Public education, laws, and corporate policies – invaluable and essential to our cause, and able in the end to prevent cruelty to millions of animals – can take years to enact and still longer to achieve their full effect. There are times when other forms of urgent action are also necessary, and few things can turn around circumstances for animals quite so fast and dramatically as emergency response and rescue. Alerted to animals in distress, our Animal Rescue Team may deploy in mere hours, transforming the lives of animals between sunup and sundown, extracting them from the most dire circumstances and delivering them safely into care and eventually into the hands of people who will forever hold them tight.
In 2016, our teams were there for more than 300 dogs and more than 100 other animals in a northern Georgia puppy mill and hoarding case.
This year, they were in New Hampshire to disassemble a most unexpected puppy mill operation – 84 Great Danes caged inside a cavernous home where they should have been treated like canine kings and queens. The mansion looked stately and opulent from the outside, but when our team members entered the dwelling, they discovered something totally at odds with the elegant facade. They told me that the first thing that hit them was an overpowering rancid and putrid smell, with ammonia levels so high in some rooms that the rescuers’ eyes teared up. Feces and dirt were smeared across all the walls to the point where the windows were opaque.
Our teams were also there for animals in large-scale neglect cases, animal fighting rings, and other human-caused circumstances that threatened their health, their minds, and their bodies.
Finally, our teams were there for animals in natural disasters. This year strained our capacity like never before, with emergency events that came one after another.
Today, on #GivingTuesday we highlight the important and lifesaving work done by this arm of The HSUS.
This year alone, our teams in both the United States and abroad delivered the full scope of our services in more than one dozen deployments, from California to New Hampshire and from Puerto Rico to Mexico, in response to hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma, and the earthquakes in Mexico. They assisted more than 15,000 animals in all– about the sum total of all animals rescued during Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.
Our rescuers waded through flood waters to pull out animals stranded in homes. Our veterinarians treated animals pulled from the wreckage of fallen buildings. Our animal care personnel tended to wounds delivered by flying debris, weaponized by 150-mile-per-hour winds.
This is work that crushes the heart but lifts the spirit. It is painful to see any animal in distress, but it is also empowering to be able to turn the lives of these souls around. With the right equipment, staff, and training, along with unmistakable resolve, our teams answer the call.
It is an ensemble cast that’s required to deliver animals from severe distress to security. We work with law enforcement officials to build cases and to intervene and take animals from unsafe, unsanitary, and unfit conditions. We work with public agencies and private shelters to set up temporary housing, transporting the rescued animals, and immediately delivering them to the care of veterinarians and species experts who offer some of the first touches of human kindness. And we work in close concert with our Emergency Placement Partners to provide funding for critical medical care as the animals recover, and short-term care that connects animals with loving adopters.
All of this work depends upon you. It requires dollars to support expert investigations, to equip our team with transport vehicles and boats, to set up emergency shelters, to buy medicines, to house volunteers, and so much more. Caring for the rescued Great Danes in New Hampshire this year alone has cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, because animals in grim circumstances are often ill and need intense and sustained medical care and behavioral attention. Our rescue and recovery work in Puerto Rico will cost millions in the end, as we do our best to get animals and the people who care about them nourished and back on their feet.
For #GivingTuesday today, our goal is to raise funds to help continue the lifesaving work of our Animal Rescue Team. For every $1 you donate today, HALO Pet Food will donate a bowl of food – for up to $200,000 — to help feed the animals we rescue and the many animals our partners care for every day.
I hope you’ll consider making a gift, so that the members of our intrepid Animal Rescue Team and our other colleagues can continue to bring hope and help to the animals who desperately need it. When so many people are rushing out of dangerous areas, it’s our team members who rush in.