HSUS disaster response expanding with rescues and transports

By on September 1, 2017 with 8 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The broadcast images are telling.

A hovering Coast Guard helicopter lifts a family from a rooftop, 150 feet into the air, and then safely out of danger. The family includes a husband and wife couple in their late 50s or 60s and their two Boston Terriers, who seem to take the harrowing lift in stride.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rescuer does an interview along with his search dog, who specializes in finding live victims of disasters. They’ve helped dozens of people, the dog going in first to find signs of life.

In this disaster, we are not fighting the federal government over the care of animals. Its agencies and responders are generally working to aid animal victims, too, and they’re even enlisting animals in the search and rescue efforts. The animals are victims, but in some cases, first responders are enlisting animals to help and they are part of the narrative of heroism.

That said, there’s more suffering than any of us can imagine, for both humans and animals. This is a terribly tragedy, playing out over a physical area larger than New Jersey. The region has been saturated with 25 trillion gallons of water. In Houston alone, the storm and the water releases have claimed more than 130,000 structures and counting.


When I went through Katrina 12 years ago, animal protection groups like The HSUS were the primary safety net for animals. Some first responders left animals behind. Shelters turned people with animals away. We fought with the government to focus some resources on the animal crisis.

Then and there, we vowed to change the legal framework to make sure that animals are not forgotten during disasters. We led the fight for the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS), and that law enacted in 2006 institutionalizes a concern for animals by local and state governments if they hope to get FEMA funds. The law is part of the explanation for the broader cultural awakening to the need to account for the needs of animals.

Today, on-the-ground participants in the disaster response – whether they are doing rescue, shelter, feeding, transportation, supply delivery, or some other essential task – recognize that animals count. They count because they are feeling individuals whose lives and safety matter, and they count because people affected by disasters care about them and love them.

Yesterday, we partnered with Wings of Rescue and GreaterGood.org to fly animals to Seattle. Today, we are working to fly animals to Oregon and also carrying out ground transport with Mutt Nation Foundation to a waystation at the Humane Society of Tulsa in Oklahoma. We are moving animals who were up for adoption prior to the hurricane from Dickinson and League City to our partners in Houston — the Houston Humane Society and Emancipet — who are serving as waystations. Tomorrow, we will again be working with our flight partners to transport animals to Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, our teams on the ground are assisting with assessments of damage and need, and with rescue efforts. We are continuing to make ourselves available to emergency management officials with animal needs in Southeast Texas. In Rockport, where the storm made landfall and where there is severe damage, the team did an assessment last night and is working to get supplies for unmet short-term and long-term needs.

The outpouring of generosity from so many Americans, and indeed from people throughout the world, has been uplifting. I assure you it heartens our team on the ground. And it fortifies our resolve to stay with the animals and the people of southeast Texas for the difficult months ahead, as the physical structures and daily routines are put back in place.

As we did with Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi, and with Sandy in New York and New Jersey, we intend to leave the state of Texas stronger and better off in the aftermath of Harvey, when it comes to animal welfare.

P.S. If you can support this lifesaving work, please donate to our Disaster Relief Fund so we can answer the call when disaster strikes, now and in the future.

Text LOVE to 20222 to donate $10* to the Disaster Relief Fund or donate here»

*Message and data rates may apply. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Terms and conditions can be found at www.hmgf.org/t

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals

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  1. Jim McClenahan says:

    Wayne, you have done a first class job and your hard work is appreciated. Thank you for being so devoted.

  2. Pat says:

    Thanks for putting your own life at risk to help all the animals in need. Hopefully they will all find loving homes soon.

  3. Mary Massey says:

    I do have a question about some of the dogs reportedly being transported to the Tulsa location in conjunction with the Mutt Nation Foundation that the Vets at that shelter were giving sick and injured dogs clean bills of health and allowing transfers? One dog even had a fish hook in the nose and was not, repeat, not treated because ” he wasn’t that bad”. I’m frankly appalled. Are you aware of this and if you are what can of response do you have? If you aren’t aware of this it’s not gossip, it’s fact and was reported publicly. Surely I can’t be the only concerned animal welfare activist questioning this?

    Thank you for your time and consideration

    Mary Massey

  4. Linda Rusche says:

    I give to HSUS monthly.
    I give monthly to ASPCA
    I just gave 100.00 donations to each of the following.
    Gulf Coast Humane Society
    Best Friends Animal Society
    Houston K911
    Houston ASPCA

  5. shelly hansbury says:

    God bless all the organizations and their volunteers involved with the pet rescues, sheltering, and caring for all the animals involved in this horrific catastrophe in Texas… So much loss the victims have suffered in homes but to me none worse than a pet whose missing or didn’t survive, God forbid. Thank YOU all so much in your tireless and determined efforts, you’re all angels of God!

  6. Susan says:

    I thought the PETS Act made it possible for people’s pets to have to be rescued with them when families are being evacuated. In reading several Facebook posts this week from survivors of Hurricane Matthew and this hurricane, they wrote that they had no choice and had to leave the pets behind because they were not allowed by the rescuers to take them. How can this be after Katrina? Do all officials not know about this Act? When people are about to lose their homes and everything they own, how can rescuers ask them to leave their pet family members behind possibly to drown? That’s a valued life! I don’t understand how so many people left their pets behind. How many hundreds had to be rescued and how many hundreds or thousands downed? That must stop!

  7. Gregory Thomas says:

    Will HSUS be providing a detailed list including
    pics of all dogs moved from Houston Humane
    to accepting shelters in the United States. I am
    looking for a Chihuahua that was transferred
    from Beaumont Tx to Houston Humane….Trying
    to find out if she flew out of Houston. Thank you

  8. Roma says:

    Years ago I rescued a young female poodle, Little Bits (aka Bitsy) from the Humane Society. She was a scared, abused, year old little thing who became my best friend. She lived until she was almost 15; dying of cancer. She was a very spoiled and happy fluffy love. I would like to adopt another. They must be a poodle since my spouse has allergies. A small dog, so they can fly and travel. No other pets or children would share their space.

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