View Full Version : Scenes of animal misery prompt pet-rescue plans

10-07-2005, 12:17 PM
Scenes of animal misery prompt pet-rescue plans

Scripps Howard News Service

If there was a doubt about the place pets inhabit in America's heart, the
two Gulf Coast hurricanes blew it away.
Faced with the choice of evacuating to a no-pets shelter or staying behind,
thousands of residents risked their own lives rather than leave their dogs,
cats, birds, reptiles, rodents - even tropical fish - to the mercy of the
News videos of dogs standing in chest-deep water and howling for help, and
other scenes of heart-wrenching animal misery, spurred millions of dollars
in contributions to organizations for emergency care for the creatures. In
what it calls the biggest rescue of pets and livestock ever, the Humane
Society of the United States alone has saved more than 8,000 ani-mals.
In a Noah-like mission, thousands of volunteers coast-to-coast have rallied
to transport abandoned animals to safety, house them and search for their
owners. Scores of tearful victims have described their pets as full-fledged
family members, likening their loss or joyous return to that of a child.
In combination, the images from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have vaulted the
rescue and relief of compan-ion animals from its past, rather lowly place on
the priority scale to a top consideration in planning for future natural
calamities, animal-welfare groups say.
"I think (the storms) have crystallized this issue for the public," said
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Hu-mane Society of the United States.
Now, even Congress is getting involved. A bipartisan coalition in the House
has introduced legislation to compel all state and local
emergency-management agencies to make comprehensive evacuation-and-relief
plans for people with pets.
Called the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, or the PETS
Act, the agencies would not be eligible for federal funds unless they did.
The measure makes sure "that owners don't have to make a choice between
their personal safety and their pets," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.
Today, except in a handful of states, provisions for people and their pets
are largely an afterthought, de-pendent on the inclination and resources of
the first-responders in charge.
Shays and others say such an ad-hoc approach ig-nores the fact that pets
live in more than 69 million American households, according to the American
Pet Products Manufacturers Association. That means as many as 1 out of every
3 homes in a disaster area could contain pets.
And experts have estimated that as many as 20 per-cent of those who are
ordered to evacuate will refuse to go because they will not leave their
pets, according to research by the University of Colorado. Stay-behinds put
at greater jeopardy both themselves and the rescuers who often must go to
their aid.
That was demonstrated over and over in the New Orleans area, where thousands
of residents said they stayed put for as long as they could for just that
Learning from that experience, the mayor of Galveston, Texas, opened
evacuation buses and shel-ters to animals and their humans; as a result,
close to 90 percent of the city's inhabitants, who for a time had been in
the bull's-eye for Hurricane Rita, had fled be-fore the storm came ashore
farther north, Texas offi-cials said.
The American Red Cross, the nation's frontline emergency battalion, has a
long-standing general pol-icy that bars animals from shelters. The
organization says animals are unwelcome because many people have allergies
to them or are afraid of them, they can bite or otherwise harm human
evacuees or each other, they can be loud, and a potential hygiene and
public-health problem.
Even so, local Red Cross chapters can bend the rules if necessary. That
happened in Austin, Texas, last month, where a shelter offered special
housing for pets.
Repeated requests to speak with Red Cross officials about its policy went
It wasn't until after Hurricane Andrew slammed South Florida in 1992 that
some emergency planners began to even consider pets in their planning. After
that storm, at least 1,000 dogs and cats that had been left behind were
eventually euthanized.
That spurred an array of animal-related groups such as the Humane Society
and the American Veterinary Medical Association to organize a loose network
to help animals before, during and after disasters. Since then, Florida,
North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Connecticut have incorporated
animals, in various degrees, into their emergency planning.
While the Humane Society's Pacelle hails such ef-forts, he says what is
desperately needed is a firm fed-eral policy for future calamities that
permits National Guard, U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and other
storm-related personnel to rescue and transport pets as well as people, when
After Katrina, many emergency personnel flatly re-fused to allow pets on
evacuation buses or boats. That led to excruciating scenes of separation
between peo-ple and their furry and feathered companions, includ-ing the
iconic incident when a little boy was barred from bringing his little dog
"Snowball" on a bus out of New Orleans.
Other responders were more flexible, trying when possible to help humans and
their pets. Many more likely would have assisted animal-rescue teams if
there were an explicit policy allowing them to, Pacelle said.
"We need the federal government to say that, when it doesn't conflict with
human needs, federal respond-ers can rescue animals and cooperate" with
animal-welfare teams, Pacelle said. "We cannot leave this to the personal
convictions of" emergency personnel.

10-13-2005, 11:55 AM
I'm happy that people are responding to crisis eventually, but the fact that it is taking everyone so long, and the fact that it takes a crisis to get peoples attention on animals is very sad. But it makes me really happy to think of people who help, and the idea of people being reunited with thier animals. :D

10-27-2005, 03:35 AM
How many more pets will be lost while we wait for Congress to pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act? I can't help but agonize over the possibility that it could be my dog next, stranded and helpless.

If you haven't signed this petition to Congress, please do so today. If you have signed, thank you! Now, to maximize your impact please ask your friends to do so: http://go.care2.com/e/huW/cw/KarI

The arrival of Hurricane Wilma reminds us that keeping pets and their people together during emergencies and disasters should be a top priority. As you know, too many people in New Orleans remained in Katrina's dangerous path because officials wouldn't allow residents to bring their pets to shelters or on buses, and too many others had to leave their beloved pets behind. While Florida appears to be better prepared, a universal policy is critical if we want to make sure pets are not abandoned in future disasters.

Plans to protect pets during disasters are still inadequate. We need Congress to take immediate action and order the full support of federal responders and relief workers to save animals currently stranded by hurricanes. We also need Congress to make sure animals are never abandoned in another disaster, by passing the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act, H.R. 3858).

Sign the petition: