While we have been inconvenienced in Fairfield County by Hurricane Sandy, millions elsewhere have been devastated by the losses they have suffered. Homes were destroyed, lives uprooted and the process of rebuilding is going very slowly. Those of us who can should contribute in any way we can to help those who have lost everything.
Hundreds of people who have been affected by the storm are also concerned about their pets. Many have had to move in with family or friends. Often there is no room for their pet in an overcrowded household. Others are staying in partially destroyed homes and trying to live without heat or light. Many people had to leave their pets behind when they fled the flood waters.
The Humane Society of the United States is working with local officials to do everything possible to rescue pets. In the first days of operation, the 24-hour hotline received more than 900 calls from residents who were desperate for information about their pets. According to the American Red Cross, the ability to provide residents in emergency shelters with a toll-free number to report missing pets has provided comfort and relief to families who have lost so much.
After Hurricane Katrina, HSUS recognized the tremendous need for including pets in emergency evacuations and providing temporary shelters for pets. Many people didn't evacuate because they didn't want to leave their animals behind.
People need to know there is a place to send their pets to be cared for while they try to return to a normal life. HSUS has gone door to door in places hardest hit in New York and New Jersey offering to care for the animals of these residents. They have been greeted with overwhelming thanks because these pets are important members of the family and providing a safe shelter is vital to them.
Those who put their pets in an HSUS shelter can visit them at any time and claim them back whenever they feel ready to do so. I encourage you to go to the HSUS website at www.humanesociety.org and view videos of HSUS volunteers working with residents in flood stricken areas to help them with their pets.
It is heartbreaking to see what our neighbors have lost. But it is also gratifying to watch how appreciative they are to have someone offer to care for their pet during the long road back to normalcy.
If you have a pet, you understand how important this animal is to you and your family. So just imagine losing everything and then facing the loss of your pet unless you can find someone to care for it. HSUS has stepped in and offered a vital service to pet owners and will continue to work on the ground to ensure that every pet is cared for in the wake of this disaster.
Cathy Kangas is a member of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.