Heartbreaking images of the pets left behind during Hurricane Katrina

Editor’s note: Some images in this post may be disturbing because of their graphic nature.

In 2005, when many people were faced with the impossible decision of whether to be rescued from the impending churn of Hurricane Katrina but abandon their pets, or be left behind, many chose the former. Some people thought they would only be away for a few days. And shelters, including those of the American Red Cross, were refusing to take animals.

About 250,000 animals of all kinds were left with little means of survival. The lucky ones had some food and water; some were trapped inside and others were stranded on rooftops. During Katrina, former Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy captured a heartbreaking record of the abandoned animals, including dogs, cats, horses and even a pig.

Then there was the other side of the spectrum. Faced with rising waters, some people refused to leave with rescuers, and died as a result. The uproar caused by the separation of people from their pets spurred the passing of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006. It requires state and local officials to make evacuation plans and provide shelter for animal companions.

In anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew on U.S. shores, animal welfare organizations are urging people to make sure that their animals have identification tags and to evacuate early.

See more of photos of abandoned pets by Carol Guzy

Heartbreaking photos show Venezuela’s abandoned dogs