From the Scene: A Look Inside Our Disaster Response Efforts Following Hurricane Ida

September 9, 2021

Rescuers with crate in water

Behind all of the ASPCA's disaster response efforts are the dedicated and expert responders who go on the front lines to help assist animals and communities in need. Tim Perciful, ASPCA Disaster Response Manager, has been on the ground supporting the organization's Hurricane Ida response—from animal relocation, to water rescue, and emergency sheltering. We caught up with Tim to ask about his experience and what insight he could share with pet parents on preparing for natural disasters.

Man with dog in front of wrecked houses

Tim Perciful on the scene during our response to Hurricane Laura in 2020.

Hurricane Ida showed up as a possible hurricane on a Thursday morning and expected to make landfall on that Sunday. Our team just deployed to assist communities impacted by wildfire in Washington, and we had to work quickly to direct our resources and prepare for a hurricane response. This involved connecting with agencies and organizations in Louisiana about pre-evacuation efforts and how the ASPCA may be able to assist. This is a critical step in getting animals out of harms’ way before the storm hits.

Responders helping dog into van

While our team is used to responding to disasters at a moment’s notice, this hurricane was different in a few ways, with the biggest difference being the limited timeframe we had once Ida showed up.

We had to first determine how to evacuate homeless animals that were in shelters prior to the storm. Our goal was to safely move as many shelter animals as possible out from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, since many local shelters were in the storms’ path.

Responders helping dog

The ASPCA Relocation team worked diligently to evacuate as many animals as possible prior to the storm making landfall. We worked with a network of partner shelters nationwide to help get homeless animals out of harms’ way.

Responders helping dog

Our team quickly booked flights and deployed to begin assistance on the ground. The National Field Response team members have gear and equipment assigned to them so when the call comes to deploy, we’re able to act swiftly and bring the necessary equipment for disaster response.

Responders boating through water

Responders wading through water

The storm made landfall on Sunday, and by Monday morning a field team was en route to Baton Rouge with boats and gear to assist with search and rescue and other animal needs. Our teams also deployed multiple animal transport vehicles and supplies for sheltering while supporting local emergency sheltering needs in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. In addition, we began preparing to support ongoing sheltering needs with an emergency shelter in Knoxville, Tennessee, with the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley.

Woman feeding dog through crate

Person feeding dog through crate

Man playing with gray dog

Evacuated animals get care and TLC at our emergency shelter (above).

Our quick response allowed us to meet with state officials and we started getting requests for rescue. Code 3, IFAW, and the ASPCA worked with local animal services on search and rescue efforts.

We navigated through water and went to locations based on emergency calls they received. Once we rescued the animals, we created a plan for getting them to the shelter to get the care they may need.

Responders boating through water

Responders boating through water

An important thing to note with hurricane response is that the ASPCA is not only helping pets, we are also helping people. During these response efforts, we were able to help a woman evacuate with her pets.

When I went into her home to get her cats, her house was surrounded by water, her roof was leaking water, she had no power and nothing in her home was dry. But she was not going to leave without her pets. Emergency services had been evacuating people all day, yet she was worried that she would not be able to take her pets to shelter with her. We were able to get her cats and take them to a shelter so they could get the care that they needed, and we then evacuated her and her dog together, taking them to a shelter where pets were allowed.

Disaster season can be dangerous and unpredictable for people and pets, and we encourage everyone to have a plan which will include communication with family and a place to stay with your pets if you need to evacuate. Have a kit for your pet and get involved to better understand how your community works with pets during emergencies.

Our response to Hurricane Ida continues as we care for displaced and homeless animals in need and remain ready to respond to any requests from those affected.

Black dog

Gray dog with ball

Dogs currently receiving care at our emergency shelter (above).

The work we do out in the field is impossible to do without the support of many people across the ASPCA and all of the people who support us. I want to personally thank everyone for helping us help animals, help people and really help the entire community when they need us.