NEW YORK—As severe flooding continues to threaten communities in St. John the Baptist Parish, La., the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has dispatched its Field Investigations and Response team to assist in the emergency relocation and water rescue efforts to help displaced animals affected by Hurricane Isaac. The parish requested the assistance of the Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART), which in turn contacted the ASPCA for assistance.
“We have mobilized our team on the ground and will be sending water rescue teams to search door-to-door for displaced or stranded pets and reunite local residents with their animals,” said Dr. Dick Green, director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. “We’re pleased to be able to assist the Louisiana State Animal Response Team and work collaboratively in responding to rescue and sheltering requests to help displaced animals affected by the hurricane.”
Approximately 3,000 people were evacuated yesterday from St. John the Baptist Parish, located 35 miles upriver from New Orleans. ASPCA responders are working in conjunction with LSART to perform water rescues and field specific requests from pet owners who were not able to take their pets with them during evacuations.
Additionally, St. John Parish Animal Shelter in LaPlace, La. requested assistance in the relocation of approximately 100 animals from its shelter. “We are currently developing a plan with local agencies to help them transport these animals to safety until the flooding subsides,” added Dr. Green. The ASPCA’s Animal Relocation Team is in the process of finding animal shelters to receive these animals and adopt them into new homes.
“We are grateful to have the ASPCA assist us in helping both pet owners and animals during this time of need,” said Dr. Renée Poirrier, director of LSART, supported by the Dr. Walter J. Ernst, Jr. Veterinary Memorial Foundation. “LSART was able to increase its water rescue capacity with emergency grants provided by the ASPCA, which would enable our responders to cover areas impacted by the flood. By working together, our goal is to provide relief to pet owners and ensure that animals receive appropriate care.” Faculty, staff and students from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine accompanied Dr. Poirrier and her LSART team to assess the parish needs.
Earlier this week, the ASPCA assisted the Humane Society of South Mississippi in pre-evacuation efforts by transporting animals from Gulfport, Miss., to the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
According to the ASPCA’s national study on disaster preparedness, more than one-third (35 percent) of dog and cat owners don’t have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Further, only about a quarter of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (24 percent) say their animals are micro-chipped. The ASPCA urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan that accounts for the safety of their animals and to stay informed about the potential for evacuation in their area.
The following tips will help pet owners prepare for natural disasters:
- Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible and that it includes: 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number.
- Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
- Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
- Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind.
- Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.
“If you’re planning to evacuate, please take your pets with you,” added Dr. Green. “If it’s not safe for you to stay behind, it’s not safe for your pets.”
The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team frequently responds to natural disasters, including major events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, the Joplin, Mo. tornado in 2011, as well as Hurricane Irene last year, but is more commonly called upon by state and municipal governments and other animal welfare partners to lend expertise during large-scale animal rescue operations.
For information on disaster preparedness and safety tips from the ASPCA, please visit our website.