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How animal rescue teams respond in emergencies

When disaster strikes, it’s not only people that are impacted—it’s their pets, too. With an increasing number of natural disasters, as well as a rise in pet ownership, it’s important that animals are considered in these emergencies. 

Luckily, numerous organizations have teams dedicated to responding to animals in disasters. One of them is the Humane Society of the United States. Its Animal Rescue and Response team, which has both an international and national side, helps animals not only in natural disasters but in cruelty cases too.

Diane Robinson, program manager for the national disaster services team for HSUS, shared more about her work on the podcast, “People Are Animals Too, Darnit!” with host Mandy Evans. Evans is also executive director of Idaho’s Better Together Animal Alliance. 

Getting Called Upon to Help

Let’s say a disaster is looming. The HSUS, or any, disaster response team can’t just jump in and help. It first has to be called upon by the jurisdictional authority where the disaster is happening. This can be at various levels, like municipal, county or state. For example, a local municipal organization that is responsible for animals in disasters can invite the HSUS to come in.

Sometimes members of the public will ask why an organization isn’t responding to a disaster, but it’s because they have to be asked.

“Facebook isn’t necessarily the best indicator of what the need really is,” said Robinson. “[If] there’s not a need, it’s just going to burden the response,”

The HSUS Animal Rescue and Response team isn’t the only organization that has animal-focused disaster response teams. Other national organizations, like the ASPCA, have them, too. States may have them as well. 

There have been some disasters that multiple national response teams deployed to and others that none of them were invited to respond to. It just depends on the need. 

Providing Specific Services

Once help is requested, the HSUS disaster response team provides the specific service that was requested. These services can vary. For example, during a flood, maybe the boat team would be asked to activate. The team will get ready, stage as close as safely possible and then go into help as soon as the disaster passes.

Other services the disaster response team can provide include setting up and running temporary animal shelters and sending out animal search and rescue teams. 

The HSUS disaster response team always tries to bring in as many resources as possible. It has a warehouse in Nashville, Tennessee, with supplies like kennels, bowls, leashes and food.

“The ultimate goal is to minimize our impact on the community,” said Robinson. “We don’t want to come in and take up resources that they need. So we want to try and bring everything we can, to be as self-sufficient as possible.”

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