In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, after witnessing firsthand how unprepared the nation was for a disaster of that magnitude and the vulnerability of animals in areas afflicted by disaster, I pledged that The HSUS would dramatically augment its response capacity and be far better prepared. I had always envisioned a team of responders who could react quickly to animal emergencies—an HSUS animal SWAT team of sorts.
© The HSUS/Milani
HSUS staff map routes to reach pets stranded by Hurricane Ike.
While we are always working to perfect and improve our operations, we are a new organization when it comes to disaster response. Today we’ve amassed an unmatched Emergency Services team, led by Scotlund Haisley. Our animal rescue team now handles human-caused disasters, such as cruelty and puppy mill cases, and also flood, fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. They are bolstered by our regional and state field staff, many of whom are disaster veterans. And we’ve trained more than 2,500 volunteers to assist us with our charge to help as many animals in need as possible.
In 2007 we rescued more than 7,000 animals from at least 34 incidents. We’ve already surpassed this number in the first seven months of 2008, making this year our busiest so far (follow the deployments in our Field Notes). We have been involved in several groundbreaking puppy mill cases, including some of the largest busts ever in the states of Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. We assisted in the California wildfires, several dogfighting and cockfighting busts, tornadoes in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and the record Midwestern floods. We also relocated threatened gopher tortoises from development sites, and transported animals from overwhelmed shelters to new adoption opportunities. We have been working internationally as well, including in Chile after a volcano erupted and stranded thousands of animals in a blanket of ash.
Now two weeks after deploying to Louisiana to assist in Hurricane Gustav recovery, we remain in the Gulf Coast to care for animals evacuated or abandoned during the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Ike.
I couldn’t be prouder to say that The HSUS is now the leading emergency response organization for animals. And, backed by you and enabled by your support, we’re ready to respond to help animals in crisis at a moment’s notice.