Monday, May 14, 2007

Animal Victims of Disaster - New Legislation, A Step in the Right Direction

When Hurricane Katrina devestated the Gulf Coast concerned citizens from all over the country rushed to help the most helpless victims of all, the family pets. People were forced by rescue officials to leave behind their dogs and cats, knowing that they were sentencing a beloved animal to death by drowning or starvation. And if the animal did survive, the chances of a reunion with its family were slim at best.

Before climbing into boats to save their own lives, pet owners secured their animals as best they could and wrote loving pleas on the walls of their homes. "This is Blake. Please help him. Don't hurt him. He's a good dog."

Animal Rescue organizations quickly mobilized and went to work wading through toxic flood waters and breaking down doors to save the pets left behind. Weeks after the storm, dehydrated and emaciated dogs were coaxed off roof tops and into the arms of volunteers who whisked them away to waiting Vets at Triage Centers. One amazing German Shepard survived for seventy-one days by licking the mold from the walls as the flood waters receded. He waited loyally in his home for his owners to come back, only to be tossed aside when they returned for their belongings.

Animals were taken as far away as shelters in Pheonix, Arizona to be fostered and cared for in hopes of reuniting the pets with worried families. Some were found. There are miraculous stories of owners searching tirelessly for the past two years for news of their pets. One woman went so far as to go to court to retrieve her pet from a foster family that had adopted and bonded with her dog.
The Humane Society lobbied congress and were successful in their bid to pass the PETS Act, which requires each state to make a disaster relieve plan for household pets and service animals. This is certainly a step forward but some animal advocates believe it is only a band-aide on a serious situation.

States are not required nor can the the Federal Government force the states to fund these emergency plans, except by withholding funding for other programs. Most concerned organizations believe that will never happen and in the event of another disaster the facilities for animals will fall by the wayside.

They believe that it will, again, take the efforts of concerned volunteer groups and individuals rising to the occassion. It takes heart as well as money and planning. It takes people helping people because they can't stand to see anymore pain and suffering. It takes mobilization of average "Joes" to truly make an impact.

The dedicated and tireless efforts of Average Americans saved the lives of nearly 10,000 animals stranded in the aftermath of Katrina. Two years later, volunteers are still working to find homes for lost and unrecovered pets.

The problem of abandoned and homeless animals is an ongoing issue. Disasters like Katrina are acute but the situation is a chronic one. 9.2 million animals are euthenized every year in our country. There are many avenues to provide help from donating food to your local shelters, to spaying and neutering your own pets, to working with fostering organizations taking in homeless pets until a permenant situation can be found.

A great place to start and get ideas is Muttshack is filled with useful information and ways to animal at a time.

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