Hurricane Katrina Dogs Return to Original Owners

Two dogs displaced by Hurricane Katrina are rejoining their owners in Louisiana after lengthy legal battle.

Posted: May 23, 2007, 5 a.m. EST

A St. Bernard and a Shepherd mix who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and wound up being separately adopted in Florida are being returned to their original owners after a lengthy legal tug-of-war.

But the Floridians who adopted the animals in the hurricane’s aftermath will get visitation rights as part of the deal.

The male St. Bernard and the female Shepherd mix were owned by Louisiana residents Steve and Doreen Couture. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Coutures’ home in 2005, they had to leave the dogs during an evacuation.

Eventually a family member took the dogs to a rescue shelter at St. Bernard Parish. There, they were left under the Coutures’ name but were later turned over to the Pinellas Humane Society in September 2005 and adopted out the following month.

The Coutures tracked the dogs’ new owners to Florida, but the new owners refused to return the animals. So the Coutures sued them and the Humane Society of Pinellas County in July 2006 in an effort to reclaim the dogs.

A trial had been scheduled to start July 9, but over the past few weeks the Coutures managed to agree to settlements with both new owners.

“This is what we wanted from the beginning, our dogs to be back with us, to be back home,” Dorreen Couture said during a May 22 news conference in Tampa, Fla., announcing the settlement.

The Coutures’ dogs were among 288 dogs, cats, and turtles brought to the Tampa area by the Humane Society of Pinellas after the storm devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. Most of the animals were adopted out.


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cathy   kettering, OH

10/7/2011 10:17:53 AM

My daughter needs help and she has tried everything. She has to get rid of her hurrican Katrina part shephard and loves very much. Her daughter (4) is alergic. Please forward suggestions. She is crying and very upset..

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Margaret DeBlois   Austin, TX

8/22/2010 3:31:26 PM

This has been the most hurtful lesson that any person I know could have learned. These animals and owners should be united, in the event that this happens again how many people will die defending the right to keep or take the pets with them. I am a rescue person, I lived in New Orleans area but not flooded out of the city. I can see both sides, if you had it done to you and your pet, what would you want done? They lost all but the pets, so take that too? Life is hard, listen to your heart, do the right thing. Morals, what is that about?

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P.B.   St. Bernard, LA

5/30/2007 8:55:30 AM

I am estastic that the Couture family got their babies back. I too am from St. Bernard Parish and know first hand the heartache of losing some pets and being forced to give up others. We are still in a devastated state of affairs, although we are slowly rebuilding our homes, lives, and communities. I think the new "owners" in Florida should have relinquished the dogs a long time ago. I understand people get attached, but knowing how the Coutures lost everything and their lives turned upside down, I would have thought empathy would have ruled the decision. It really just rankles me to know end. I was forced to give up 2 of my dogs. I say forced because I didn't want to give them up, but I was homeless myself and had no way to care for them. I put them up for adoption to the family fostering them and the people offered me visitation anytime I am in the area. I know I won't get to see them though because they live in another state now, but I am secure in the knowledge they are loved and cared for. Visitation with the Couture dogs is a nice idea and gesture, and VERY generous on their part, but I really feel that this whole debacle should have never happened to begin with! Congratulations to the Coutures, Master Tank, and Nila!!!!!

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Corinne   Phoenix, AZ

5/23/2007 4:44:36 PM

I think the hurricane victims went through enough loss. For someone to fight over dogs that
theirs is pretty sad. What is america coming
These idiots could adopt another dog out of the millions in the shelters. Shame on them !!!!!!!!

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