Our FPPE team has so many big hearted and passionate dog professionals. I love when a subject moves them to take action and reach out! Here is a great share from
The Midwest was recently hit by terrible storms. Wind took out trees and power lines, heavy rain filled our streams, lakes and creeks to the point that they were unrecognizable as the recreational places we know them to be. My own home was overrun by a creek that is nearly 500 yards behind my property line, filling the basement with nearly 4 feet of water. My job as a Humane Educator and dog trainer made my disaster instincts kick in. Immediately the dumpster company was called, the power company, and of course, the kennel where my dogs stay when we are out of town, to help ensure that they wouldn’t be stressed by all of the comings and goings of the electrician, cleaning crew and dozens of others that would cross our threshold in the ensuing days of cleanup.
What a mess! I was saddened at the loss of photo albums, family pictures and yearbooks and frustrated that our kids “teenage hangout” had been destroyed. Furniture, flooring, an entire library of books, a piano, treadmill and so much more filled two dumpsters as we began the long journey. It has been 4 weeks; drywall has been removed and new walls built and electrical re-wired, furniture ordered, wood floors removed and new concrete poured to be ready for the next time…
Then the news of Moore, Oklahoma came across the television. I can talk to people day and night about preparing for a disaster with our pets; keep paperwork and vet files together in a Ziploc bag, a crate with food, water, any medications, etc. prepared that is ready to pick up and go. Keep a list of pet-friendly hotels to call last minute in case of evacuation. That is all important, helpful information…unless you happen to be taking cover in your basement or bathroom when a tornado rips your home off the foundation and your loved ones along with it. Then what?
Watching the rescue teams and news crews trudge through devastated neighborhoods, hearing people calling for family member of the two and four-legged variety, seeing Animal Response Teams jump into action tore at my heart. All I could think about was, how do you recover your pet when you have no home to bring it back to? How many emergency shelters can house “found” animals for weeks at a time?
I was thrilled when a dog training client of mine called to ask about organizing a supply drive. Her children and their scout troops are canvassing the neighborhood to solicit pet food, blankets, towels, cleaning supplies, toys, crates, etc. A local trucker has offered to deliver the supplies at no cost. However, from the perspective of someone who works for an animal shelter, my thoughts can’t help but go back to “so now where do they go?” Relief hit when I did some research and found that in response to Hurricane Katrina, government agencies were formed that work with HSUS and ASPCA. These organizations have highly-trained agents who work diligently to accept lost/found animals. They photograph each one and assign an identification number, micro-chip the animal, provide emergency Veterinary care and whenever possible, contact owners to come pick up their pet. If this isn’t possible, the agencies find temporary housing. It may not be close, and it may not be the circumstances I would want my pet to be living in, but it is safe shelter and when owners come forward to claim their beloved pets, these agencies can let them know exactly where their pet is staying and help them get back to their rightful owners. Phew! That made me feel a bit better.
Of course, in my head it isn’t over there. I start to wonder about safe housing in general. What happens to families that are displaced for other reasons? Home foreclosures have certainly brought many heart-wrenching surrenders to our shelter doors in recent years. Going back to my work as an educator, I can only wonder about The Link studies that shed light on the commonalities between animal abuse and domestic violence. Research shows that 65% of women in a shelter who had pets that had been abused reported that they delayed leaving their own homes – risking their own safety and that of their family out of concern for their pet. Who helps these families? How many of these pets end up in high kill shelters? How many could be saved if there was a national “Safe Housing” plan for families in this type of situation. How many times might a family that has already suffered the trauma of abuse, being victimized and losing their home be given a little peace of mind that their beloved pet is safe and waiting for them to get back on their feet?
Certainly, there is something to be done. Alas, a new challenge has presented itself in my life – it is not finishing my basement (but fingers crossed that will be done soon) it is not sending money or supplies (my kindly client is on that one) it is something larger. My challenge is to find a way to give peace of mind to already torn apart families. To provide temporary housing to animals who have already suffered and to provide an opportunity for parents to get their families to a safe place where they know their beloved pet, who offers the unconditional love only a furry-friend can give, will be safe as well. My goal is to ensure that our families and their pets suffer no more. So, I’m on a new journey to ensure no more “Ruff” housing. Wish me luck!