As Hurricane Ophelia pounds North Carolina and cleanup from Hurricane Katrina continues, stranded pets have been making headlines over the last week. While human lives take priority in any rescue effort, many residents refused to heed mandatory evacuation orders because they didn’t want to leave their beloved pets behind.
“The people who are still there are staying because they have pets,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States told CNN reporter Anderson Cooper in a recent interview. “They don’t want to be separated from them. The people who are evacuated and who left their pets behind are calling us inconsolably, saying, ‘Please rescue our pets.’ ” Click here to view the broadcast.
Just yesterday, Humane Society rescuers, with assistance from the National Guard, pulled a large dog from a New Orleans rooftop, describing it as the most emaciated animal they’ve ever seen.
“These National Guard troops helped save this poor animal from impending death,” says Jane Garrison, who has helped rescue several hundred animals. “I have never seen a dog in worse condition in my two decades of doing animal rescue and care. The will to live exhibited by some animals—struggling on, even while enduring extraordinary suffering and deprivation—is so strong. The vet said this dog should have weighed 90 pounds, but he only weighed 40 pounds.”
The Humane Society has helped save 3,000 animals—from dogs and cats to horses and even a seal—trapped in the aftermath of Katrina, with thousands more in need of immediate assistance. More than 180 dogs have been reunited with their families. In many cases, pets were denied access to shelters and the capacity-stretched Superdome.
“It’s truly a race against the clock,” Pacelle says. “Our teams are working feverishly to rescue as many animals as possible and get out of the watery cesspool left behind by Hurricane Katrina.”
If you’re a hurricane victim with a missing pet, contact the Humane Society at 800-HUMANE-1. The organization is keeping a database of rescue requests.
If you’re a pet owner anywhere in the United States, follow the Humane Society’s guidelines for general disaster preparedness:
- If you need to evacuate your home, keep your pet with you. If you’re at risk, so is your pet. Evacuation orders can last for hours, days, weeks or even longer. Pets that are turned loose or left behind to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, accidents or exposure to the elements.
- Many evacuation shelters do not accept pets, so plan in advance where you will go. “No pet” restrictions at hotels and motels may be lifted in an emergency, so go ahead and ask. Check with friends and family members who live outside your area to see if they can offer shelter to you and/or your pets.
- Purchase an emergency supply kit for pets. American Family Safety is currently developing Ready Pet-Dog and Ready Pet-Cat disaster kits, which will include food, water, a lead and toys. Register for the AFS online newsletter, and you will be notified when Ready Pet kits are available.
- Make sure you have current photos and written descriptions of your pets so rescuers and volunteers can identify them if they become separated from you. Pets should wear up-to-date identification tags that include your phone number, as well as the number of an out-of-the-area emergency contact in case you cannot be reached.
- Keep your pets’ medications and medical records in a waterproof container.
- Be prepared to transport your pet. You’ll need a sturdy leash, harness and a carrier to transport each pet safely, as well as blankets or towels for bedding and warmth. Carriers should be large enough to comfortably house your pet for several hours.