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April 02, 2012

Lessons from Katrina: Continuing the Conversation about Animal Protection

In the days after Katrina barreled into the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, the nation received a tutorial in the power of the human-animal bond. So many individuals stayed behind, at great personal risk and knowing that enormous sacrifices would have to be made, because they didn’t want to abandon their pets. And in the days after the hurricane made landfall, so many thousands of people streamed in to the stricken areas to help with the biggest pet rescue of all time, coming from every state in the country. Never again would there be any doubt either about the enduring connection that people have with their pets, or about the altruistic spirit of the American people to come to the aid of animals and humans in crisis.

Wayne Pacelle with a white dog after Hurricane Katrina
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
At Lamar-Dixon animal shelter after Katrina.

Tomorrow the paperback version of my book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, comes out at bookstores and other book-selling outlets throughout the U.S. I am launching the paperback tour in New Orleans and then going to Baton Rouge on Wednesday because the concept of the book came into such sharp focus as I looked back on the Katrina tragedy and drama that played out there.

The Bond is a big-picture meditation on how and why we’re so connected to animals, but also how we’ve also become so deeply disconnected from them in the modern era. We have more love and appreciation for animals than ever before, but there is paradoxically also so much cruelty and abuse, often happening on a vast scale. The book is helping spark a national conversation about our treatment of animals, and the efforts to turn around the major industries and institutions that are causing them harm.

In the narrative, I take the reader not only back to Louisiana in the days after Katrina struck, but also to an egg factory farm in California in the months before the game-changing vote on Proposition 2, to the slaughter plant in Chino that became the most famous undercover investigation of farm animal abuse of all time, to Leavenworth prison where I first met Michael Vick as he reflected on how and why he did terrible things to dogs and in the process became the highest-profile animal cruelty convict in American history, and to the valleys in and around Yellowstone as trophy hunters gunned down bison who wandered outside of the world’s first national park—the very park that saved these animals from extinction in the 1870s.

But while the book takes a clear-eyed look at what’s happening to animals, it’s also a book filled with hope—about the bond that gives all of us a head start in doing the right thing for our fellow creatures, about the courageous people who are demanding reform on so many fronts, and about how all of us must be part of building a new humane economy through our daily behaviors and our political activism.

Find Wayne Pacelle’s The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them for sale online in paperback or hardcover »

For the hardcover portion of the book tour, I met so many thousands of people—young and old, veterans and novices, men and women. I am excited to pick up on the tour and keep the discussion going. The point of it all is for me to leave this book with people who care in order to fortify our movement, to remind us about the great changes taking place for the better, and to find a pathway forward for us as individuals and for all of us as a society.

The first stop is tomorrow night in New Orleans, as a reminder of that tragic and also enlightening moment for our cause. But that’s just the start. Hope to see you somewhere on the road.

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