The photos say it all and are heartbreaking: bedraggled dogs and cats and other companion animals, looking dazed and dehydrated, shivering and scared, all pets, being handed to rescue workers from under the wreckage of homes destroyed by floods, fires, and major weather disasters.
Most pet owners dread the thought of putting their own pets in such perilous situations. The best way to avoid similar circumstances is to have an emergency plan in place before a disaster occurs.
The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has a disaster response team in place for just such recoveries. According to the HSUS website, during recent Hurricane Sandy that hit New York and New Jersey, “HSUS staff and volunteers rescued 257 animals from the field, sheltered more than 500 displaced pets, and reunited more than 400 of those with their families.” But they can’t be expected to respond to incidents as quickly as we’d like. An encouraging thought for pet owners is to check out the Humane Society’s suggestions for preparing for similar events at www.humanesociety.org/prepare/
When Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act in 2006 it required that emergency management agencies at the state and local levels make plans to include the needs of pet and service animal owners in the event of an emergency. There are additional standards for farm animals in the statute. For information on how local emergency plans address these issues, check out the New York State Office of Emergency Management
The recent tornadoes in several central U.S. states are reminders that being prepared for natural disasters is of great importance for the health of our four-legged family members. Take some time to assess what you might be dealing with and work out a plan with your family so that you’ll have a basis to work from if a disaster occurs.
You’ll be glad you did.