In recent years, we've seen many disasters wreak havoc in different parts of the world: the tsunami in Thailand, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and the earthquake in Haiti, just to name a few. As pet lovers, our hearts do double-duty, going out to both the people involved as well as their displaced pets. Now that the Gulf Coast is once again in the midst of a disaster due to the BP oil spill, we can't help but wonder how to help the people and pets in the area.
Here at Trips with Pets, we've pulled together some useful information about how to help pets during this tragic oil spill as well as how to help pets during any type of disaster and what you can do if a disaster strikes where you live.
Help for Pets Affected by the Oil Spill
Local animal shelters in the Gulf region are flooded with dogs and cats that have been given up. Animal Rescue New Orleans has received many calls from families who have lost their jobs due to the spill. Other shelters have doubled and even tripled their intake of pets whose families had to decide that they could no longer afford to care for them.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has stepped in to do what it can to help out and has already transferred many surrendered dogs to their headquarters in Gaithersberg, Maryland. These dogs have been picked up by local shelters and groups for adoption.
HSUS has also made strides to assist families in keeping their pets. 12 tons of dog and cat food have been delivered to the Gulf area to be distributed to residents who have been directly affected by the spill.
There are many ways to make a contribution toward both the pets that have lost their homes and those in danger of being surrendered:
- The dogs that HSUS transported back to Maryland are available for adoption through the Loudon County Animal Shelter, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, and the SPCA of Anne Arundel County.
- Animal Rescue of New Orleans has a Pet Retention Program, where a $25/month donation can help ease the financial burden of caring for a pet so that families can keep them, rather than give them up.
- Make a donation, volunteer, or even adopt a pet from St. Bernard's Parish and Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society just two of the many shelters who have seen a dramatic rise in surrendered pets.
- The Deepwater Horizon Response has information on volunteering to help wildlife in the area.
Help for Pets Affected by Any Disaster
There are many organizations geared toward helping pets that are in need at any time. In the throes of a disaster, their response units mobilize and do whatever they can to help. Here are a few that are always grateful for volunteers and financial support:
1. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): They've already been helping with the oil spill effort and they have their own special National Disaster Animal Response Team (NDART). NDART is made up of animal care professionals and other qualified volunteers and takes applications for new team members. Donations can also be made here.
2. PAWS: This nonprofit organization specializes in rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife, as well as sheltering and adopting homeless pets in Washington State. They also assist in disasters that happen locally. Volunteers and foster homes are needed in the Lynwood, Washington area and donations to the organization can be made here.
3. ASPCA: I don't doubt that you've seen their heart-wrenching commercials advertising the fact that there are so many pets out there who need help. The ASPCA also devotes their efforts for pets that are victims of natural disasters. You can help keep their natural disaster team in action and support the ASPCA as a whole by becoming a member or making a donation.
How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Disasters
You never know if your family will be facing a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, or any other type of disaster. Not only should you have a disaster plan for you and your family members, you should also have one in place for your pets. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared:
- Keep a collar and tag on your dogs and cats at all times. During a disaster an animal can escape and a collar and tag increases your chances of getting your beloved pet back. The tag should include your phone number and address (and maybe even your email address). If you have been evacuated and are going to be living away from home for an extended period of time, have a temporary tag made with the phone number of where you are staying. Email may also be a good form of communication for you while you are not staying at home.
- Identify several possible locations outside of your area where you can take your animals should you have to evacuate such as boarding kennels, veterinary clinics with boarding space, and friends and other family members. Look for hotels/motels that accept animals. Red Cross evacuation shelters do not allow animals, so be sure you have somewhere else to go with your pets.
- Set up a system with your trusted neighbors, so that they will check on your animals during a disaster in case you aren't home (and do the same for them). Swap information about your pets' veterinarians and have a permission slip put in your file at the vet, authorizing your neighbor to get necessary emergency treatment for your animal in the event that you can't be reached.
- Prepare a pet evacuation/disaster kit that includes food, water, and everything your pet needs to survive and be as comfortable as possible until the danger has passed. Keep all of the items stored in a sturdy, waterproof carrier, that's easy to carry. Your kit should be readily accessible so that it can be retrieved quickly.
Our website has a full list of what your pet disaster kit should contain and other pertinent disaster preparedness information.
Disasters often strike when you're least expecting it. Pets are very much a part of the family and are also victims of disaster. There are many ways to help, including volunteering and donations but don't forget about keeping your own family and pets safe by being prepared so that you are able to help others in distress.