Rescuing animals during disasters - United StatesIn a disaster, animals can’t ask for help
Washington, DC, September 2, 2021 - On Sunday, 29 August 2021, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, unleashing devastating high winds, life-threatening storm surges and widespread flooding. Within 24 hours of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) request to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), teams were en route to provide emergency support, including water rescue, temporary shelter and animal search and rescue (ASAR).
The state also requested support from Code 3 Associates (Code 3) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). All three organizations are working closely together on the ground to help the hardest hit areas.
“The devastation we are seeing is catastrophic as this was a dangerous and powerful storm with higher wind speeds than Hurricane Katrina. In advance of Ida’s landfall, we prepared our teams and equipment for a possible request for support. When LDAF’s request came in, we were able to deploy within 24 hours and get to work,” said Shannon Walajtys, Program Director for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction at IFAW.
Under the direction of state and local authorities, IFAW teams conducted water rescue operations, wrapping up the day with the dramatic rescue of a woman and her animals, including her 16-year old cocker spaniel. She refused to leave her animals behind and wanted to make sure they would be brought to safety as well.
“We want to keep families together, especially in the wake of devastation like we see here in Louisiana. Those in the hardest hit areas have lost everything and our goal is that families, including our furry family members, are kept together so the recovery process can begin and families can rebuild,” said Walajtys. “Hurricane Ida demonstrated the increased threats we are seeing in catastrophic disaster events around the world. Our IFAW teams see the escalating intensity and destructiveness of natural disasters, whether a hurricane, an earthquake or a wildfire, natural events that are devastating to both people and animals.”
As recovery begins, IFAW continues to work under the direction of state and local authorities conducting field assessments for community needs, rescuing injured animals and providing emergency grants to support veterinary care, sheltering, pet food distribution and humanitarian aid.
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