NEW ORLEANS - James Joseph remembers what it was like when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. He evacuated his home in New Orleans East leaving behind his two dogs, Cuddles and Blackie. James thought he'd be back in a few days, but he wasn't able to return for weeks.

"I just thought it was going to be a bad rain storm," James said. "I've stayed for several storms and it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be so that's why I left the dogs. When I came back, it looked like somebody dropped a bomb. I couldn't believe it because I'd never seen anything like that in my life."

The 66-year-old found Cuddles walking down the street., but his Labrador/German Shepherd mix, Blackie, was never seen again.

According to the Louisiana SPCA, more than 100,000 pets were left behind during Hurricane Katrina. Since the storm, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act was adopted.

The PETSA makes sure that people and their pets can be rescued following a major disaster or emergency. Before that needs to happen, animal experts say you should have a plan.

"A pet is a member of the family so you want to take every precaution for the pets as you would with every other family member," said Preston Meche, resource development coordinator at Louisiana SPCA. "You don't want to leave anyone behind. They're just as scared and nervous as you might be."

A few suggestions to get prepared:

  • Pack the pet's food, water and medicine
  • Have medical history on hand
  • Make sure your pet has an ID collar on
  • Have a pet carrier

From experience, James says it's better to be safe than sorry.

"Your dog is your family. You never know with these storms, especially the way the weather is now," James said.

More information on disaster preparedness can be found here. To read pet owner emergency preparation information from the City of New Orleans, click here.