To the res­cue, wading through flood­wa­ters in Texas

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Wayne Pa­celle Spe­cial to WiG

Dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, in 2005, it felt like the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States and other an­i­mal groups not only fought surg­ing wa­ters, rain and wind, but also some gov­ern­ment agen­cies and key pri­vate agen­cies whose lead­ers just didn’t get it when it came to an­i­mal wel­fare.

In the early stages of that re­sponse, some first re­spon­ders had in­struc­tions not to take an­i­mals to safety, de­spite the plead­ings of their care­givers.

Hu­man shel­ters — which filled up be­cause of manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders — ex­cluded an­i­mals, caus­ing some peo­ple to refuse to leave their homes, be­cause they wouldn’t aban­don their best friends.

The inat­ten­tive­ness to the bond be­tween an­i­mals and the peo­ple who care about them put ev­ery­body at risk, and it un­der­mined and com­pli­cated the disas­ter re­sponse.

It also meant an­i­mal pro­tec­tion groups had to mount the largest-ever pet res­cue op­er­a­tion to find pets trapped in homes, es­pe­cially in New Or­leans, which would be shut­tered to its res­i­dents for weeks be­cause of the levee break and mas­sive flood­ing.

A dozen years later, we looked on the im­mense dam­age that Hur­ri­cane Har­vey has wrought in Texas and Louisiana — drop­ping more than 14 tril­lion gal­lons of wa­ter over an area larger than the state of New Jersey. This time, though, it was ev­i­dent there’s been a sea change in at­ti­tudes to­wards pets.

The gov­ern­ment and hu­man-fo­cused char­i­ties get it now, rec­og­niz­ing that for disas­ter re­sponse to work, they must take into ac­count the an­i­mals and the hu­manan­i­mal


Res­cuers in Texas carry cats from flood­wa­ters pro­duced by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

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