Cats and dogs
Cats and dogs are two of the most universally recognized animals in the world. Many people’s first interaction with an animal is with either a cat or dog. Depending on one’s culture and beliefs, dogs and cats play various roles and are viewed in different lights. In some households, cats and dogs are beloved pets treated as members of the families. In others, dogs are working animals that help families support their livelihoods. Travel to a different country, and you may find packs of stray cats and dogs who roam the streets at their own will.
Photo: Scott Anger / © IFAW
In times of disaster, pet owners often face a devastating choice: abandon their animals to seek shelter or refuse to leave their animals behind and face the unknown together. We knew there had to be a better option, for both people and their beloved animals. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, IFAW helped create the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC). Since then, we have established a one-of-a-kind network of disaster responders and allies who are trained in disaster planning and rapid response.
IFAW’s Disaster Response team is always on standby, ready to deploy when needed. We’ve helped rescue thousands of animals from disasters around the world, including Hurricane Maria in Dominica, the Camp Fire tragedy in California, and the bushfires that devastated Australia in 2020. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, IFAW rushed emergency aid to our local animal partners . We deployed a team to the border of Poland and helped manage the only animal service station where we could provide support to Ukrainian refugees fleeing with their pets.
In addition to our disaster response work, IFAW has projects around the world that offer veterinary services, culturally relevant pet education, and real-life solutions for communities that would otherwise not have the resources.
Availability and access to veterinary care can transform a community. Take for example, our Northern Dogs Project in Canada. Rooted in building partnerships with communities in need, the Northern Dogs Project uses multiple tools and approaches to provide resources to First Nations communities so they can better care for their dogs.
Similarly, in 2011, IFAW partnered with local organization Coco’s Animal Welfare to bring accessible veterinary care to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Together, we built a state-of the-art clinic and started treating community animals brought in from all over the state in a safe and sterile environment. Later in 2017, IFAW’s Dr. Erika Flores and Joaquin de la Torre Ponce created Casitas Azules (little blue houses), an initiative to help local communities and their animals to coexist with jaguars and marine turtles. They engaged community members to build blue wooden doghouses, chicken coops or dog pens that could provide dogs and community animals with much-needed shelter and space of their own. With a place to seek shelter, dogs are now less likely to roam, preventing jaguar attacks on dogs and predation of marine turtle nests by dogs—a solution that benefits dogs, community members and wildlife.
Photos and videos
Playa Del Carmen Community Animals Project
Leadership saves animal lives in the streets of Playa del CarmenSee project
Northern Dogs Project - Canada
Distance can’t get in the way of safeguarding dogsSee project
Rescuing animals during disasters - United States
In a disaster, animals can’t ask for helpSee project
Rescuing animals during disasters - Southeast Asia
When people are prepared, animals are protectedSee project
Project Manager & Veterinary Advisor - Latin America & Caribbean
Dr. Erika Flores
Senior Program Officer - Disaster Response & Risk Reduction
Campaigns Manager - Canada
Regional Director - Latin America & the Caribbean
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Director – Disaster Response & Risk Reduction
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