Animal Rescue Network - United StatesIn a disaster, animals can’t ask for help
Krissie Newman is an IFAW Ambassador, Cofounder of Rescue Ranch, CEO of VRX Ventures and trained Disaster Responder.
I’ve been back from the Bahamas for about a month now, but part of me never left. The destruction I witnessed was heartbreaking, and that certainly left an impact… but the resiliency and love of the community and their animals was astounding – that’s what I carry with me.
I spent six days deployed with IFAW sifting through the wreckage of Hurricane Dorian on the island of Abaco. Flying from Nassau into Abaco was surreal. Nassau was untouched – people were vacationing, it was like nothing ever happened. Then, we flew into Abaco. No running water, no power, just twisted piles of metal and wood where homes once stood.
There were dogs cowering in fear everywhere we looked. One in particular, I remember was on the front porch of what used to be a house. It was the only thing still standing and he would not leave his porch – his home. These animals had been through so much. Our goal was to assess their health and feed in place if we could. They were already so terrified and being close to home comforted them. If they were injured, or the situation was too unsafe, we took them to our makeshift shelter.
My days were filled with dogs which is definitely how I like it. Whether I was cleaning crates, exercising dogs, updating maps, collecting data, organizing the shelter… I didn’t care what I was doing as long as I was helping. We had no way of knowing whether or not some of these animals were pets or strays, some had clearly never been on a leash before and needed a little extra love because they were so terrified. So we just took our time and moved case by case, dog by dog as best we could.
The people were awesome. Bahamians united together to help however they could. Everyone I met was so kind and so willing to roll up their sleeves. Because some families evacuated and weren’t able to take their pets, neighbors volunteered to look after dogs or cats until their human families could return. That’s what gives me hope. In all the devastation, there were still people helping people, and animals being saved.
The goal is to reunite as many pets with their owners as possible. IFAW still has a team on the ground focused on doing just that.
This was my second deployment as a trained disaster responder and I can say with confidence it won’t be my last. It’s hard to imagine what these people and animals are going through without being there. So partnering with great organizations making a difference like IFAW and showing the reality of the situation is how I can help.
Abaco has a long way to go, but they’ll get there. As long as we all do what we can to help.
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