Saturday, March 3, 2012

On animal shelters, tornadoes, and national groups

Tornadoes have once again swept across the midwest and south. I know we'd like to believe the increased disasters (along with our frighteningly snowless winter her in central NYS) are just a passing thing.

I think we need to get used to it. I expect we'll see more tornadoes here in NY this summer as well. That said, there are a number of groups who have stepped forward into the ever-increasing need for disaster relief. It is frightening how well-organized the response has had to become.

Leading the way is the ASPCA, who is already on-site in Taney County and Branson, MO. ASPCA has not one, but several, regional response teams.. IFAW also has a response trailer, co-funded by the Foundation. In addition, Petsmart Charities has their Emergency Relief Waggin. There are also countless regional and local County/Disaster Animal Response Teams (CARTS or DARTS) across the United States.

I'm sure I've missed a few and I'll plug them in as the day goes on.

National groups have been getting a lot of flack lately for stumping for donations by advertising that they "help shelter pets," as if they run a physical shelter network. However, in the area of disaster response, national groups have stepped up to the plate, and more will be needed of them in the future.

Hurricane Katrina was a huge wake-up call, where way too many "suits" from too many national groups were bumping into one another being inefficient. It was the first huge disaster that required organizations to work in close proximity, and even on top of one another. Even Petfinder, which is a "virtual" web-based adoption portal (for whom I work) sent staff to take photos of the pets in emergency shelters, because there simply wasn't anyone else to do it. There was no power, so there were no computers. Organizations who normally did not do this type of response found themselves in a whole new world.

After Katrina it became clear that national groups needed to train and trust competent field personnel to respond and run disaster response. National groups needed to be more willing to work together, to be able to cover the many disasters occurring sometimes simultaneously across the U.S.

I have been to several of the ASPCA training programs on disaster mitigation that they give for the sheltering community, and they are practical and excellent.

When donating to national groups, if you are uncertain where your money is going, feel free to earmark it for US disaster relief, and you can be fairly certain it's being used properly.

You can always feel comfortable clicking that little button on checkout for Petsmart Charities, and in giving to the Petco Foundation as well. Both of those charities are generous to the max, and their administrators are on the road responding or teaching, in addition to assessing needs and distributing funds. There are no slackers at either of those charities, I can assure you.

You can also sign up to get trained to be a part of your local CART/DART. Call your county government to be directed properly.

On Facebook, here is the link to a Tornado pets page to keep updated nationally on animal shelter/tornado impacts:

You can always give directly to shelters who have been impacted by a disaster. If you are the skeptical sort and want to be sure 100% of your money goes to supplies, gift cards to Walmart or Tractor Supply go a long, long way. If you are going to give a gift card, be as generous as you can. If someone has to go to a store, $100 makes the trip far more worthwhile than $25.

One sad heads-up when giving gift cards during disasters: make a phone call to be sure the store hasn't been flattened, too.

Inevitably I hear people say "How can you worry about animals when there are people who need help." I cannot say enough:


Look at the gentleman in the top photo. Don't you think he wants to be able to go somewhere, now, where both he and his dog will be accepted? Lacking that, don't you think he wants to know there is a place where his dog can temporarily be cared for? If his dog were missing, would he not be able to more easily concentrate on himself or his family if he knew there were others out there looking for lost pets, and an emergency shelter where he could check for his lost pet?

When cops and firemen are working the debris, don't you think they appreciate being able to hand off found kittens, cats, and dogs, not to mention cage-pets and other critters, off to animal services people, rather than having to figure out what to do with them while they are trying to help people?

Suck it up, "dissers". People who provide animal services are serving people, and communities as well, and people who give to those organizations are supporting disaster areas just as surely as people who give to human services.



  1. Amen to that! People died in Katrina trying to keep their animals safe.

  2. This particular photo has been all over the internet the past few days. If the look on that man's face doesn't make you melt, imho, you simply have no heart. I'm so happy that, after all he has been through, his best friend is safe in his arms.

  3. That photo tears me up. There's another of a woman hugging her cat, Thumbalina, pulled from a tornado destroyed house. Makes me want to cry, both photos.

    1. Thanks. I found that photo and posted it as well.