When preparing for a disaster, most folks have figured out plans for themselves, their children and some even prepare for their neighbors. What some fail to consider is man’s best friend. An unspoken rule is that if we take on the responsibility of a pet, then they are just that - a responsibility. We are charged with feeding, sheltering and providing medical care, in sickness and and in health. In good times and bad. Sounds like marriage vows. The harsh truth is some folks have the attitude if everything melts down, they can simply abandon their pets, grab the kids and run for the hills.
The reality is in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina thousands of animals were rescued and brought to animal shelters. Boat captains and helicopter pilots refused to load pets so they would have room to hold more people. As a result, many refused to evacuate without their pets. Some field hospitals allowed pets to enter with their patients while those who evacuated from the Superdome were not allowed to take their pets with them.
One source reports the animals that didn’t die in Katrina were left to fend for themselves. In the end, over 600,000 animals were either killed or stranded in the aftermath. Several years later, much of the city looks as though it has not been touched since the hurricane and the abandoned sections of New Orleans have been taken over by weeds, blight and wild dogs.
One of the often overlooked hazards following a disaster is that of packs of wild dogs roving the streets unrestrained. Often unvaccinated, diseased and starving, they pose a danger to children, the elderly or anyone not expecting to see a wild dog.
As a young Air Policeman in Vietnam, we were faced with the same issue at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. Our unit assigned one person to “control” the problem. The acceptable solution for the time was a nicotine-laced dart gun. Similar to a tranquilizer gun, the nicotine poison provided an immediate solution. But then wartime solutions are rarely acceptable during peacetime. (No hate mail please.)
In the case of Katrina, private foundations set up shelters all around the area in an attempt to provide care for abandoned pets. Unfortunately the problem was larger than the ability to house the animals and many un-neutered, hungry feral animals still prowl the streets and vacant lots of the city.
Here are some suggestions offered by petmd.com to prepare your pet for a disaster. Get your dog “chipped” with current contact information. Be sure to have extra dog food (or cat food) on hand. Learn where your pet likes to hide when frightened. Make sure you have a pet carrier for transportation. Carry a picture of your pet in the event you are separated. Another good resource is www.redcross.org.
Dave Robinson is a retired postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us.” Available online at Barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers.