Tag Archives: disaster

How You Can Help Animal Shelters in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

September 18, 2017

Natural disasters are devastating, leaving many people without a home, and their personal belongings and family memories forever destroyed.  Animals of all species also fall victim to these horrendous events when they’re left to fend for themselves or accidentally become separated as families attempt to travel to safety.

With the help of search and rescue teams, the animals are brought to the safety of shelters and makeshift facilities in hopes of having them reunited with their families. But the influx of incoming animals can place a strain on resources and displace animals already in the shelter, leaving workers scrambling to find a place for everyone to go. Because of this, donations and support are critical after a disaster, and there are several ways you can help, whether it’s on-site or from afar.

Adopt or Foster a Shelter Animal

How You Can Help Animal Shelters in the Aftermath of a Natural DisasterDave Parker/Flickr

Being inundated with rescued animals is hard on shelters of any size, but it’s especially burdensome on smaller shelters with limited resources and those without a network of foster homes.  And despite their best efforts to house as many animals as possible, some are faced with no other option but to euthanize those already in the shelter to make room for incoming animals.  After a disaster, rescue organizations across the country band together to help take in animals from overwhelmed shelters, but they can’t do it alone.

One way you can help shelters make room – and save lives in the process – is to adopt or offer to be a foster home for animals.  People often make the mistake of thinking that shelters are adopting out animals rescued from the disaster, forever separating them from their families in the process, but that isn’t the case.  The goal in these situations is to move the animals that were already in the shelter, making room for new animals until they can be reunited with their families.

If you don’t live near the disaster area, or you’re unable to adopt, you can always check with your local rescue organizations to see if they need foster homes – and chances are, they do.  Fostering provides relief by creating an opening for the organization to take in additional animals, and you can feel good about knowing that you did your part to help save a life.


The cost of providing food and medical care for animals can add up quickly, putting a financial strain on shelters that aren’t prepared to care for a large number of animals. Monetary donations are always welcome because shelters can use the funds to purchase what they need most, whether it’s food, blankets, medical supplies, or crates to house extra animals.  Unfortunately, donation scams are common after a disaster, so always do your research to make sure your money is going directly to the organization.

Food, treats, litter, gas cards, and cleaning supplies are also a helpful donation if you prefer not to send money.  Before you go shopping, contact the shelter or rescue to see exactly what they need, or see if they have an online “wish list” of donated items.  A large donation of puppy food, for example, won’t benefit an organization that has taken in several litters of kittens.  Checking with them first will help ensure that your donation benefits as many animals as possible. (NOTE:  View K-9 Angels Rescue’s donation options HERE.)


How You Can Help Animal Shelters in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster


The first thing any animal lover wants to do when there are animals in need is offer to volunteer.  But before you plan a road trip to a devastated area, it’s important to have a plan in place.  Disaster areas are incredibly dangerous, and first responders and other agencies are busy trying to save people and animals.  If you want to lend a helping hand, check with national organizations that have a system in place for disaster relief volunteers.  You can also reach out to local organizations to offer assistance with transporting animals from shelters or gathering donated supplies.

Keep in mind that thousands of people step up to help in these situations, so even if an organization doesn’t need your help right away, that doesn’t mean they won’t need it later.  Many organizations located in disaster areas will continue to need help for several months (if not longer) as they recover from the devastation and work to reunite pets with their families, so be patient until an opportunity becomes available.  Interested in volunteering with K-9 Angels Rescue in Houston, TX?  Find more info HERE!

Whatever you decide to do, know that your help is appreciated more than words can ever express.  No good deed is too small, and it’s often the simplest of acts of kindness that have the greatest impact.


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Make a Disaster Plan for Your Pets

The best way to keep your pets safe during an emergency
is to keep them with you.

When disaster strikes, the same rules that apply to people apply to pets: Preparation makes all the difference, and if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.

Take a few minutes to make a plan and assemble this emergency kit for yourself and your pet.

Let’s Get started.

(1)  Start Getting Ready Now

*  ID Your Pet *
Make sure that your pet is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and visible at all times.  You’ll increase your chances of being reunited with a lost pet by having him or her microchipped.  If your pet is adopted from a shelter or rescue organization, make sure the registration has been transferred to you and is not still with the adoption group.

Put your cell phone number on your pet’s tag.  It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area — in case you have had to evacuate.

*  Create Your Disaster Kit *

*  Find a Safe Place to Lodge BEFORE disaster strikes *
Some communities have groups that have solely focused on providing emergency sheltering for pets, and other communities simply don’t have the resources.  That’s why you should never assume that you will be allowed to bring your pet to an emergency shelter.

Before disaster hits call your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and that there will be shelters that take people and their pets in your area.  And just to be safe, track down a pet-friendly safe place for your family and pets.

Find a pet-friendly hotel or motel:

Make arrangements with friends or relatives.  Ask people outside the immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your pets — or just your pets — if necessary.  If you have more than one pet, you may need to arrange to house them at separate locations.

Consider a kennel or veterinarian’s office. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies (include their 24-hour telephone numbers).

Plan for your pet in case you’re not home

A disaster or evacuation order may come when you’re out of the house.

  • Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor or nearby friend or family member to take your pets and meet you at a specified location.  Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with him or her.  Give your emergency caretaker a key to your home and show her or him where your pets are likely to be (or hide) and where your disaster supplies are kept.
  • If you use a pet-sitting service, it may be able to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

* * * * * * *

(2)  If You Evacuate, Take Your Pets

Rule number one:
If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.
  Even if you think you will only be gone for a few hours, take your pets.  You have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able — or allowed — to go back for your pets.

Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, stolen, or killed. Those left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows. And pets turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.  Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.

Rule number two:
Evacuate early
Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order.  Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been ordered to leave their pets behind.

The smell of smoke, high winds or lightening may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier.  Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.

* * * * * * *

(3)  If You Stay Home, Do It Safely

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.  Make that safe area animal friendly:

  • Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.
  • Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.

Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way.  Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them.  Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet’s crate and supplies.  Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.  If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door, or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
  • Listen to the radio periodically, and don’t come out until you know it’s safe.

* * * * * * *

(4)  Keep Taking Care Even After the Disaster

Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.

  • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose.  Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented.  Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house.  If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster.  Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible.  Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation.  If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
  • If your community has been flooded, search your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there.  Stressed wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.

* * * * * * *

(5)  Be Ready for Everyday Emergencies

*  You Can’t Get Home to Your Pet  *
There may be times that you can’t get home to take care of your pets.  Icy roads may trap you at the office overnight, an accident may send you to the hospital — things happen.  But you can make sure your pets get the care they need by making arrangements now:

  • Find a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member and give him or her a key to your house or barn.  Make sure this back-up caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa).
  • Make sure your back-up caretaker knows your pets’ whereabouts and habits.
  • Let your back-up caretaker know where your pets’ food is and where you normally feed them and keep their water bowl, and if they need any medication.
  • If you use a pet sitting service, find out in advance if they will be able to help in case of an emergency.

*  Heat Wave  *
High temperatures don’t just make your pets uncomfortable; they can be dangerous.  Here are basic guidelines for summer safety.

  • Never leave your pets in a parked car.  Not even for a minute.  Not even with the car running and air conditioner on.  (Download our “Hot Car” flyer)
  • Watch the humidity. Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association says, “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body.  If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels — very quickly.”
  • Don’t rely on a fan.  They don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
  • Provide lots of shade and water.  Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water.  A doghouse does not provide relief from heat — in fact, it makes it worse.
  • Limit exercise on hot days to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets who, because of their short noses, typically have difficulty breathing.  Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.
  • Look for signs of heatstroke, including heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
  • Treat suspected heatstroke immediately.  Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area.  Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her.  Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.  Take her directly to a veterinarian.

Learn MORE about hot weather safety.

*  The Electricity Goes Out  *
Keep your pets with you.  If you’re forced to leave your home because you’ve lost electricity, take your pets.  If it’s summer, even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat, whether outdoors in a yard or inside an apartment, mobile home, or house, can be dangerous.  Find a pet friendly hotel.  If it’s winter, don’t be fooled by your pets’ fur coats; it isn’t safe to leave them in an un-heated house.

If you stay at home during a summer power outage, ask your local emergency management office if there are pet-friendly cooling centers in the area.

* * * * * * *

Plans aren’t just for pets

Disaster plans aren’t only essential for the safety of pets.  If you’re responsible for other kinds of animals during natural disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor cats, horses, and animals on farms can be life-savers.

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