Red Cross: pets can now stay in Joplin shelter

After a high-level, holiday pow-wow among rescue groups and a university, pets living at the people shelter in Joplin have been given a reprieve.

News reports earlier said the American Red Cross was preparing to toss 22 pets from a shelter housing humans as early as tonight.

Needless to say, the news had survivors - many of whom have nothing else left but their pets - deeply upset.

We wondered, did the Red Cross really not get the message after Hurricane Katrina?

In the face of a disaster, people will risk their lives for their pets. Some Gulf Coast residents were washed out to sea because they would not leave their pets behind. Not an urban legend this fate was reported in more than a few obituries of those who perished in Katrina.

Those who survived faced wrenching decisions when they learned no shelter would accept pets (except in one case I witnessed in Gulfport Mississippi, the Red Cross workers bent the rules and allowed folks to tie their pets outside the shelter).

This time around in Joplin the Red Cross told the homeless residents living on cots in a college building that their pets - which had been housed in the basement - would be relocated to an animal shelter if they weren't removed by tonight, according to the Tulsa World.

Worst of all, they told the people they were welcome to come in with their pets after the tornado.

One distraught resident, pictured above, told a reporter her landlord said her apartment won't be repaired for six months. Elizabet Lawrence - who is disabled and relocated to Joplin after she was forced from her home near New Orleans after Katrina -said she has no children and taking away her three-year-old Pomeranian would be like losing a child.

Others feared they would never see their pets if they disappeared into a giant shelter housing hundreds of animals.

The Red Cross, for its part, acted like they were doing residents a favor by taking in their pets in the first place. A spokesman said the group typically doesn't accept animals and that the housing arrangement was not meant to be a "long term or permanent thing."

But a late-breaking development Monday night had the Red Cross backpeddling on its order. A spokeswoman said there were never plans to relocate the pets and blamed the confusion on someone without authority to speak for the organization.

(Photo/St. Louis Beacon)