Snowball (Hurricane Katrina dog)

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Snowball is the name of a small white dog made famous by Associated Press reporter Mary Foster's coverage of the evacuation of the New Orleans Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Over 20,000 people took shelter in the New Orleans Superdome as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. A humanitarian crisis quickly developed, as toilets overflowed and food and water supplies ran low.

When authorities began to evacuate people to the Superdome with buses, they refused to allow pets to board. According to Foster's AP story:

"At the front of the line, the weary refugees waded through ankle-deep water, grabbed a bottle of water from state troopers and happily hopped on buses that would deliver them from the horrendous conditions of the Superdome.
"At the back end of the line, people jammed against police barricades in the rain. Refugees passed out and had to be lifted hand-over-hand overhead to medics. Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. 'Snowball, Snowball', he cried. The policeman told a reporter he didn't know what would happen to the dog."

The poignant story of Snowball's separation from the boy quickly became a symbol for many of the difficult circumstances faced by evacuees and, secondarily, their pets.

Snowball's plight also became a focal point for criticism by animal welfare organizations of authorities refusal to allow evacuees to take their pets with them. In an op-ed published by various Knight-Ridder and Tribune Co. newspapers, Rue McClanahan, honorary director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, stated that "Federal and nonprofit agencies need to acknowledge that animals are considered by many people to be members of the family."

The Ledger-Enquirer published an editorial noting that more affluent evacuees, who departed New Orleans in personal vehicles, were able to take their pets, while the poor were forced to leave their animal companions behind.

Karen Dawn, an animal welfare activist, wrote in the Washington Post that:

"There is a class issue involved here. While Marriott hotels welcomed the pets of Katrina evacuees as "part of the family," people who had to rely on the Red Cross for shelter were forced to abandon that part of the family or attempt to ride out the storm. It cannot be denied that many poor people are dead as a result of "no pets" policies.:
"The pets pulled from people's arms would not have taken seats meant for humans. There is no reasonable explanation for abandoning them. They were the last vestiges of sweetness, in some cases the only living family, of those who had nothing left. But the police officers were just following orders—orders that reflect an official policy inconsistent with how people feel about their animals."

A small number of commentators defended the government policy regarding pets. columnist Timothy Noah blasted critics of the no-pet policy, writing "that New Orleans policeman was right to confiscate Snowball."

The story of "Snowball" became a centerpiece in fundraising appeals by welfare organizations and various ad-hoc websites were created by people soliciting funds to help locate Snowball and reunite him with the boy.

On September 6th, 2005 USA Today reported that Terry Conger, a veterinarian and information officer for the Incident Command Center that coordinated animal rescue efforts in Louisiana, said state veterinary officers had confirmed that Snowball is safe in a Louisiana shelter and that his owner had been located in Texas. This good news swept the country and was reported by many media outlets.

However, it appears the veterinarian officals were mistaken. On September 10, 2005 the Lexington Herald-Leader quoted Dr. Conger as saying that original reports of Snowball's recovery were inaccurate and that "the chances of finding it [Snowball] and returning it to its owner are next to nil."

On October 6th, the author of the 'Dog Lady' pet advice column featured on wrote:

"Despite the reward money on their heads, neither Snowball nor the boy has been found. Sadly, such disconnection is the tenor of these stormy times. In New Orleans, many children and family members are still missing, jobs are gone, homes are in ruins. The plight of Snowball is a speck of sorrow in a vast landscape of misery. ... perhaps it's best if we close the Snowball saga by imagining the little white dog as the leader of a pack -- either here or in the hereafter."

B. Thompson of wrote:

"I can't forget Snowball. I know there are so many abandoned animals, and Snowball represents all of them to me. In that single moment, when he was not allowed to be saved, we all became so much less human to me. How did we even allow that to happen? How can we ever recover our humanity after that? I don't know. Snowball appears to have vanished and we are faced with the stark reality that, once the moment passed and the opportunity to step up to the plate was gone, we can never regain that opportunity. For Snowball's sake and in his memory, if you ever see an animal in need, don't hesitate. Don't think about the "rules" -- just do what needs to be done. ...Even if Snowball is gone forever, the dog's legacy does not melt away. "

As of mid-October 2005, websites such as and continue to focus on the search for Snowball and advertise rewards of up to $13,000 for the safe return of the dog to his owner.

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