Fires and floods are in the news, taking human lives, disrupting home and work life, and putting animals at risk. The stories coming out of South Carolina and California – two states swollen and scorched by major natural disasters – are heartbreaking. Animals who died in a pet store because they couldn’t be pulled out before waters engulfed the place. Hundreds of homeless and injured animals separated from their owners. Animals with their faces and paws burned in the fires.
The HSUS has been on the ground in both states, assisting local shelters and agencies with animal rescue efforts. Just today, in South Carolina, we helped pull 34 dogs from a shelter in Charleston County, which has been impacted by severe flooding. In California, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association Rural Area Veterinary Services program coordinated veterinary support to work with Lake County Animal Care and Control to help the dozens of animals who have needed the shelter for care and safe haven. One humanitarian brought a cat named Old Man Cat into the shelter with his face and foot pads burned, but with his good spirits intact. A bouncy Chihuahua named Chip had apparently stuck his face into something hot, burning the skin right off his nose.
“Everyone has the same injuries: burned muzzles and faces, melted foot pads, burned ears … these injuries will take weeks until healed to normal,” said Dr. Kate Kuzminski, a veterinarian with HSVMA-RAVS.
Wanda Merling and other HSUS staff have been working with the Lee County Animal Shelter in South Carolina to help animals stranded by the floods and separated from their families. In an email, Wanda described the devastation: “Our first day we were in Lee County where we saw flooded roads, the breached dam and the shelter. Dogs were living outside in dirt runs, washed away by the fast moving water, and you could see the devastation.”
Working against the clock, Wanda and other members of our animal rescue team have been shepherding shelter animals away from the flooding and into the safety of HSUS Emergency Placement Partners where they will await a forever home. But we are not just assisting local agencies with the care of their own animals. We are also trying to ensure that shelters have the capacity, supplies, and manpower to offer a loving and safe space for animals to rest while homes and lives are rebuilt.
Disasters as devastating as we’ve seen in recent weeks remind us why it’s so important to have plans in place for both our human and four-legged family members. Visit The HSUS’ disaster relief page to see how you can make a plan of your own. Even the White House recently highlighted the need to plan ahead for your pets with a disaster preparedness video featuring first pets Bo and Sunny.
In South Carolina and California, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Having helped move animals rescued so far to Greenville, S.C. and on to Atlanta, the Animal Rescue Team is today pulling animals from the coastal county of Horry, which expects more flooding. In California, the veterinary staff continue to care for the animals impacted by the fires. But already we are seeing some happy endings: this week, Old Man Cat, who came in with the burned face and paws, was reunited with his human guardian.