This year, we’ve learned about truly cataclysmic disasters—an earthquake in China and a cyclone in Myanmar. But we’ve also had quite a series of events here in the United States, fortunately though without the large loss of life that we’ve seen internationally. But the fires, tornadoes, and floods have wreaked havoc in the U.S., and required a robust HSUS response.
The HSUS Emergency Services group has been on the road and in the field throughout the year, and now our full team is deployed to Iowa, where the floods are the worst in decades. It’s a serious situation—for people and for animals. Here’s Senior Director Scotlund Haisley’s firsthand account from the floodwaters.
June 16, 2008
In the face of torrential floodwaters and looming tornado warnings, our team fanned out. We advanced into the watery no-man’s land to rescue animals left behind. As soon as we drove our convoy of specially equipped emergency response vehicles into the ravaged city of Cedar Rapids, residents greeted us with applause and hugs—immediately followed by desperate pleas for the rescue of their stranded pets.
Even with hundreds of rescue requests flowing in, I was especially struck by the innocent plea of one little boy who was unconcerned with the fate of his video games or toys, but only longed for the safe return of his beloved dog and cat. It was an extremely rewarding experience to witness the little boy reunited with his rescued pets the very next day. His tears of joy will stick with me through the difficult days ahead. As of dawn today, dozens of pets had been reunited with their families and 508 were being housed and cared for by our shelter coordination team at the emergency shelter set up at the Kirkwood Community College.
Housing these animals is no small feat, and I have to give a big thank you to United Animal Nations, PetSmart Charities, the Humane Society of Missouri, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids Animal Control, Cedar Valley Humane Society and local area volunteers for helping to comfortably shelter the displaced animals. I am constantly struck by the resilience and compassion of people who put aside their own worries to come to the aid of the animals. Their dedication is truly inspiring.
Our Animal Rescue Team has been put to the test, with more than 100 rescue requests pending and 50 or so additional calls coming in daily. So many families are desperately seeking their animal companions that we have stepped up our water rescue efforts—more than doubling our presence over the past three days. The variety of rescues that we performed in the last 24 hours was amazing—we used a long-reach ladder to save two abandoned dogs from a second story apartment, searched flooded homes high and low for stranded cats and dogs, and even saved a floundering carp on the water-clogged streets. These were all successful, but the most memorable mission of the day had to be the 12-story assisted living building where we searched each of the 198 rooms for any pets in need of rescue.
The sweltering building had been shut up for several days without electricity—creating a potential death trap. The filth left behind by the floodwaters and the heat was suffocating, but in collaboration with the Humane Society of Missouri we checked every room. Five rescue teams saved 125 animals in a single day.
Floods are a drawn-out ordeal for humans and their animal companions. People are unable to reach home to see if their pets survived, and their pets are incapable of understanding why they are left stranded. It may sound soupy, but there is no feeling in the world like bringing a tail-wagging dog home to a young boy with tears in his eyes.