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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 15 November 2005 Issue

by Judith Marie Gansen

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

Like everyone else who has a heart for humans and animals, I watched the coverage of the many hurricanes our country has endured and prayed and sobbed my eyes out.  I wanted to write about the disaster but initially was too overcome with grief--the images will haunt me forever.  The people and animals in New Orleans particularly deserved alot better than they got and those responsible for not having a better response must be held accountable--no matter their political party or what rock they crawled out from under. 

Many victims were poor people and people of color.  And the elderly.  And single moms. I was furious--I called the White House and Congress--anyone I could think of to help those people.  While this was a huge storm, they knew it was coming and there simply is no excuse for how bad things got.  I said to my husband I wonder if this disaster was about to hit Beverly Hills how prepared the government would have been.  The Bible says it is no crime to be poor.

My husband and I tried to so some things to help both the human and animal victims--donate some money, food and supplies and drove rescue items to where they were needed. Judging by the ferocity of the tornados and hurricanes lately, I think we can all agree we need to act now to protect our planet and realize that Global Warming is not a myth.  It was predicted storms would get worse and they are.  Also the wetland area by New Orleans I read had been removed so the area could be developed.  How sad they didn't listen to those who said that it helped to protect the city from storms and was needed.   Wetland areas are nature's water purifiers and act as buffer zones as well as being homes for many species of animals--they must be protected.

Some Ideas for Houses in Hurricane or Flood Prone Areas

Sadly many people died during these disasters because they made it to their attic but got trapped there, unable to get to the roof.  How much does an ax and crowbar cost?  Put them in every attic as part of a home's safety kit.  Keep a rescue kit with provisions in the attic too in a secure plastic container as well as one for your pets--a spare kennel cab too or dog muzzles and leashes (this will prove to people your dog isn't a threat to bite anyone--practice putting the muzzle on for short periods and give them a super treat after).  Have I.D. on your pets at all times--how many people are regretting they didn't do that now?

Building codes could be changed in these areas too--why not some kind of escape hatch to the roof?  Or why not include in the building code tools in the attic to punch through the roof?  Building codes are in place for things like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, why not for floods?

Demand that houses be built stronger--you can do this when houses are first built much cheaper than adding safety features later.  Houses can often stand up to hurricanes and even tornados if things like concrete and steel frames are used.  Put shutters on homes and/or special reinforced glass.  Trade off the fancy features you were going to put on a house you are building and instead use that money to build them stronger--you will save on insurance costs too.  By building houses so cheaply and so easy to be destroyed by storms as we do now, the costs are passed on to all of us in higher insurance rates not to mention the deaths and suffering they cause.

If you are getting ready to build anything from a hospital  to a school or an animal sanctuary, maybe putting it in a place where it will be in harm's way isn't the best idea--the land may be cheap but you may pay bigtime later on.

Should I Take My Pet?

In most cases if you have money and you have to think about that question, you don't have a pet, you have a dog or cat who happen to share the same address.  However, many of the Katrina people had no way to evacuate because they were poor and many buses wouldn't allow pets.  There is pending legislation to change that so this NEVER happens again!!  People also put themselves in harm's way to go back and rescue their pets too.  Many died BECAUSE they refused to leave their beloved pet.  Call, write, fax and email and get this bill moving now!!!  or      
Federal Bill for Pets in Disasters

I also read one account which said that about 400 pets got out because smart people found ways to hide their pets.  I would assume these were toy dogs and very small pets.  I sat down with our largest dog and tried to decide if she could fit between my legs if I was sitting on a bus--she wouldn't take away any space for another person.  Maybe a 150 pound dog would take up more space but couldn't the person next to me scrunch up alittle?  I would do that so a person's pet would fit. 

One friend said to me what about her asthma--she is allergic to dogs and could get into trouble getting on a bus with pets.  In any good safety kit especially for someone with respiratory problems, it would be a good idea to have some face masks and backup meds--any disaster brings with it dust and allergens.  Perhaps a few buses could be designated --"pet free for people with health issues."  Or have the pet buses leave last--I am sure they would not mind waiting to evacuate if they could bring their pets with them!

I saw one couple interviewed in one area who said they refused to evacuate because of their dog--they couldn't find a motel that allowed pets.  Duh!!!  If a mandatory evacuation has been ordered, for God's sake, leave if you can!!  Worry later about where to stay.  We would sleep in the car with our dogs or on the street if we had to as I mentioned in a previous article.  There are motels who will allow pets during emergencies--thanks to those motels who do this, you are awesome!!

How about if humane societies and shelters allow evacuees with their pets to stay with them?  Many did this during the storms but how about an official policy for all humane societies and shelters and fairgrounds?

The Biggest Enemy of Disaster Safety - "It Won't Happen To Me"

Nearly every area of our country has places where a disaster can occur.  Earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes are what most people think of but what about nuclear power plant accidents, chemical plants or do you live near railroad tracks--what kinds of toxic items may be shipped that way?  Or do you live by a highway where a crashed semi trailer may require the evacuation of everyone for 1,000 miles?  What about mud slides or forest fires or rock slides that can close roads in mountainous areas? 

Think about where you live and what you could end up being involved in.  Think about all those who depend on you for their lives both in your own family and your neighbors--, children, the elderly, pets and physically, mentally and sight challenged.  Do you have a plan for them too?

I get teased a lot about having safety equipment everywhere--in our home and our 2 vehicles and often give a safety kit as a gift.  Hopefully, it's something that will never have to be used--but it will be worth the cost of gold if you ever need it!

Staff:  Animals in Print 
(free online animal publication)

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter (my editorials on mostly animal issues--if you email me please indicate in the subject column it is about one of my articles so it doesn't get deleted as spam--thanks)
[email protected]
"We exist to educate and through compassion and knowledge improve the lives of all beings."

These photos were taken by unknown rescuers
To enlarge the photos, click on the photos or links

(Photo - 01)
The story begins with the rescuers finding this poor little guy that someone had already taken under their wing but weren't equipped to adopt;

(Photo - 02)
so Ralphie, scared and nearly starved joined the rescuers

(Photo - 03)
I wouldn't think anyone or anything could live thru this

(Photo - 04)
but this sweet little beagle lady did

(Photo - 05)
scared but safe

(Photo - 06)
and no longer alone!

(Photo - 07)
Can y'all say "instant pals"

(Photo - 08)
Add two more beagles

(Photo - 09)  and life really is good again

(Photo - 10)  hmmmmm- a new traveler is added to the mix - how is this going to work???

(Photo - 11)  It's going to work just fine, thank you!

(Photo - 12)  One big happy family

Go on to QUOTE: Speaking Out Against Animal Abuse
Return to Animals in Print 15 November 2005 Issue

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