President’s Message:

Don´t Abandon Animals During Natural Disasters

Anyone reading this message undoubtedly is worried about the fate of the New Orleans and Gulf Coast animals – and there is much to worry about.

Several years ago, NYSHA board member Jack Woods and I served on a task force working with the NYS Chapter of the American Red Cross to develop plans for the care of companion animals during a disaster. Many states already had made preparations, and the Red Cross recognized the importance of “pets” and the need to care for them along with their human families.

For years now, the emotional, mental, and physical benefits of the companion animal/human bond have been recognized. After the World Trade Center attacks, therapy dogs, gently guided by their handlers, walked through the relief centers giving comfort during a time of inexpressible grief.

When both NYSHA board member Jeff Eyre and former administrator Samantha Mullen recently returned from New Orleans, they reported that the need for animal rescue and care will continue for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, several other NYSHA board members will be volunteering soon.

Obviously, one of the cruelest blows that Katrina and Rita dealt was to people with companion animals. What a choice to make: evacuate and leave beloved pets behind (since Red Cross and other shelters for humans would not accept them) or risk possible death by remaining with them.

Why were people asked to make this decision? Do none of the people at FEMA have animals? Do none of them love their pets? Would they all leave them?

Obviously, one of the cruelest blows that Katrina and Rita dealt was to people with companion animals. What a choice to make: evacuate and leave beloved pets behind (since Red Cross and other shelters for humans would not accept them) or risk possible death by remaining with them.

Why were people asked to make this decision? Do none of the people at FEMA have animals? Do none of them love their pets? Would they all leave them? These are not just rhetorical questions. I would ask FEMA management and staff if I could.

In addition to all the devastation to homes and property, asking people to abandon their animals is unspeakably insensitive and cruel.

FEMA and all other government and relief agencies need to recognize that it is unethical to separate non-human victims from the tragedy that is occurring and simply treat them as another piece of property. As we all know, they are family, too.

When the response of FEMA to this disaster is analyzed, the lack of concern shown for the humane/animal bond must be examined. And when the agency revamps its plans, accommodation for pets must be factored in for the benefit of both the animals and the people who cherish them.

I urge you to contact your congressional representatives and senators to demand that this issue be addressed. Contact information is at congress.org. Please let’s not allow this inhumanity toward both people and animals to be repeated.

As always, for the animals,

Laura-Ann Cammisa
President


New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XX, No.3, Fall 2005.

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