I noticed a few changes to protocol during the natural disaster that hit many of the eastern United States when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast a few days ago. While these occurred in New York, I believe they should be made mandatory everywhere. Namely, how pets are treated during an evacuation.
Many people refuse to leave their pets behind. This is understandable as pets are a part of the family. Unfortunately, it puts the lives of both pets and pet owners at risk. It also endangers anyone who may have to go in and search for those who refused to leave. New York made two announcements that I believe made a difference in how many people willingly evacuated before Hurricane Sandy hit.
New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that it was unlawful for cab drivers to turn away fares during the evacuation if the person had a pet. Taxis, the subway system, and trains all helped pets and their owners get to a safer place. Bloomberg also announced that evacuations shelters were set up to accept pets being accompanied by their owner as long as the pet was on a leash or in a carrier.
This may not seem like a critical announcement when the city was facing perhaps the worst storm in their history. Unless you’re a pet owner who worries as much about the safety of a pet as to your own personal safety.
Tim Rickey, Senior Director of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team, stated “If your home isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet. Once you evacuate you never know when you’ll be back.” All of New York City’s 76 evacuation centers are accepting pets. There are currently over 400 pets now safe with their family. Many area hotels who normally frown on pets are being pet-friendly during this natural disaster.
Which brings us to micro-chipping. It won’t guarantee your pet will be returned, but it’s one of the best ways to locate an owner after a natural disaster. All vet clinics and shelters I’ve worked with have handheld micro-chip readers on site.
Someone on Facebook also set up a page for lost and found pets before the storm hit. This page is listed on Facebook under Sandys Pets. Not only are photos of lost and found pets listed, there are also links to articles telling residents where pet friendly evacuation shelters are located. I encourage the readers to take a look at how this page is set up. People are finding pets displaced by the storm. Instead of turning them into a shelter, these people are stepping up and publishing photos along with their contact information so the lost pet can be reunited with the owner. They already have several success stories posted on the page.
The Humane Society has been tweeting the locations of all animal friendly shelters in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
I haven’t read of any problems created by the animals. Chances are those in evacuation shelters who have their pets with them are in a better frame of mind just by knowing their pets are safe.
New York City has set the standard all areas need to follow when mandatory evacuation orders are given. All people have been asking for over the years has been to have peace of mind their pets are safe during a disaster. There’s no way to estimate the number of human lives that were saved with this simple change in policy.
I believe people need to stress to their respective towns and cities that this is how things should be done anytime there’s an evacuation where the safety of residents (as well as their pets) is at stake. Don’t wait until a disaster strikes and then find out your pets aren’t welcomed on public transportation or in evacuation shelters.
This can be checked on in your town (if you live in the U.S.) by contacting either your mayors office or a member of city/town/county council. If animals aren’t welcome, I encourage you to attend a council meeting. These are generally open to the public. If you’re unable to do this personally, talk to a council member who can bring this up at a future meeting. Safety of residents is one of the primary reasons we have these officials in the first place. It needs to be stressed that there are a lot of animal lovers who would question the order to evacuate their home if their dog or cat had to be left behind.
It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your pets immunization records in a safe place where they can be found quickly should you ever have to evacuate. Remember to take any medications(for yourself as well as your pets) as well as food for your pet if you’re asked to leave your home. I don’t know whether these evacuation shelters were prepared to offer pet food, so have some with you just in case your shelter doesn’t. The same holds true if you’re going to a hotel. There may be grocery stores open, but pet food is sure to sell out fast. Also, during a power failure, some stores may not have generators to keep them going for long.
In closing, I’d like to recommend having some cash on hand if you must evacuate. With power failures, you may not be able to use a debit or credit card.
I hope these tips help and I hope none of you ever have to use them. Can any of you think of anything to add to this? Is anything going on in the news concerning the evacuation we need to be made aware of? Any helpful links to help those displaced by Hurricane Sandy?
Comments are welcome.