Katrina pet rescues led to tiffs

MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Modified: June 11, 2009 at 7:57 am •  Published: June 11, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS — Jessie Pullins is certain J.J. recognized him when the door to his dog cage swung open, reuniting them for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck nearly four years ago.

A film crew was rolling when the head of a California humane society stepped off a plane and delivered J.J. to Pullins, who reluctantly left the dog behind when the storm chased his family out of New Orleans in August 2005.

"When he came out of the cage, he came straight to me,” Pullins recalled May 3, two days after their reunion at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

"J.J. is a part of me ... that was missing for a long time,” he said.

Pullins, 52, knew for more than two years that his dog was rescued from his home, flown to California and adopted by two sisters, but it took a court battle to reunite them. Pullins’ quest to regain 5-year-old J.J., a male Labrador-shepherd mix, is portrayed in "Mine,” a documentary that won an audience award at this year’s South by Southwest film festival and is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS next year.

The film tells stories of animal lovers who streamed into New Orleans to rescue thousands of stranded pets after the hurricane. It also shows both sides of the ownership disputes that later cropped up between Gulf Coast residents and some of the people who adopted pets.

In Pullins’ case, the humane society official who oversaw J.