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In Disaster-Torn States, Small Animals Miss the Radar

Portability and disaster preparedness keep small pets out of shelters in recent disasters.

By Rachael Brugger
Posted: July 9, 2008, 11 a.m. EDT

hamster in cage
Photo Courtesy of Amy Mistali
Rescue organizations believe that because of their more portable nature, people who are evacuating are taking their pets with them.

As the northern California wildfires and Midwest floods and storms tore apart the lives of people across the United States, humane societies and other animal welfare organizations have worked to make sure pet victims in those regions survived the disasters as well.

But while rescue services were graciously received, it appears as though prior education throughout the pet community made efforts by these organizations easier than anticipated.

“We took in no more than 20 animals total,” said Bliss Fisher of Animal Care and Control in Mendocino County, Calif. “The people in this county are doing exactly what we have been telling them to do. They are preparing for this, and they are taking their pets with them.”

While the shelter, the only designated animal shelter in Mendocino County, opened its services to all animals that were not livestock, those 20 animals included only cats and dogs and not other small pets.

“There just hasn’t been a need for evacuation,” Bliss said. “I really do think people are starting to include pets in that evacuation plan for their families.”

In St. Louis, Mo., the Humane Society of Missouri has helped nearly 3,000 animals since January 2008 in Iowa and Missouri that faced a disaster crisis, said Jeane Jae, the organization’s director of communications. Named by the State Emergency Management Agency as the lead animal welfare organization in times of disaster, the humane society has not seen a rise in the number of small animals coming to its shelters and has not been asked for additional assistance with pet small animals due to financial or disaster situations.

“We believe that because of their more portable nature, people who are evacuating are taking our advice and taking their pets with them,” Jae said.

In Indiana, Morgan County was the hardest hit by storms in the state, according to Sarah Hayes, director of the Monroe County Humane Association in Bloomington, Ind. The Morgan County Humane Society could not be reached for a comment, but a message on its voicemail box said that the shelter housed 55 animal flood victims.

According to Hayes, an animal rescue center in Morgan County flooded, so other shelters in the area banded together to provide aid for the animals.

“We all helped get the animals out of that situation. Some of the animals were held in the Morgan County Shelter and then the city of Bloomington animal shelter,” Hayes said.

Again, most of the animals in need were dogs and cats. While the Bloomington shelter, which runs in conjunction with the Monroe County Humane Association, took in a large amount of rabbits, Hayes said that those numbers cannot be attributed to flood displacement.

Umbrella organizations, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), have been assisting the humane societies and shelters in their grassroots efforts. According to Tiffany Mahaffey, the disaster preparedness manager, the ASPCA donated nearly $15,000 to Midwest shelters affected by the flooding, and provided a $12,000 grant to the Morgan County Shelter to assist in the care of 250 dogs and cats displaced by flooding. She said that currently, the ASPCA has not been asked for assistance with the California fires.

To prepare you and your small pet for a disaster situation, be sure to have emergency supplies on hand. Keep these supplies, including extra food, water, treats, medications and toys, in an airtight container near your travel carrier and pet first aid kit. Also create an information packet with your small pet’s records, emergency contact information and current pictures. Finally, put a sign up in your house, notifying emergency crews that you have a small pet that needs rescue in an emergency situation. provides resources to prepare for a disaster situation.

For additional information on how to prepare you and your small pet for a disaster situation, contact your local humane society.

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In Disaster-Torn States, Small Animals Miss the Radar

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Reader Comments
I thought this was a good article and glad that animals are being thought of and taken care of in emergency situations.
Colleen, Susquehanna, PA
Posted: 7/14/2008 11:52:50 PM
Hamsters have Radar!?!?
Cajun, hobo-town, LA
Posted: 7/13/2008 1:03:23 AM
That's awful.
Bugsy, Hornetsville, MA
Posted: 7/9/2008 10:25:14 PM
It's about time people think of their pets in a crisis. We all learned from Katrina!
Karen, Standish, ME
Posted: 7/9/2008 6:30:45 PM
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