This August marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which forever changed the way America responds to natural disasters.
The ASPCA knows firsthand that disasters create impossible and heartbreaking scenarios for both animals and the people who risk their own safety to rescue them. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we worked with animal welfare professionals and volunteers in Louisiana to help rescue, reunite, and re-home more than 8,000 animals stranded by the storm.
During disasters like hurricanes, fires and floods, the ASPCA and other non-governmental agencies play a crucial role in protecting animals and assisting with recovery efforts through search and rescue operations and set-up of emergency veterinary clinics, emergency boarding facilities, and pet supply distribution centers—at no cost to taxpayers. Given the size and expense of these efforts, it’s reasonable to expect that businesses regularly utilizing animals be required to prepare for emergencies and have comprehensive response plans in place to protect the animals in their care.
Legislation introduced in Congress this month will ensure that businesses like zoos, research facilities and large-scale animal breeders are prepared if disaster strikes. The Animal Emergency Planning Act (H.R. 3193), bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), will require facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to develop disaster response plans and ensure that employees know what steps to take when an emergency occurs.
We need your help: Visit theASPCA Advocacy Center now to quickly and easily contact your U.S. representative in Washington and urge him or her to co-sponsor the Animal Emergency Planning Act.
Update: The ASPCA has helped to reunite two formerly missing cats with their guardian following a large explosion and fire in New York City’s East Village neighborhood last week. The Office of Emergency Management granted ASPCA responders access to a residential building where they searched for and located the cats.
The two cats belong to East Village resident Kathleen Blomberg, who has been displaced and is staying with a friend. The ASPCA will provide transportation and medical exams at the ASPCA Animal Hospital for Kathleen’s cats, Kitty Cordelia and Sebastian, and we have also offered free boarding for her cats as she secures new housing.
This post was originally published on March 27, 2015.
At the request of the Office of Emergency Management, the ASPCA is providing coordination of animal-related issues at the city’s emergency reception center for pet owners in the area surrounding the site of Thursday’s explosion and fire in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. Residents in the evacuation area who need to access their pets should speak to a police officer for more information.
The damage and resulting needs of residents affected by the explosion and fire are still being assessed.
Great news for Midwestern pets! The ASPCA announced the first grant recipients of our newly-launched Midwest Disaster Resiliency Program to provide much-needed funding, training and expertise to local communities to better serve and assist animals and pet parents during and after disasters.
Animals are often overlooked when it comes to disaster planning, and communities—especially those in areas like the Midwest, which experience higher rates of natural disasters—must be prepared to rescue, shelter, and provide emergency care for pets in the event of a crisis.
While the ASPCA Field and Investigations and Response (FIR) team frequently responds to natural disasters around the country, the Midwest Disaster Resiliency Program allows the ASPCA to work with communities, animal welfare organizations and government agencies in Midwestern states to better enhance their ability to respond to animals and pet guardians affected by emergencies.
Through the program, the ASPCA is providing more than $50,000 to the below groups for emergency response training, equipment and disaster preparedness:
Animal Rescue League Of Iowa (Des Moines, IA)
Beadle County Humane Society (Huron, SD)
Benton Animal Control and Adoption Center (Benton, AR)
Butler County Kansas Animal Response Team (Augusta, KS)
City of Sherwood Department of Humane Animal Services (Sherwood, AR)
City of St. Cloud, MN
Enid SPCA (Enid, OK)
Faulkner County Animal Response Team (Conway, AR)
Johnson County Animal Response Team (Lenexa, KS)
Kingman Pratt Area Animal Response Team (Cheney, KS)
Kansas SART, Inc. (Wichita, KS)
Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps (St. Paul, MN)
Nebraska Humane Society (Omaha, NE)
Springfield-Greene County Community Emergency Response Team (Springfield, MO)
Emergencies come in many forms and the best thing communities can do for their citizens and pets is to be prepared. The ASPCA is also working with PetSmart Charities, Inc. to provide animal welfare organizations across the country with the equipment and supplies necessary to respond to and care for an increased number of animals in large-scale emergencies.
We are so excited to help local communities keep more families and pets together during disasters.
The ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response Team (FIR) hit the road in the Lone Star State this week to showcase the new mobile command center’s disaster response equipment and demonstrate how we can help support Texas communities and animals in the wake of natural disasters.
Throughout the week, the Personnel Support Trailer (PST) made special stops at Fort Sam in Houston, followed by visits to the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas A&M University and San Antonio Animal Services to discuss collaborative efforts between the ASPCA and Texas animal agencies in emergency situations.
FIR responders travel across the country to assist animals in situation such as natural disasters, puppy mill raids and dog fighting busts. In the aftermath of disasters, it can often be difficult for FIR team members to find housing near where their help is needed most. The new Personnel Support Trailer offers FIR responders a comfortable, secure place to stay while in the field and greatly enhances our ability to respond to emergencies while helping lower the costs of longer deployments.
Made possible by the generous support of the Joanie Bernard Foundation and the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation, the trailer consists of a 53-foot 2012 Western Star Tractor with an attached 12-foot Command Post equipped with state-of-the-art communication capabilities, providing FIR responders with a vital communications portal and secure planning space. The new trailer has space for 12 team members and includes fully functional bathrooms, a kitchen area, an expandable living space and two generators, allowing responders to be completely self-contained for up to one week.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
Just because most disasters strike with little or no warning doesn’t mean we can’t effectively prepare for them. But while a lot of attention has been devoted to disaster planning for people, disaster planning for pets is all too often left out of the conversation, with tragic results. September may be National Preparedness Month, but the truth is we should always be preparing –with both ourselves and our pets in mind—so we can always be ready.
As experts in both disaster preparedness and response, the ASPCA is very aware of this peril. Following Hurricane Sandy, we assisted more than 30,000 pets in New York and New Jersey, distributing nearly 40 tons of pet supplies to impacted pet owners, and sheltering nearly 280 displaced pets. This summer, we released our first-ever ASPCA smartphone app, which includes disaster preparedness and pet survival tips, a tool to store and manage your pet’s vital information, as well as practical tips and a customizable kit for recovering lost pets.
We put a lot of effort into keeping pets safe, but the biggest role belongs to their owners. Yet, according to a national ASPCA poll, more than one-third of cat and dog owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place, and only one-quarter say their animals are micro-chipped. In the Northeast, nearly half of dog owners and cat owners say they don't know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation, while slightly more pet owners in the South – where hurricanes are more common – are aware.
This lack of preparedness can have dire consequences. During Hurricane Katrina, approximately 10,000 animals were evacuated, but less than half were reunited with their families, according to Dr. Dick Green, our senior director of disaster response.
These outcomes aren’t inevitable. Let’s work together to share and take advantage of these valuable suggestions from our veteran rescuers:
Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification
Microchip your pets and register the chip. It may be their ticket home if they become lost
Build a portable pet emergency kit with items such as medical records, water, pet food, medications and pet first aid supplies
Affix a pet rescue sticker to your windows (Get a free one here)
Have current photos of your pets on hand
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation, and never leave them behind
Identify ahead of time where you’ll bring your pets -- whether it’s a relative’s house or a pet-friendly hotel -- because not all emergency facilities accept animals
Remember: any home unsafe for people is also unsafe for pets
Here’s a list of items pet owners should include in their pet preparedness kits:
Pet first-aid kit (ask your vet what to include)
3-7 days' worth of canned or dry food
Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans work well)
Litter or paper toweling
Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
Disposable garbage bags
Pet feeding dishes
Extra collars or harnesses, as well as an extra leash
Photocopies of medical records – or you can store them on the ASPCA App
A waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (make sure to regularly replace expired food and medicines in your kit)
At least a week’s worth of bottled water for you and your pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
A blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)
Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
Especially for cats: A pillowcase as a crate alternative, and large bags for supplies, toys, and scoopable litter
Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner
Even if conditions are safe enough to stay home, you may still need to calm pets scared by lightning and loud noises. Prepare a small, safe space in which they can be comfortable, consider closing curtains and shades, play classical music or white noise to muffle the sounds, and most importantly, keep them inside.
Like most humans, animals don’t respond well to chaos. With hurricane season not ending until November, it’s critical for pet owners to be the true “first responders”— knowing just what to do when their beloved companions need them most.
Tune in tonight at 7:00 P.M. ET for our Google+ Hangout with the ASPCA’s Dick Green and Deborah Press as well as representatives from FEMA, USDA, and the Joplin Humane Society. We’ll discuss the challenges of keeping pets safe during an emergency. The discussion will be moderated by ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee, and includes an appearance by Joy, an ASPCA-rescued Sandy survivor.