No Pets Left Behind


Coast Guard evacuates 99 people, 13 pets from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Valiant crew members bring a dog aboard the cutter after evacuating more that 95 people and pets from St. Thomas as part of Hurricane Irma response and relief efforts, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard, Wikimedia Commons

By Alicia Brown

Disaster, chaos, fear and water – a lot of water. Disaster struck Friday, August 25 when Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, with winds topping 130 miles per hour. Chaos sprung when Houston was torn asunder, families struggling to make it out alive.

Fear spread as this catastrophe ripped through towns, knocking out power, destroying the environment, and the place people call home. The water rose and the Coast Guard scoured the city to save grandparents, children, siblings, yet one thing was largely forgotten: the pets.

As rescue organizations deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, animal rescuers out in the field cannot begin to estimate how many pets have been abandoned and are out there scared, in danger, and alone. In Houston alone, a city of 2.3 million citizens, thousands of animals are in need.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster for both humans and animals. Approximately 44% of people did not evacuate their homes as they did not want to abandon their pets, according to a poll conducted by the Fritz Institute.

“Animal rescuers are acting on lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina, when abandoned animals were turned away from shelters that became too full and were not allowed in many human evacuation centers,” Vice President of the Companion Animals Department of the Humane Society of the United States Kenny Lamberti said.

Asking people to stay in unsafe conditions, to save their pets is unreasonable. However, everyone should know how to evacuate and save their pets in an emergency.

In situations like Hurricane Harvey, volunteers from other states, though with good intentions, often take pets to their home clinics, making it difficult for owners to find them in the aftermath. In attempts to prevent this, shelters all across the state have shifted supplies, making room for more, thus insuring that pets will be able to stay in their hometowns and owners can easily find them.

However, it would be ideal to take your pet with you.

So, it is an important reminder for pet owners everywhere to put together kits containing essential emergency supplies. This includes enough water and nonperishable pet food for several days, extra leashes or harnesses, a week-long supply of any medications your pet requires stored in a waterproof container, copies of your pet’s medical records and vaccinations, and recent photos of your pet. Most importantly, gear up your pet with an up to date collar with correct information.

For those who want to help, there are several opportunities.

The Pet Leadership Council brings together pet stores, veterinary hospital groups, and other members within the pet industry to contribute their resources. In addition they work with disaster officials to coordinate the logistics of getting much needed supplies to areas in need of aide.

Foundations and companies such as RedRover, SPCA of Texas, AKC Reunite Canine Support and Relief Fund and The American Humane Association have stepped in to help the animals. You can too with a small donation to any of these organizations.

Although hurricane season can be a tragic time for families, this is the time, more than ever, to remember that pets are family too.

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