HSI deploys to assist with rescue efforts in Beirut; HSUS transporting dogs, cats out of storm path in Gulf Coast
Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International rescue teams are now deploying to assist people and their pets in multiple disaster-affected areas, including Beirut, Lebanon, the site of a massive chemical explosion earlier this month, and parts of the United States that lie in the path of two tropical storms.
An HSI team landed in Beirut last week, where the explosion on August 4th left people and their pets struggling for survival. Due to the effects of the global pandemic and other recent ongoing political and economic challenges, hundreds of pets in Beirut and other communities had been abandoned or turned into shelters because people couldn’t afford to care for them. Since the explosion, which killed 180 people, the crisis has only worsened.
Our staff, led by HSI’s Kelly Donithan, has been assisting a local organization, Animals Lebanon, with coordinating rescue efforts. Together, we are scouring the blast zone to rescue dogs and cats and, when possible, reunite them with owners. Many of the animals are injured (some badly) and in dire need of medical help. In many cases their owners are unable to care for them right now because they are injured themselves or have lost their homes.
But even amidst all the suffering, there is so much heartening evidence of the close bond between people and their companion animals.
One of the animals we were looking for was Anoushka, a cat reported missing after the explosion. Her owner had been blinded by flying glass and is still in a wheelchair with an injured leg. It was clear to see he loved his four cats, and luckily our team did find Anoushka, although she was hiding under a structure and was still very shy and nervous. She has evaded all attempts to capture her, but our team has been using recordings of her owner calling her name and has set a trap. We will not give up until she’s reunited with the rest of her family.
We’ve also been feeding stray cats in the area, delivering food to pet owners, and we are helping to look after animals whose owners have claimed them but cannot take them immediately because they’ve lost their homes.
As many as the challenges in Beirut are, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, we are eager to help. HSI has some of the best responders in the field in conducting international disaster animal rescue work; they have waded through flood waters in India, dug through earthquake rubble in Mexico, and rescued animals after the tsunami in Indonesia. Over years of doing such work, we have developed a response strategy that includes swift assessment, appropriate relief and support.
In the United States, our HSUS teams are now deploying to assist with the double threat of tropical storms Marco and Laura heading for the Gulf Coast. So far we’ve evacuated 226 shelter pets, including 152 dogs and 74 cats, and are transporting them to our incredible shelter and rescue partners in North Carolina and Tennessee.
This morning, our Animal Rescue Team was on the ground in Gulfport, Mississippi, loading up pets from the Humane Society of South Mississippi. The animals are headed to our partner groups, Nashville Humane Association, Humane Society of Charlotte, Humane Society of Asheville and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, North Carolina, and McKamey Animal Center in Chattanooga.
We have also reached out to several of our shelter partners to deploy and assist with the evacuations, and staff responders from the Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga arrived at Louisiana SPCA to pick up a group of pets; a rescue trailer from Wayside Waifs of Kansas City, Missouri, drove down to Jefferson Parish Louisiana to pick up animals; and staff from the Beaumont Animal Shelter in Texas delivered pets available for adoption to the San Antonio Animal Care facility to empty out their shelter. We are supporting these partners with funding to ensure that we get as many animals as possible out of harm’s way.
In California, where wildfires are raging, we are in touch with animal response agencies and stand ready to assist if needed. If you are in an area affected by the fires and need help with your animals, please contact your local animal control or emergency management agency. Here also are some tips on making a disaster plan for your pets and putting together a disaster preparedness kit. You can also watch our video for evacuating pets safely during the pandemic.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by these disasters, and we’ll continue to update you on the progress of our efforts here and in Beirut. Meanwhile, please consider supporting our lifesaving work with your donations. We are able to maintain strong, trained animal rescue teams–ready to deploy when disasters strike or other emergencies arise–because of the support of people like you who care.