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And your little dog, too

Phyllis DeGioia is an editor at VeterinaryPartner.com and, of course, a dog-lover. Like most of us, she has watched events along the Gulf Coast unfold while worrying about the animals as well as the people. As report after report came in about people who were forced to leave their pets behind -- or who refused to go without their pets -- she found herself asking: Does it have to be that way? Why can't emergency response plans include family pets as well?

She thinks there's a possibility here for change to come, and she calls that possibility, "The Snowball Effect," after the story of a dog named Snowball, widely reported to have been torn from the arms of his young owner as the child was evacuated.

DeGioia's plan: A grass-roots effort to push the Red Cross into changing its "no-pets" policy in some of its shelters, so families will not have to be separated. Here's more on her plan, posted on Veterinary Partner. It's worthy of your support, and of your taking the time to let the Red Cross know of your views on this matter.

Of course, some of the views being expressed now decidely do not recognize that many people truly do consider their animals as part of their families. There's this piece from Slate, which had me feeling sorry for author Timothy Noah's dog, who not only is out of luck in a pinch, but isn't exactly anywhere near the top of the author's priority list now, considering how little he cares about taking the time to train her not to bark while on leash or jump up on strangers.  (Tip from a dog-trainer: The fault here, Mr. Noah, is not your dog's, no matter what you think.)

Partly in response, this piece from Newsday offers a sensible, solution-oriented approach to having animals evacuate with people. Instead of worrying about stressed dogs biting people, argues author Karen Dawn, what's wrong with keeping inexpensive fabric muzzles in disaster kits? She also notes this sad little irony:

...We also read the quote from Michael Brown as he left his post as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It began with, "I am going to go home and walk my dog." His policies stole that last sweet comfort from those who had nothing else left.


Final note: VeterinaryPartner is owned by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online service by veterinarians, for veterinarians. As mentioned in a previous post, VIN launched a fund-raiser for the animal-relief efforts by the veterinary schools at Louisiana State and Mississippi State. So far, the veterinary community on VIN has raised more than $100,000. -- Gina Spadafori

September 15, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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KCC ... it's obvious from your writing you have a brain. Too bad you don't have a heart.

Have you missed all the reporting of people who didn't have the way or means to leave? Or do you think only people with decent incomes should be able to have companion animals?

Because if it's the latter, I'd like you to meet some elderly people I know on small, fixed incomes who are socially isolated and dependent on their pets for companionship.

Maybe that would melt your heart a little, and help you find some compassion.

Posted by: Gina | Sep 17, 2005 7:39:54 PM

i have read that they are shooting some of the strays. (on a side bar at treehugger.com)if this is true,why would they do this with all of the animal rescue groups there?

Posted by: kara | Sep 16, 2005 4:03:44 PM

I don't know where you live, but if you aren't subject to their weather patterns and risks it's hard to pass judgement on why they stayed. It's easy to be on the west coast and say "why didn't you just get out ahead of time?" I have felt the same way. But the truth is, how many times had they heard that a terrible hurricane was coming only to have it follow a different path or not be as bad. When your life is subject to "emergency evacuation" false alarms with more regularity than we are out here, it's easy to get a "cry wolf" mentality.

Not to mention that much of the damage and flooding is from the levees breaking, not the actual hurricane. Many people would have been able to ride out the storm with their homes and pets if the levees hadn't given way.

Not to gloss over anything, because the Arizona humane society has said many of the animals there appeared to be neglect/abuse cases to begin with and would have been cases to be prosecuted had it not become a rescue scenario. I'm just saying, after a while you get tired of people saying run and then nothing happening. It's costly, it's draining emotionally, and it makes one feel a lack of confidence in the information.

Posted by: Kate | Sep 16, 2005 12:21:09 PM

What I'm still having trouble understanding is:

Why weren't these pets important enough BEFORE the hurricane? If they really matter that much to these people in their everyday lives, surely that was issue enough to get whatever you valued and could carry (pets included) and get the heck out of dodge before the disasater hit. Right?

News and weather reports were warning of Katrina well ahead of time. It doesn't matter when an actual evacuation was called for. Smart people who really care about their pets would have gotten out of harm's way in an ample amount of time. Regardless of whether they had the finances or transportation to do it. Heck, if you are able to walk, take your "precious" critters and at least walk further inland or to higher ground.

There was plenty of time to make those arrangements. Why wait until being forced to evacuate without your cat/dog, or until you have to decide whether to stay or leave it behind?

If this hadn't been a natural disaster, if the following conditions hadn't been a "surprise" but rather, had been a daily way of life for the pets and their owners, those people would have been fined and had their animals removed from their custody! In ordinary circumstances such a situation would have been deemed "abuse" or "cruelty to animals". I believe that alot of the citizens down there knowingly endangered and jeopardized the lives of their pets. And now the rest of us must rescue, foster, provide for...etc...

Animal rescue groups were prepared and ready to go in and start the process. Rescued pets are being provided for every day now. Good people risked their lives for these animals, just like other good people risked their lives for those humans in need. Why did those pet "owners" or "guardians" have to create a situation for such risk in the first place?

Posted by: KCC | Sep 15, 2005 6:45:31 PM

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