This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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RICH LOWRY, GUEST HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity and Colmes." I'm Rich Lowry, sitting in tonight for Sean Hannity.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some of the most moving images have been of pets left behind by their owners. While many have been rescued, thousands more remain trapped on rooftops or wandering the streets. With no food or water, time is running out.

Can anything be done to save them? And why were they left behind in the first place?

Joining us now is the president and co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society, Michael Mountain. Michael, thanks so much for joining us. What is your sense, Michael, of how many people...


LOWRY: What is your sense of how many people deliberately stayed back in New Orleans, because they thought they couldn't bring their pets on an evacuation bus or couldn't take their pet to a shelter?

MOUNTAIN: We don't know the total number, Rich, but it's certainly in the hundreds and thousands. You're hearing stories all the time of people who say, "I just will not leave without my pets."

But most of them are now out. The situation now has really changed. We're now in the very last days, essentially, of the water rescue, because we're looking at probably 30,000, 40,000 maybe 50,000 animals who we can really only reach by boats.

We've had about three boats out ourselves for the last three days and they go up to the houses. And there are dogs who have been standing on cars, literally, or on walls or on window ledges for -- since the hurricane came in, and since people left them there.

And you have to pull yourself in the boat up to where they are, and they jump in, and they're kind of just so grateful that people are there.

But we don't just need three boats. We know that a few other rescue groups have been on the water, as well. What we really need is 100 or more boats down there because these pets have very, very little time to go. And this is really big last humanitarian effort.

LOWRY: Yes. Yes, now Michael, I know lot of people out there are probably thinking, oh, it's just pets. But pets are a very serious matter for a lot of people.

I know, for instance, my parents, if they had the choice to leave me behind or the cats behind, they would definitely leave me behind. I have no illusions about where I fall in that hierarchy.

Now how do you get all those extra boats that you want to get in there to make this last minute push?

MOUNTAIN: Well, some of the big rescue groups are getting on water right now. And we're frankly encouraging people from local grassroots rescue groups, anybody who really has any experience in rescuing animals, has waders, and has the equipment and the experience and the boats really just to come on down.

And we hope that you get through some of the bureaucracy, because the whole animal thing, frankly, has been mired in a lot of the same kind of red tape and difficulty as all the other stories that you guys have been talking about and hearing about over the days.

COLMES: Hey, Michael...

MOUNTAIN: But it's just, really, a short time to go and -- go ahead.

COLMES: It's Alan Colmes. Thank you for being with us.

I understand that on September 3rd, pets were declared family members by the New Orleans local government. If that's true it seems like the word didn't get out, because people still had to make these horrible choices, it seems, about whether to leave and be rescued and leave their pets behind.

MOUNTAIN: Yes. And in some cases they were and these rules kind of go back and forth. And there were people who were getting on buses and the last thing they were seeing of New Orleans, you know, was Fido standing on the sidewalk or on the roadside. And then that changed. But then it kind of changed back again. So there's a lot of chaos down there, Alan.

COLMES: And I understand that one of the reasons they're still 10,000 people, by some estimates, in their homes is because of their pets. They don't want to have to leave their pets. But you know, to have declared that pet is family member is a good idea. The problem is what do you do with a pet in a shelter?

MOUNTAIN: Yes, indeed. Now, in fact, the Humane Society type groups are really all coming together on this particular one, and this is really good. We have large databases building of where pets are found and where people left them behind. And we really hope to have some really good reunions very soon.

We had the first of these ourselves just couple of days now, where a family came out to the St. Francis Sanctuary, where Best Friends has its headquarters, about 100 north of New Orleans. And they were reunited with Goldie.

And they told the story of how they had been wading through water at one point for eight hours and Goldie had been swimming along beside them. And when she just got too exhausted and they got her out of the water and they got her to the West Bank -- that's in Jefferson Parish--Animal Shelter. And from there, she came out to our St. Francis Sanctuary out of town.

So those are some of the stories that you hear. And they're really just terribly touching. But for the animals who are still left behind, you know, it's real sad.

COLMES: So what can we expect is going to happen? How many can we get out of there? Can you estimate what kind of animals will then be left and unattended to?

MOUNTAIN: It really -- at this point, it is more than anything a matter of boats. For the people who are actually on streets or in houses, we were out the other day, for example, with the 82nd Airborne. e were able to go along behind them. As they took the people out we took the animals out. And in those cases we know that they could be reunited.

For the ones who have already left and who left their animals in these flooded areas, it's going to be real tough. We reckon they've only got, at the most, a couple of days to go. When they get onto the boat with us, Alan, they're so emaciated. They're dehydrated, and our veterinarians who are on the boats can, you know, revive them and give them fluids right then and there. And we hope...

LOWRY: OK, Michael. Michael, thanks so much. And best of luck to you.

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