The month of June is designated as National Disaster Preparedness Month. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, people are already experiencing the devastating effects of extreme weather and the damage it can do.
We have done blogs in the past on the importance of pet disaster planning, how to assemble a disaster prep kit for pets, and on pet first aid including CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. And of course, the importance of pet identification, especially microchipping, is always foremost in our minds.
But distaster preparedness only takes you so far. When nature decides to unleash its fury, situations can quickly move beyond human control. With all eyes on the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, this lesson is especially poignant. As we watch the citizens of Moore attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives, we worry not only about them, but about their pets. It makes us question what we would do if we were in their shoes. Who would help us?
Searching for the answers to these questions turned up a short list of organizations offering pet owner support in case of extreme emergency:
Local and neighboring Animal Control / Animal Services Departments: Animal control will often organize evacuations and provide a safer space to house evacuated animals, especially if they have notice, like in the case of wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes. Most animal services have a Facebook or Twitter page and will post updates there. Know where your local animal control is located and make a phone call if the forecast has you worried.
* Your local animal shelter is also where a large number of animals will show up afterwards. In this situation, having your pet microchipped with current registration is vitally important. If your pet loses their collar, a microchip will be the fastest way to communicate to shelter staff that the animal is owned and loved. The Found Animals Microchip Registry can hold telephone, email, veterinary and emergency contact information, so even if you are without a telephone and computer, it will still be possible for you to get the message that your pet has been found through your vet or emergency contact person.
After a natural disaster, Animal Control will be working with local businesses and organizations all over the country to make room to accommodate all the displaced pets. They will also be providing food and medical care for injured pets. Local animal shelters will carry the burden of housing and bear the costs of caring for rescued pets. Local Animal Control Officers, Police and Fireman are the heroes who step in to rescue pets and will be in great need of donations as their resources are stretched thin.
If possible during these times, donate money or supplies to your local Animal Control. Towels, gloves, pet food and blankets will help care for the animals until their families can be located.
The good news is that it is now easier than ever to organize and mobilize rescue efforts, thanks to the internet.
Social Media can be a powerful tool when trying to locate lost pets. You can potentially reach thousands of people simply by clicking a “share” button. A great example of this is a Facebook page recently created called Moore Oklahoma Tornado Lost and Found Animals, a community page posting photos of lost or found pets in the area of the Moore, OK tornado, as well as animal shelters in need, temporary shelters and other resources. If you are trying to locate a lost pet, be sure to check Facebook and Twitter. These social media pages will also link you up with other rescue workers, businesses and nonprofits that have stepped in to help.
Here are just a few of the larger National Organizations that will also step in to help:
American Red Cross: The Red Cross is a great source for disaster prep information. After a disaster occurs they often step in and set up emergency shelters. Unfortunately, Red Cross shelters can only accept service animals that assist with disabilities. They suggest you prepare a list with telephone numbers of local hotels, veterinary offices and pet hotels that you can contact to arrange pet care. Be sure to ask if local hotels that don’t allow pets will make an exception in case of emergency.
The Red Cross often partners with local emergency relief organizations, so it’s a good idea to do a quick Google search to see what, and if, any organizations are available in your area.
The ASPCA: After September 11th, the ASPCA organized efforts to help pet owners return to their homes to collect pets that were left behind. Police officers accompanied residents, ready to arrest anyone who made false claims in order to get back into their homes to collect valuables other than pets. Rest assured, they take pet care and recovery very seriously.
From ASPCA’S Disaster Response team “The ASPCA currently has eight responders on the ground to support partner shelter Central Oklahoma Humane Society (OK Humane) with staffing needs as the facility experiences an influx of animals affected by the disaster. We’ll continue to offer our assistance as needed and will keep you updated as the long road to recovery begins for Moore and its neighbors.”
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (or “SDF”) deploys dog and handler teams from all over the United States to aid in disaster relief efforts. You can learn more about their organization and get updates on their website, blog and on their Facebook page.
The National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (or “NARSC”) NARSC’s mission is to assist communities and their animals in the planning, preparations and response to incidents that place animals in crisis.
Our thoughts are with the residents of Moore, the neighboring communities and their pets.
Do you have any other tips to share? Leave a comment below.