Rising waters imperil pets as disaster-stricken South braces for more

A swarm of deadly tornadoes across Alabama and parts of neighboring states came first. Now it's the flooding of the Mississippi River and its tributaries that's wreaking havoc among the animal populations in the south.

In Lousiana and Mississippi, deer and other wildlife are turning up on city streets trying to outrun the waters, while in Alabama pet owners still comb the rubble of their tornado-ravaged homes in hopes of finding their missing cats and dogs.

Once again we are reminded of Hurricane Katrina where scores of people in Louisiana and Mississippi died because they would not leave their pets behind and thousands of animals were displaced. In the wake of Katrina, Congress approved legislation requiring communities to consider pets in their evacuation plans, including setting up shelters for animal owners. How well that law is being followed we do not know.

But we have heard of the anguish of residents and animals rescue groups in their efforts to find pets still alive in the debris. The Associated Press reports more than 350 animals - cats, dogs, birds snakes even a tarantula - have been found in the wrecked neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa. Humane workers have a set up a temporary pet shelter in a church to accommodate the lost animals and those who have been surrendered by owners who no longer have homes.

The Humane Society of the United States is leading the effort in Tuscaloosa and has set up temporary shelters in Natchez, Mississippi and in Missouri as well. The video below shows HSUS's Tuscaloosa rescue efforts as workers race to trap terrified cats before bulldozers arrive to clear debris.

Meanwhile, rescue crews brace for the next wave of animals in distress as the floodgates are opened along the Mississippi River. This drastic action is being taken to save New Orleans and Baton Rouge by sacrificing rural areas - less populated, but not without human or animal consequences.

(Above photo: Two kittens rescued in Tuscaloosa/AP/Dave Martin)