Saturday, September 9, 2017

Harvey exposed continuing gaps in animal protection

                                                          Guardians of Rescue pic
Wearing a red jacket and hood, she stands in the rain, holding her dog in her arms. Her face says it all: “She cannot bring her dog Missy into the shelter for flood evacuees in Houston,” read the AP photo caption on August 28.
Where are they now?  Now that hurricanes seem to surround us – and we’re only halfway through hurricane season. Now, with the Gulf Coast in recovery mode from Hurricane Harvey. Now, after Hurricane Irma has ravaged the Caribbean and Florida comes next. Now, while Hurricanes Jose and Katia wait in line.

This has been a horrible time for humans – and animals. Efforts to rescue people have looked comprehensive, with myriad agencies and volunteers tirelessly pitching in, but there seemed to be much less planning for pets. Despite advance storm warnings and federal legislation prompted by Hurricane Katrina’s horrific aftermath for animals, countless terrified pet dogs and cats hid out as high as they could get, not understanding what was going on or where their people were.

Stories and images of pets evacuated with their people have been too scarce. The few pictures of families on the move with their pets have been rare, but welcome. They included one family of six who took their pet pig and dog, and a woman whose family included her own four dogs plus foster dogs and neighbors’ dogs, totaling 20 canines, all in the rescue boat together.

Naturally, it wasn’t all bad for animals, including pets. Early on, I saw horses being walked to safety through flood waters and read about an organization determined to save as many Texas bats as possible.

For me, these are Harvey-rescue highlights:     

*       The Animal Protection League of NJ (  had worked with Guardians of Rescue ( during Super Storm Sandy, finding them hugely helpful, organized, and dedicated,  says Angi Metler, executive director. So “when APL heard the Guardians were going to Texas, we wanted to support their efforts, and they were thrilled that we sent  them as much as we could on their needs list. APLNJ and League of Humane Voters -NJ members donated almost $2,500 in under one day!”

     For starters, APLNJ shipped a pallet full of dog and cat food, crates, blankets, carriers, grass hay, alfalfa, leads, bowls, litter and litter boxes, as well as sustaining meals for the volunteers. 
       *     The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) focused initially on those left behind –rescuing terrified animals and moving area shelter animals who had been up for adoption to other parts of the country. That made room to house pets left homeless when their families evacuated or were rescued, according to ED Wayne Pacelle’s blog.  
       First responders and citizen rescuers who saved pets did so in part because of disaster response policies HSUS had helped implement after Katrina – chief among them, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, requiring state and local officials to make evacuation plans and provide shelter for animal companions. 

      *      Numerous other organizations, and even online publications, stepped up to help. 
Finally, this background about the Red Cross, to which I'll never contribute again. After Hurricane Katrina, I completed a number of survivor bios I had volunteered to write for the organization. Then I learned that the Red Cross had not evacuated pets or admitted them into its hurricane shelters – often forcing residents to make the deadly choice between their own rescue or staying with their beloved animals. I quit immediately.  
Later, the Red Cross was deservedly chastised for both its cruelty to animals and its handling of the mega-money it received, earmarked for Katrina aid.  I will not forget or forgive.  
When hurricanes strike, people and animals alike deserve the most extensive protection possible.


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  1. I don't blame you Pat! I won't domate to them any more. Why would people want to leave their family members behind to get either hurt or killed due to drowning or being crushed by the roof caving in? I would either leave early and take ALL of our family members or stay put! Our furry family doesn't live long enough as is but to put them in harms way is inhumne.

  2. earlier today,I heard that the Red Cross again has been criticized for its slowness in getting donated money out to people in need. a spokesperson claimed their systems were overcome by the response -- but isn't a giant response exactly what disaster relief is all about?!

    how does "Replace the Red Cross!" sound as a slogan?