February 16, 2010


Geralyn Pezanoski


About the Documentary

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, the mayor issued a last-minute order for everyone to evacuate. In the clamor to get out of the city, many pet owners left their animals with food and water, fully intending to return in a few days. People without the means to leave the city on their own were forced onto busses and barred from bringing the furriest family members along.

The result was that tens of thousands of domesticated pets were left in a devastated city. Those that survived the storm and the floods faced grim odds of surviving the heat without fresh water or enough food to last the weeks or months before their owners were permitted back into the city to rescue them. Mine follows some of the hundreds of volunteers who mobilized in the hours and days after the storm, entering the city and capturing as many stranded pets as they could find. These volunteers often provided life-saving medical care to the injured, dehydrated, and hungry animals. Massive temporary animal shelters sprung up in the suburbs of New Orleans, where the lucky pets who survived waited to be reunited with their owners or adopted out.

It would not be easy or quick, or without ethical quandaries and lawsuits. MINE tracks the stories of several of the rescued pets, their original owners, and their adopted families, raising questions about what constitutes pet “ownership” and how we regard animals as both family members and property.

One of the cruelties of Katrina was how it cast the refugee diaspora to the furthest reaches of the nation. Many New Orleans residents had no homes to return to, and were barred by police and National Guard troops from reentering their neighborhoods to look for their animals. Many had no means of reaching the animal shelters, since they had been bussed and flown to Houston, or Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Rescue groups went about trying to find homes for the pets in their care, sometimes erroneously designating them as “owner surrender” or “stray.” People around the country opened their homes to Katrina dogs and cats, giving them loving homes and bonding with them. It was convenient for adoptive families to imagine that the animals had been abandoned by their owners, or that their owners had been neglectful; some people went so far as to say that Katrina was the best thing that could have happened to those pets. For some, that may well have been true. But many displaced pet owners were conducting tireless and frantic online searches for their lost pets, often feeling overwhelming amounts of helplessness, grief, and guilt for having had to leave them behind. No comprehensive system for reuniting Katrina pets and owners ever existed.

In the fraught cases of the rescued pets and people portrayed in MINE, the original owners’ fight to get their animals back forces us to ask what makes a pet “ours.” Is love enough?

The Filmmakers

Geralyn Pezanoski
Co-founder of Smush Media, Pezanoski has 12 years of experience in film and video production, and makes her feature directorial debut with MINE. Film producing credits include the narrative short, On A Tuesday (Santa Barbara & LAIFF) and Motherland (SXSW); directing credits include the doc series Firehouse (Sony Pictures Entertainment). She lives in San Francisco with her husband Peter and their dog Nola.

Erin Essenmacher
Essenmacher is a writer, director, and producer with more than 10 years of experience in corporate, nonprofit, and broadcast production, with a strong focus on documentary. Credits include a wide range of independent and broadcast documentary projects for PBS, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, The History Channel, and Court TV. She splits her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.


Full Credits