MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- When Hurricane Katrina made Gulf Coast landfall in late August, many residents were affected. Those living in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi lost their homes, their jobs, and some even their lives. Many residents of these states were also pet owners. Indeed, the pet population was greatly affected by this unprecedented disaster. As a result, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is promoting complete disaster planning that includes pets and animals. They are delivering to the public a clear and correct message about safe and effective actions for animals in disaster.
Pets and Disasters
There are some simple steps that all pet owners can take in order to prepare for disasters:
- Contact your local animal shelter, humane society, veterinarian or emergency management office for information on caring for pets in an emergency. Find out if there will be any shelters set-up to take pets in an emergency. Also, see if your veterinarian will accept your pet in an emergency.
- Make sure your pet has a properly fitted collar that includes current license and rabies tags. Consider having your pet identified through microchip technology. Your local veterinarian can assist you in finding a location that provides this service.
- Contact motels and hotels in communities outside of your area and find out if they will accept pets in an emergency.
During a disaster, bring your pets inside. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm. If you leave your home after a disaster, take your pets with you. Always be aware that your pet’s behavior may change before, during, and after a disaster.
Medical Care and Shelter
Here are two frequently asked questions concerning what costs may be covered for pets and animals during a disaster.
- What costs are eligible for the medical care of animals in sheltering states?
If the receiving state requires a vaccination for animals coming into the state, those costs would be eligible for health and safety reasons. Beyond that, no treatment is eligible.
- Will agencies and organizations providing shelter to pets evacuated from areas impacted by Katrina be eligible for assistance?
Reasonable costs for sheltering pets brought with their owners to shelters in host states are eligible. Requests for reimbursement must be submitted by state and local governments.
Finding Lost Pets
According to the HSUS, over 6,000 pets were rescued in the Gulf States affected by Hurricane Katrina. The search and rescue of these pets was undertaken in a coordinated effort between FEMA and HSUS. These efforts included Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATS) and volunteer groups assigned the task of finding lost pets. Ongoing efforts to reunite pets with their owners continue.
Because of the severity of Hurricane Katrina, many pets were left behind or lost in the wake of the disaster. Alabama residents who lost pets and have not yet been able to recover them, may be able to find them through the following ways:
- As of late October, there are 34 shelters and organizations in the state that are housing pets displaced by the disaster. You may contact your local humane society chapter, or call the Southeast Regional Office (SERO) of HSUS at 1-850-386-3435 to locate a shelter or organization near you.
- A number of different agencies, including HSUS, are coordinating efforts through the World Wide Web—www.petfinder.com. This website provides access to a number of resources for locating lost pets.
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