As Hurricane Ike bears down on Texas, it's hard to suppress those Hurricane Katrina flashbacks. With the bulk of my family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Hurricane Season brings anxiety. I worry for the humans I love, the humans I've never met and all the animals in between. During Hurricane Katrina, nearly 10,000 animals were rescued but an estimated 600,000 pets were killed or left without shelter.
Ya'll might remember the case of Snowball during that horrible time. An Associated Press reporter who had been covering the mess at the New Orleans Superdome reported that when "a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited." Snowball's saga became a centerpiece in fundraising appeals by welfare organizations and various ad-hoc websites were created by people soliciting funds to help locate Snowball and reunite him with the boy. But the Snowball scenario also highlighted a major oversight in emergency evacuation plans: What about the animals?
Some good news here - humans have learned a few things since then. US Representative Tom Lantos (D-California) introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act to the House of Representatives which requires states seeking FEMA assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority on May 22, 2006. Three face licks for Tom!
Meanwhile, during Hurricane Gustav late last month, an emergency evacuation center was set up at the Shreveport Fair Grounds — the largest of three mass evacuation shelters in Louisiana. (Shreveport is about 340 miles northwest of New Orleans and about 150 miles east of Dallas – Fort Worth area in Texas.) More than 100 volunteers from humane organizations across the country are working here. Veterinarians, local officials, and even Department of Corrections inmates provided 24/7 care to more than 1,000 displaced animals.
Also, check out this video from the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), hosted by Scotlund Haisley, their senior director for Emergency Services, takes us on a tour of the Shreveport shelter and it is mighty impressive:
or try this one:
The International Fund for Animal Welfare also issued a press release today stating that "for the first time in the history of Louisiana, all 12 coastal parishes were successfully evacuated and given safe shelter."
Interestingly, The American Humane Association had conducted a 2007 study to gauge attitudes and levels of pet preparedness surrounding disasters. While nearly half of all surveyed said they wouldn’t leave their pet behind, people with children were more likely to evacuate without their pet — 60 percent said they would. Among pet owners without children, only 37 percent said they would leave their pet behind.
Most respondents agreed that rescuing pets was a secondary objective, after rescuing people — 45 percent said animals should be rescued only after all humans have been, 34 percent said animals could be rescued along with humans “if time and space permits,” and 16 percent said animals and humans should be considered equals and pets should be “rescued at all costs.” Respondents showed a greater loyalty to dogs than cats — 55 percent of dog owners would refuse evacuation efforts, compared to 43 percent of cat owners. Me-Yow!
Plenty of opinion, advice and adorable adoptables out there in blogland on this topic. Here's a few of note:
Blogger and general good guy, Larry Powell is keeping tabs on the situation and recently highlighted the efforts of the Dallas community to accommodate evacuated pets.
Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife makes a very-sane plea in her recent post "Rescued From the Hurricanes, Fuzzies Need Homes."
Blogger Carol Vinzant provides gobs of useful info in her WalletPop post, "Animals & Money: Pets did much better with Hurricane Gustav" which includes a buncha great links.
Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS also has a terrific blog, A Humane Nation - check it out. His recent post, "Four Storms, Two Coastlines, There for Animals" offers some great links on the hurricane stuff.
Last but certainly not least, check out photos from Darrell Bouche's amazing 'Gustav Shelters' Flickr set, including many of of the Shreveport pet shelter.
Contributing Editor, Animal Concerns
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