Katrina's Animal Rescue
Ask the Rescuers: Changing Evacuation Policies

Changing Evacuation Policies

Question: How can we make sure that people are evacuated with their pets in future disasters? Do you think the federal government has had their eyes and hearts opened by what happened to animals during Katrina?

Jane Garrison
Search and Rescue Professional and Founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans

The only way to prevent animals from being left behind during disasters is to change laws and policies. We need the government to pass legislation that allows people to be evacuated with their animals. We also need to force the government to provide shelters for people that allow animals so people don’t ever have to choose between a place to stay and their animals.

I believe that this devastating event has changed people’s hearts and minds. There is pending legislation that would require agencies that receive funding for evacuation to also provide for animals. This is critical for both humans and animals. Many of the people who died from Hurricane Katrina did not evacuate because they did not want to leave their animals. These deaths were so unnecessary. “If I leave, they leave” has been my motto. I hope that others will join me in a unified voice to make sure that animals are never, ever left again only to die lonely deaths behind closed doors.

Dave Pauli
Regional Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

“Animals in disasters — don’t leave home without them!” has been a consistent message since the mid-1990s. There are good and bad examples of the message getting out to the public. Prior to Hurricane Rita, state and federal officials encouraged people to evacuate with their animals. But during Hurricane Wilma, Floridians did not receive the message, and the human and animal evacuation from the Florida Keys was pitiful. The message needs to be consistent and constant: Take your animals with you. Make sure to have a shelter plan for your entire family. It is always preferred that you evacuate with your animals, but if local jurisdictions do not allow this, you need to leave your animals with several weeks’ supply of food and water.

Dr. Debra Campbell
I believe that this crisis cost the federal government hundreds of thousands of dollars, and opened the eyes of many in regards to how deep relationships can be between animals and humans. Reforms were put in place prior to Rita, and evacuees were allowed to take their pets.

Question: Do you think that animal organizations will come together on a national level to work at putting together special emergency shelters for pets alongside shelters for their human companions?

Jane Garrison
Search and Rescue Professional and Founder of Animal Rescue New Orleans

It is an excellent idea for national animal organizations to work with those that set up human shelters. Animal shelters can then be set up either next to human shelters or in close proximity. The public must come together and urge the government to pass this crucial legislation.
Veterinarian, Veterinary Medical Assistant Teams (VMAT)

Dave Pauli
Regional Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

I also serve as President of the Montana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD). Earlier this year I attended a VOAD conference and met with FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALS) that work with local groups nationwide. VALS were interested in freestanding animal shelters adjacent to human shelters or as components of American Red Cross shelters. We had a pet shelter adjacent to the human shelter at Lamar-Dixon for the 1,700 residents to house their pets.

There are both legislative and interagency efforts to unite human rescue groups with animal rescue groups in times of disaster. Debriefings and conferences will be held in December, January, and May. The Katrina and Rita responses will be the primary discussion of these interagency meetings.

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