There has been a lot of discussion since Katrina about the role of companion animals in disaster preparation and evacuation. Animals have demonstrated advantages for the health of older people, even the very old and frail (and even as visitors than live-in companions).
Here is another aspect to the discussion.
Lost in Katrina and in new homes – whose pet now? By Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor
…The lawsuits are efforts to reunite family members – even fuzzy ones – who have been separated by Katrina. They also raise troubling questions about whether animals should be treated as property or as members of the family – and which homes they belong in.
“We’re trying to distinguish between dog-nappers and good-faith finders, and that’s a huge gray area right now from hurricane Katrina,” says David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University in Lansing and an animal law expert….
In many cases, overwhelmed shelters were forced to find new homes for pets that had not been claimed even after pictures were posted on the Internet….
State laws, so far, are on the side of the original owners because pets are considered property, not family, law experts say. “Finders, keepers” laws state that property must be abandoned for at least a year before original owners lose their rights to it unless the finders can prove they made a good-faith effort to find the owner. In Louisiana, the requirement is three years. In January, a New Jersey judge ordered a family to return a dog adopted after Katrina to its owner in New Orleans….