Just a little more than a month ago, when Sandy hit the East Coast, The Humane Society of the United States responded by rushing into some of the hardest-hit areas. With more than 100 staff and volunteers on the ground to respond, we worked with emergency management officials and law enforcement at all levels, to rescue hundreds of stranded or displaced animals, and we cared for more than 500 evacuated pets in three emergency shelters in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, New Jersey, and Nassau County, New York. In New Jersey, we worked with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and Gov. Chris Christie’s office to run a toll-free hotline for people who were forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuated because of Sandy, and we handled more than 1,300 calls. In New York City, we worked with our partners in the NYC Office of Emergency Management Animal Planning Task Force to run a toll-free hotline and accepted more than 1,000 calls. In Nassau County, New York, The HSUS coordinated with local municipalities to conduct search and rescue in devastated areas, and we continue to assist by safely transporting animals to shelters within our Emergency Placement Partners network throughout the Northeast.
We helped set up four distribution centers for needed supplies, and partnered with more than 30 amazing agencies who contributed time and money to help. Because we worked on an official basis with state and local emergency management in New Jersey, we committed to assisting shelters in the state that were directly affected by the storm — either because they suffered significant damage or because they responded to increased needs in their communities. We have allocated $20,000 so far for fostering and nearly $50,000 to shelters in N.J., N.Y., and Connecticut that were impacted.
Now with search and rescue work complete, the work has shifted from direct response, and pet retention and fostering are taking center stage. In New Jersey, The HSUS is proud to be part of a pet retention task force spearheaded by St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center and the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey. A new website, fosterasandypet.org, is a matchmaking service between people who need a temporary place for their pets while they get back on their feet, and people willing to provide housing for those pets. One woman who lost her home signed up with the foster program and her cat was placed in a loving home within days. When she was able to find a suitable apartment, she gratefully took her cat back home and then promptly volunteered to serve as a foster herself. Since the site’s launch, more than 800 people have signed up to be foster caregivers – though few have been on both ends of the fostering process, as the New Jersey woman was. In New York City, we’ve dispatched more than a dozen HSUS Pets for Life NYC staff and volunteers to provide pet retention counseling to families.
As of today we have also reunited more than 400 pets with their owners – giving hope to many who are often struggling to get their lives back to normal. As Patrick Glenn said when he picked up his cat, “I got my family back again.” Our shelter staff will never forget emotional reunions like this one, as families who thought they might never see their pet again were reunited. Their joy was a tonic for all of us.