Guest blog by Deborah Dubow Press, Regulatory Affairs Senior Manager, ASPCA Government Relations
It has been nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, forever changing the way America responds to natural disasters. The human and animal suffering wrought by Katrina and Superstorm Sandy should remain fresh in our minds as we enter another hurricane season, and preparedness should top the agendas of animal caretakers and policy makers.
That’s why yesterday we were shocked to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may be reconsidering the disaster plan rule requiring all facilities licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act—this includes breeders, zoos, research facilities, dealers, and other exhibitors and intermediate handlers—to prepare emergency plans for protecting and caring for animals during disasters. Asking those who use animals commercially to demonstrate a level of readiness to protect animals in their custody is fair and reasonable. We are dismayed by the possibility that the USDA would waver on a rule that could save lives at such a small cost.
For the ASPCA responders who experienced Katrina, Sandy, and countless other disaster deployments firsthand, the horrors of these events have not faded from memory: dogs chained in yards and left to drown; cats starving to death in homes after evacuations dragged on and on; animals covered in oil and toxic sludge; dogs stranded on rooftops; animals wandering the streets malnourished, dehydrated, and frightened, many never to be reunited with their owners.
The more that pet owners and animal facilities prepare for emergencies, the better responders can focus their relief efforts when disaster strikes. We hope that ultimately the USDA will remember the heartbreaks of Katrina, Sandy, Joplin, and countless other disasters and renew its resolve to protect imperiled animals under its jurisdiction.
Hurricane season officially started June 1, and experts are predicting an extremely active Atlantic Hurricane Season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center anticipates that up to 20 named storms will hit the U.S. over the next five months, with more than half of them hurricanes!
That means pet parents in hurricane-prone areas should develop an emergency plan in advance to make sure the whole family—including its furriest members—stay safe.
Here are the ASPCA’s top six tips for hurricane season prep:
• Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
• Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification—the ASPCA also recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of I.D.
• Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home. You’ll get these when you order a free ASPCA Pet Safety Pack.
• Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet First Aid supplies.
• Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind.
• Choose a designated caregiver who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable to do so.
We hope you and your pets have a fun and safe summer!
The U.S. Senate lost a voice for animals this week with the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). A leader on many important pieces of legislation to help animals, his contributions will have a lasting impact for years to come.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katina, which saw many people forced to leave their animals behind as they evacuated, Sen. Lautenberg helped pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act. This legislation, signed into law in 2006, ensures that localities consider pets and animals in their disaster plans. The ASPCA sees the benefits of Sen. Lautenberg’s legacy today as we assist states and municipalities in disaster recovery efforts all across the country.
Senator Lautenberg was also a leader on legislation to protect animals during air travel, and had a special fondness for horses. He was a leader on the Horse Transportation Safety Act, which would ban the cruel transport of horses in double-decked trailers, and was a longtime supporter of legislation to ban the grisly practice of horse slaughter. The senator’s compassion also extended to wildlife. He fought to protect exotic animals from captive hunts; dolphins and whales from brutal slaughters; wildlife and pets from the dangers of lead shot; and polar bears from trophy hunts. He had a big heart and a strong sense of justice.
The ASPCA remembers Sen. Lautenberg for his many years of service to this country and for being a strong voice for animals on Capitol Hill.
Tinker’s family was at work when the tornado hit and destroyed their home. After visiting two shelters searching for their precious pooch and almost losing hope, the family visited OK Humane, where their beloved pup was waiting for them.
This Memorial Day weekend was one of healing and hope for the residents of Moore, Oklahoma. The ASPCA saw the community’s incredible resilience firsthand as many of our responders spent the weekend on the ground in Oklahoma City assisting the heroic sheltering and rescue efforts of Central Oklahoma Humane Society (OK Humane).
The ASPCA was happy to lend a hand to OK Humane and provide extra staffing to handle the influx of animals affected by this disaster. In what was truly a joint effort, we also enlisted the support of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Code 3 Associates Animal Disaster Response, RedRover, and SAWA (Society of Animal Welfare Administrators) to help OK Humane.
We are thrilled to report that dozens of reunions occurred over the weekend, as people who lost everything came to OK Humane and found missing family members. Here are just a few of those heartwarming moments:
Tasha the Pomeranian, another tornado survivor, gets a big hug from her human sister on May 25 at OK Humane.
Porkchop and Asia (pictured above) were brought to OK Humane as strays shortly after the tornado. They were reunited with their pet parents over the weekend.
Chance, a handsome Boxer, suffered facial fractures and a deep wound on his leg as a result of the storm. Over the weekend, Chance was reunited with his guardian at OK Humane after their home was completely destroyed by the tornado. Here he is pictured with ASPCA Director of Planning and Field Operations Joel Lopez.
To learn how you can help pets and people impacted by the Moore tornado, please visit OKHumane.org.
As many across the country prepare to spend time with friends and family this Memorial Day weekend, our thoughts turn to the good people and pets of Moore, Oklahoma, where many lost everything earlier this week when a tornado devastated the community.
The ASPCA is currently on the ground to support partner shelter Central Oklahoma Humane Society (OK Humane) with staffing needs as the facility experiences an influx of animals affected by the disaster. We’ll continue to offer our assistance as needed and will keep you updated as the long road to recovery begins for Moore and its neighbors.
For more information about how you can help the pets and people of Oklahoma, please visit OK Humane. Moore-area pet parents who are searching for a lost cat or dog, please check www.okclostpets.com. The site was set up specifically for this disaster, and OK Humane will update its listings with any incoming animals.
This recent tragedy is the latest in a series of unforgiving weather events. We want to remind folks that the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are a few easy steps you can take to keep your family safe in an emergency:
• Have a Plan. Your “all-family” plan should include how you will transport your animals in an evacuation, possible routes you will take and your destination/sheltering options. •Build a Kit. Don’t forget a photo of your pet, medical records, vaccination records, and any special food or prescriptions. • Stay Informed. Keep an eye on the weather, learn which shelters house both people and pets, and monitor possible road closures. • Vaccinate and Microchip. If you’re ever required to shelter your pets, you’ll want them protected against disease. Microchipping your pets can be their ticket home.
Tell us: Are you prepared for an unexpected emergency or disaster? Are you on the ground helping the good folks of Moore? Tweet us your answers to @ASPCA using the hashtag #Oklahoma.