.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates as many as 50,000 cats, dogs, birds and other pets may be stranded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Animal rescue teams from around the country are in Louisiana trying to save them.
The nonprofit organization Noah's Wish is tackling the job on the ground, following up on requests from anxious pet owners.
Most rescued animals are taken to the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La., which has been transformed into the largest animal triage center in the state.
Every day brings happy reunions between pets and their owners, said Laura Maloney, executive director of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who is managing the center.
"There are at least 20 a day, if not more," she said. "And, we have thousands calling in and asking."
In addition to more than 1,300 dogs and cats, the Lamar-Dixon center is housing more than 100 exotic animals including parrots, ferrets, chinchillas and iguanas. There are also 400 horses and mules, including mules who used to give rides to tourists in the French Quarter.
Overall, the rescued animals "are doing surprisingly well," Maloney said.
"One dog had a severe leg injury. With the horses we've had some lacerations to the legs, and some animals are suffering from heat-related problems," she added.
Tens of thousands of animals are waiting to be rescued, she said. By next week the Lamar-Dixon center could have 9,000 animals.
"Remember, 69 percent of the public owns at least one pet," Maloney said. "And we have hundreds of spreadsheets of addresses where we know animals are trapped."
Celebrities are trying to help these animals, too. Kirstie Alley brought a tractor-trailer full of toys and treats.