Seven years ago when Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast and the levees broke in New Orleans, cameras captured the chaos, crime, flooded homes and death. Who can forget the images of the trashed Superdome with its damaged roof, the abandoned and boarded up homes with cryptic writings on the exterior, or people stranded on rooftops pleading for help with homemade signs. Boats transported exhausted people to public shelters and an uncertain future.
I followed the news daily after Katrina and read about the political bickering over responsibilities. I remember a news report featuring a journalist cruising on a boat down a residential street somewhere in New Orleans, probably the Lower 9th Ward, videotaping abandonded dogs on a front porch. It seemed every living creature in that city was suffering and it was horrifying to watch.
Despite the confusion and lack of resources, thousands of pets were rescued by various organizations and volunteers. Many animals were sent to other states for care, some pets were fostered by other families, and people worked hard to create databases to help unite pets with their owners.
What we didn’t hear much about was that some law enforcement personnel drove through the streets and indiscriminately shot dogs to death. This gruesome activity was captured on camera by award-winning photojournalist David Leeson who witnessed it and shares his observations in this documentary. What he saw is sad, disgusting, and will make you angry. Leeson reminds us these events matter because how we treat animals and our environment is indicative of what is happening in our culture and how we treat people. McPhee, on the other hand, doesn’t give us direct answers but questions our role following a disaster. Ultimately, the efficiency and success rate of future rescue operations similar to the pet rescue efforts after Katrina will prove whether or not we’ve learned from previous mistakes.
Hurricane Katrina: a storm that drowned a city (DVD)