We are told by Associated Press via the Daily Mail newspaper that significant strides have taken place since Hurricane Katrina took 2,000 human lives and displaced or killed hundreds of thousands of dogs cats and other animals. At the time the hurricane occurred on August 29, 2005 rescue operators focused on people and pets were often left behind.
One reason was because half the people with pets who needed to be rescued refused to go without their companion animals. First responders during the emergency would not take the animals and this also applied to service animals. I presume the end result was that neither the pet owners nor their pets were rescued or they were convinced to change their minds and left their companion animals behind.
Another reason was because many animals disappeared and many died outright because despite being scooped up and rescued they didn’t make it into the official rescue system. There appears to have been a lack of proper cataloguing of animals which would have helped to have reconnected pets with people. We are of course referring to mainly cats and dogs who had not been micro-chipped because as one member of the task force who handled animal evacuations so wisely stated, micro-chipping is a ticket home.
The lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina helped to prevent the deaths of many pets during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 which devastated the Jersey shoreline.
Rescue workers now make sure that critical paperwork stays with rescued pets at evacuation facilities. They also post photographs and information online.
There is also, apparently, improved teamwork between the animal welfare agencies and federal responders. There’s been training on earthquake response in 2015 in southern California. In New York a meeting took place to discuss procedures on how to “buy half million shelter units for animals” in the event of an emergency.
A further meeting is scheduled to take place very shortly in Louisiana. At that meeting experts will discuss progress made with respect to animal disaster response since Hurricane Katrina and what pet owners can do to make their animals safer when the next storm strikes.
Perhaps it is fair to say that the chances of more extreme weather has been heightened by, arguably, global warming. To people in Europe, there appears to be more extreme weather conditions in North America than in Europe. Therefore there is a greater possibility of losing one’s companion animal during one of these emergencies. That must put a greater onus upon pet owners to make plans as to how best to protect pets at these times. Clearly, it is also a very good motivation to microchip your cat or dog. That is the very least that can be done, I would have thought. Being prepared is the key.
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