Hurricane Gustav Means Save Your Pet, Save Your Life

Share Article

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, animal rescue experts urge people to prepare for disaster and evacuate with their pets. A Zogby International study found that 44 percent of those who stayed behind when Hurricane Katrina hit did so because they wouldn't abandon their pets. Animal rescue and disaster preparedness for pets has become vital for saving human and animal lives.

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, animal rescue experts urge people to prepare for disaster and evacuate with pets. A Zogby International study found that 44 percent of those who stayed behind when Hurricane Katrina hit did so because they wouldn't abandon their pets. Animal rescue and disaster preparedness for pets has become vital for saving human and animal lives. Allen and Linda Anderson, pet experts and Minneapolis-based authors of the award-winning book "RESCUED: Saving Animals from Disaster," (New World Library, September, 2006), provide practical suggestions to pet owners for fast evacuation in the wake of any emergency.

Linda Anderson says, "We just received a frantic call from a woman in Mississippi asking us where she could take her pet because she had to evacuate. The hotel the woman had found wouldn't accept pets. It's unbelievable, three years after Katrina, that there still aren't enough pet-friendly hotels. People died because they wouldn't leave their animal family members behind and had no place to go with them. This kind of tragedy can't be allowed to happen again."

Yet even though Hurricane Katrina precipitated the largest animal rescue operation in history, chronicled in Rescued, and the PETS Act provided federal incentives for states to include pet evacuation in disaster planning, complacency has returned. Most people are simply not prepared with a pet disaster kit that contains food, water, photos of their pets, and medications or a list of pet-friendly hotels along evacuation routes. This means they are putting their lives, the lives of their pets, and the lives of animal rescuers at risk.

Allen Anderson says, "When we did interviews for Rescued in New Orleans, we visited Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO). The executive director there told us a story that we'll never forget. She explained that volunteers in search of abandoned animals after Hurricane Katrina found an entire family that had refused to evacuate because they couldn't bear to leave their pets behind. The family's pet, starving and nearly dead, was lifted off a woman's lap by the ARNO rescuer and brought to their shelter. The entire family had perished. We all had tears in our eyes while listening to this tragic story. People choose to stay in or return to dangerous situations rather than abandon their pets."

A husband-and-wife writing team with the popular Angel Animals book series, the Andersons drew upon Allen Anderson's eight years as an Atlanta police officer and his position as director of safety for an international nonprofit organization to focus on how to stay safe through an emergency. The couple interviewed hundreds of animal rescuers and survivors of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Allen Anderson says, "Tragedy is compounded when people feel guilt and severe depression over loss of a companion or service animal. Laws and policies regarding the value of rescuing animals have not caught up with the reality that pets are family members living in two out of three American households. Disaster escalated after Hurricane Katrina and again in Lebanon when people wouldn't evacuate from a war zone due to the no-pets-allowed policies."

Among other vital pieces of information, the Andersons discuss are:

  • The five crucial questions everyone with a pet must ask to assess if they are prepared for disaster
  • What essential elements are needed in a pet preparedness kit for an owner to evacuate safely and quickly in the event of a house fire, neighborhood chemical spill, terrorism threat, evacuation order, or natural disaster such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes
  • How to have a family emergency disaster plan that includes pets
  • What should be in a person's car or a safe deposit box that could save lives
  • What questions to ask of local, state, and national emergency planning committees, fire and police departments, and legislators to make sure people have support for pet evacuation and sheltering in disasters
  • What will get a person into a shelter or rescue vehicle and why they and their pet could be turned away.

Animal Rescue for Gulf Coast 2008

Below is a partial list of organizations expected to be involved in animal rescue for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The Andersons can supply additional contacts that will help reporters who want to cover the Hurricane Gustav story for the media. The couple hopes that the media will get word out about how to keep pets safe and near their families through a disaster situation.

United Animal Nations
MuttShack Animal Rescue Foundation
Louisiana SPCA
Humane Society of Louisiana
Animal Rescue New Orleans
Audubon Zoo
Houston SPCA
Humane Society of South Mississippi
Pets America operates with Texas Veterinary Medical

Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster has been called a must-read for every pet owner and anyone who has considered volunteering for animal rescue.

"The authors stress that owners must take primary responsibility for their pets and that rescue volunteers should be properly trained ... their advice is well taken." -- Publisher's Weekly review, 7-24-06

"Compelling, fascinating, and most important -- highly moral." --Ben Stein, author, actor, commentator

"A finely written, touching, and important book." --Karen Dawn, DawnWatch.com, author of Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals

"It is important to tell their stories so we can learn from both the successes and disappointments of that unforgettable ordeal." -- John Ensign, DVM, United States Senator, Nevada, from his foreword for Rescued.

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

ALLEN & LINDA ANDERSON
Visit website