Donna Parker's passion for pets grew even stronger after Hurricane Katrina. Parker, her four dogs, and five cats nearly died when flood waters rushed into their Ocean Springs home.
"I do know how to swim," said Donna Parker. "And just the thought of them going into the water, and watching them die in front of me was probably the worst part of it."
The hotel Parker had booked, closed right before the storm. Because Parker didn't want to leave her animals behind, they had no place to go.
"I was very scared," Parker said as she broke down. "I haven't talked much about it since the storm. It's still pretty raw you know."
It's horror stories like that, that has Civil Defense Director General Joe Spraggins worried.
"I'm concerned of the citizen, and I'm concerned of the animal," said Gen. Joe Spraggins. "And that pet has a right too in life."
So this hurricane season, Spraggins and the Humane Society of South Mississippi will open a storm shelter for pets and their owners.
"The person who's responsible for that animal, stays with that animal, and picks up and cleans up after the animal," said Gen. Spraggins.
During an evacuation, the shelter will open up inside the Masonry Shop building at Harrison Central High School. It could house up to 200 animals. With a facility in place, the EOC is now looking for funding to buy cages, a generator, and a trailer for storage.
"We put real thick plastic over the floors and up the walls," said Gen. Spraggins. "Then you set the cages inside there and the animals are in the cage. When it's all said and done, the plastic, we can roll it up and discard it."
If the pet-friendly shelter opens during the next severe storm, that's where you'll find Donna Parker and her nine pals.
Parker said, "I feel very responsible for my animals. I am their caretaker, and I just don't believe in leaving them in harm's way."
Again, the pet-friendly shelter will be at Harrison Central High School and it will only take smaller dogs, cats and birds. Also, pet owners can't just drop off their animals. They must stay with them at the shelter and bring the necessary food and supplies.