(CNN) — On the flooded streets of New Orleans you can hear the dogs barking for miles. They are trapped — in houses, on roofs, tied to porches. They are frightened and hungry.
For the pets left behind after Hurricane Katrina, relief is on the way, but it’s a race against time.
“It’s a dire situation,” said Melissa Seide Rubin of the Humane Society of the United States.
Rescue workers are worried most about pets locked inside homes and whose food and water supply may have run out. For them, rescue is their only chance of survival.
“It’s one at a time, and it’s fairly slow work,” said Michael Mountain, president and CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, one of the first animal organizations allowed into the city to rescue pets.
“They are certainly all frightened,” Mountain said. “The most difficult ones to work with are the cats who hide under furniture. The dogs tend to be easier. You can put out a treat for them, you can generally bring them to you.”
With federal agencies and law enforcement agencies overwhelmed with rescuing people, it has been left to animal welfare groups and civilians to help stranded pets.
“We weren’t allowed into the really bad areas until just recently, so now we are playing catch-up,” said Rubin, the Humane Society’s vice president of field and disaster services.
The American Society for the Protection of Animals, the Humane Society, the Louisiana SPCA, and the Texas SPCA are involved in the operation.
The Humane Society has 200 people in the field to handle the more than 2,000 requests it has received from people who have called a hotline or sent information.
The rescues are being conducted mostly by boat. Teams using inflatable rafts locate stranded pets and take them to a drop-off point, where they can be transported to a shelter.
Since Tuesday the Humane Society has rescued 90 dogs and 34 cats. Mountain estimates his group has rescued between 800 and 900 animals since entering the city on August 30.