Our Emergency Services team stands at the ready to respond to natural and human-made disasters. Last week’s floods In the Midwest prompted us to sound the alarm bell. Here’s a report from Missouri from Scotlund Haisley, our senior director of Emergency Services.
We were answering a call in southern Missouri wading in three feet of water and heard a faint meow. We made our way toward the sounds and found cats left on the porch and one deceased kitten. They hadn’t eaten for days, left abandoned to fend for themselves.
© The HSUS
A stranded horse is led out of the Missouri floodwaters. Support
our crisis response work with a gift to the Disaster Relief Fund.
It had rained and then rained some more. And the ground just wasn’t absorbing it fast enough. It wasn’t a tragedy at first but for that kitten it ended up that way. In all, 13 counties in Missouri needed help with animals. Those helped by us and other agencies included cattle, horses, cats, dogs, goats, chickens, and small pocket pets.
Several shelters had to be evacuated and the animals were able to be transferred to the Humane Society of Missouri. They had the resources and space to house the animals. And then I saw something that gave me hope. People were being sheltered with their pets. They realized that, in large part, they are in control of their destinies in disasters and that survival depends almost wholly on the efforts of individuals to be prepared.
By watching weather reports, having pet medicines, leashes, food, bottled water, and the same provisions for yourselves handy. By obeying evacuation orders and knowing that now pets can be taken along—thanks to the PETS Act of 2006 that mandates local communities have a plan to house pets in disasters. Many people died in Hurricane Katrina and the floods following because they didn’t want to leave pets behind.
Seeing your world buried in water is beyond what anyone should have to bear. But we were comforted by seeing that many of these people in Missouri last weekend had saved themselves and their pets. Their pets somehow steadied them, gave them something to focus on besides their own discomfort. They were caring for their companions and for a few moments in time, that seemed to be enough. We can’t control the weather or fate or whatever deity you believe may be out there.
But starting over with your animal companion beside you, well, that’s a head start that many in Hurricane Katrina never had.