A vacant warehouse in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, is serving as a makeshift boarding center for animals left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Disaster specialists from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are heading the operation, and they expect the 20,000-square-foot emergency facility to house hundreds of animals as displaced homeowners work to rebuild their homes and their lives.
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For some, the idea of leaving their four-legged companion is just too much. Debbie Fierro of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, an animal welfare charity that, despite its name, is not affiliated with the mayor or the city, said that one elderly man pleaded for his Pomeranian, Buddy, not to be sent to Ocean Hill. Fierro told the New York Times, “He said, ‘I lost everything in this hurricane. The only thing I have is my dog.'”
For others, the idea of safe shelter for their furry buddies is manna from heaven. Jim Buonamano, his 6-year-old German shepherd, April, and his 2-year-old pit bull, Bella, spent several cold, dark nights in Buonamano’s flooded home — no heat, no electricity, no clean water. When Buonamano heard about the shelter, he jumped at the chance for all of them to relocate to safe, sanitary quarters, telling the Times, “I’d rather (they) be someplace warm, even if I don’t see (them) for a month.” Buonamano is staying with his brother while working to make his home livable again.
Happy or not, these men and hundreds of others in similar situations are lucky. Their animals are not lost; they are not carrying the heavy burden of wondering how they are, where they are, whether they survived. This is in large part due to their diligence as pet owners and to the efforts of animal welfare groups such as the ASPCA.
Having a plan to protect your pets in a disaster is crucial to a happy outcome. Here are a few key items that should be at the top of every pet owner’s disaster plan:
• Make sure your pet is identifiable at all times. Microchipping is the surest form of identification. A collar with an ID tag that includes your current cellphone number is the most immediate form of identification. Do both for best results.
• Prep your disaster kit. It should include emergency supplies — food, water, meds, garbage bags, batteries, manual can opener, newspaper, paper towels, leashes, carriers, flashlights, blankets, etc. — for every human and animal in your household.
• Know ahead of time which shelters and hotels in your area accept pets, and let them know you’re coming as soon as possible.
• If you evacuate, take your pets. Pets left behind are extremely vulnerable, and their chances of survival are slim. It is never safe to leave an animal chained outside, but to do so during a disaster is a death sentence. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.”
• If you plan to evacuate, do it early. It is best not to wait for a mandatory evacuation, as often officials will instruct people to leave their pets behind.
For a more detailed plan, read the Humane Society’s disaster plan for pets at humanesociey.org.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate Inc.