In light of recent disasters, consider how you can help 
vulnerable pets in our area

With the deluge of recent natural disasters happening around the world, I am thankful to live in this beautiful area that is typically devoid of such occurrences. As images of hurricanes and earthquakes expose worldwide devastation on television screens, our hearts and prayers go out to all of the folks who have faced the wrath of Mother Nature most recently.

I think for most of us who watch the destruction from the comfort of our homes, we desire to help those affected by the storm or natural disaster by donating food, clothing or money. Deciding on which charity to donate to can be a difficult decision, however, because there are so many groups involved in recovery efforts. The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are always good organizations to support, as they are usually the first on the scene.

However, I remember watching Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and feeling like I should help with the animals. CNN reported the New Orleans Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued an estimated 15,000 pets after that horrific incident. Unfortunately, more than 90,000 area pets were never accounted for.

While the effects of Hurricane Katrina took years to unravel, there were beneficial concepts in rescue attempts that grew from the catastrophe. Organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and Best Friends Animal Society began collaborating efforts to better establish rescue policies in the wake of natural disasters.

According to the Mother Nature Network, long before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma ever made landfall, crews had already evacuated animals from local shelters sure to be affected by the storms. The organization, Wings of Rescue, a volunteer-based group that relies solely on donations, began flying animals out of shelters in advance of the storms in both Texas and Florida. They have flown animals to no-kill shelters all over the country in preparation for the inevitable influx of animals.

Temporary animal shelters were set up in warehouses, stockpiled with supplies, in the areas that were to be hardest hit by the storms. Volunteer crews worked around the clock prior to the storms making landfall to evacuate as many animals as they could. Another organization,, donated crates, vaccines and other medications in preparation for the aftermath of the storms.

Best Friends Animal Society’s webpage at explains how they partnered with local shelters and other organizations once the storms passed to reunite pets and their families. Facebook pages were created to share information about lost and found pets.,, and are websites that help facilitate reuniting lost pets and their families. Additionally, mobile apps VetsPlusMore and Finding Rover for Apple or Android devices are databases of rescued animals for people to search.

Technology advancement has undoubtedly helped reunite lost animals with their families. Many of these websites and Facebook pages have pictures and descriptions of the rescued animals that help people identify their pets. Communications via the internet have benefited organizations, shelters and volunteer groups in establishing a network of resources for the many displaced animals.

With the back-to-back occurrence of the hurricanes, however, many of these organizations are completely overwhelmed. And now it seems that Hurricane Maria is going to further exhaust their efforts. Add to that the earthquakes that are rattling the globe — are there enough resources to help with all of these natural disasters?

For those of us untouched by the recent wrath of Mother Nature, we can help by giving to any of these organizations. Most of their websites ask that people send money, not supplies, as each natural disaster has unique circumstances relevant to their needs. Other ways we can help is to support our own local shelters and organizations. As many animals were moved to shelters around the country, maybe now is a good time to adopt a new pet. By volunteering at one of our local shelters or becoming a foster parent, we can help the lost and lonely animals in our own community.

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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