This September During National Preparedness Month, Remember Your Pet!

As a nation, we have made such good progress since Hurricane Katrina in recognizing the importance of including animals in emergency plans. Best estimates would suggest that over 10,000 animals were rescued following the hurricane and resultant flooding and unfortunately less than 40% of those were reunited with their families.

A dog rescued by IFAW teams during Hurricane Katrina.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a Coalition member for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Preparedness Month which begins in September and is designed to encourage the nation to take steps to prepare family, neighborhood and community for emergencies and disasters.

IFAW wants to make sure that when we say ‘family’ – that everyone knows that means the pets too!

The majority of animals we rescue following a disaster are someone’s pet that was not evacuated when the family left their home.  We hear all kinds of reasons why folks did not take their pets:

  • It happened too quickly;
  • We didn’t have enough carriers;
  • We couldn’t find them in time;
  • We couldn’t get them into their carriers;
  • We didn’t have a place to take them;
  • We thought we would only be gone a short time; and
  • We thought they would be okay on their own.

Wouldn’t it be great if we never had to rescue a pet again?  I could tell you so many sad stories of animals left behind and the horrible conditions they endured while they were waiting to be rescued.  And in the majority of cases – it was preventable – had the family included their animals in their evacuation plan.

All disaster plans should include animals and that is not only true for the family plan, but for the community, state and federal government as well.  FEMA, along with a number of animal welfare groups helped compile a checklist for families preparing their evacuation plan.

You can download the IFAW Tips To Keep Your Pet Safe PDF with the checklist.

As a nation, we have made such good progress since Hurricane Katrina in recognizing the importance of including animals in emergency plans.  Best estimates would suggest that over 10,000 animals were rescued following the hurricane and resultant flooding and unfortunately less than 40% of those were reunited with their families.  So much of that could have been prevented had the owners taken their pets with them when they evacuated.

Another dog wanders aimlessly during Hurricane Katrina.

Following Hurricane Katrina, IFAW took the lead in organizing a meeting of all the major national animal rescue groups.  That meeting resulted in the formation of the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) and for the last six years, this group has become the recognized leader for addressing animal issues in a collaborative and collegial way.

NARSC has grown to 14 members including the American Red Cross, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Veterinary Medical Foundation, American Humane Association (AHA), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Best Friends, Code 3 Associates, Red Rover (formerly United Animal Nations), National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs (NASAAEP), Pet Finder.com, National Animal Control Association (NACA), Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA), and of course the founding member - IFAW.

Today, when there is a disaster in the U.S., the members of NARSC work together to ensure the most effective response possible.  It’s through collaboration and formation of coalitions that the incredibly complex issues of a disaster can be addressed and the greatest number of animals rescued.

IFAW has always taken great pride in working collaboratively with other groups around the world to address the animal issues that arise following a disaster.

Last year, following the devastating earthquake inHaiti, IFAW and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) developed the Animal Relief Coalition of Haiti.  21 national and international groups joined the coalition and together we were able to administer one of the largest relief programs ever for animals – a $1.04M relief effort with more than 60,000 animals treated!

Please go to the links provided and join the National Preparedness Month Coalition and make sure that you include your pets into your family emergency plan.  Then contact your local emergency management office and ask them to make sure that they have included pets in their comprehensive emergency management plan.  Together, we can make a difference for the animals.

-- DG

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit https://www.ifaw.org

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