PETS IN THE EYE OF THE STORM: HURRICANE KATRINA FLOODS THE COURTS WITH PET CUSTODY DISPUTES (.pdf file - 128.62 KB)
By Megan McNabb
“Then the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’ So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: ‘Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.’”
The story of King Solomon includes the often-told tale of two women, both claiming ownership of one baby, who come before the king’s court in order to resolve their quarrel as to which of them is the true mother. This article recounts a modern-day King Solomon story: the baby is the animals left behind during Hurricane Katrina; the two mothers claiming ownership of the “baby” are the original owners of the animals and those who adopted the animals after the hurricane; and the role of King Solomon is played by judges in the custody cases that arose after the storm. This article provides a summary of those custody disputes while examining the question of whether those who left their pets behind during Hurricane Katrina have the right to reclaim them from the animals’ new adoptive family. The animals of Hurricane Katrina became trapped in the middle of an unfortunate and complicated situation largely because of defects in our national policies and laws regarding animals and disasters. Therefore, this article also reviews legislative changes that have and should occur concerning pets and disasters, pet adoption, and animals as property.