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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Emergency Plans for Pet Rescue

Last year's Hurricane Katrina gave animal welfare groups ammunition to fight for better pet rescue plans during natural disasters. I am all for better preparation in advance of a disaster. Just like people living in hurricane prone areas need to know evacuation routes and have necessary supplies on hand in case it is ever needed, they should have a plan on what to do about their beloved pets. If possible and available, governments should be encouraged to set aside spaces for pets to be cared for, especially for people who are elderly whom cannot take care of their pets in an event of a disaster.

Phew, this is a hard post to write, because as I write it, I am already anticipating animal activists sharpening their claws...

I love our pets. But I don't view them in the same way as I view my children. If a boat were to come by (not going to happen where we are in the mountains, but we are talking if....) and the rescuers said "look...we can take you, we can take your children, but we don't have the facilities for your dogs or cats," then I would provide for them as best as I could and we would leave. Would my daughter and son scream and fight? Absolutely. Would we miss our pets and grieve over them if they died because we couldn't get back to them in time? No doubt. Are they as important as my children or other human beings? Absolutely not (in my humble and honest opinion.)

Let's think about New Orleans. They had tens of thousands of people to evacuate (after the fact) and there were thousands of pets. Let's take the group that was in the Superdome...can you imagine the added chaos if that place had been full of pets? Dogs wanting to chase cats? Dogs and cats wanting to eat on the trash? The added germs brought about by their elimination habits? And where would they have been? Would they have taken up a space for people? And what about more exotic pets (snakes, hamsters, rabbits, birds, goats, miniature pigs)? Where do we draw the line as to which pets are rescued?

If I found out that the rescuers didn't get around to picking up Great Aunt Matilda because Ralph's dogs got her spot on the boat and that by the time the rescuers came back, Great Aunt Matilda had been washed away, then I would be pretty pissed off. And if I found out that rescuers couldn't get Great Aunt Matilda into the boat because she didn't want to leave her pet, I would have to have a stern conversation with her, should I ever see her again.

I definitely want to see action on this issue. I hated seeing the animals left, chained and without food or drinkable water. Animals that drowned and starved and were eaten. Animals that had no clue as how to fend for themselves. And if we can get a situation going where people prepare ahead of time and a plan for animal shelters, then I am all for that. But I also don't think that the tax payers in general should pay for this. I think it should be an insurance type of fee you pay to your government for living in disaster prone areas. You have the right to pay or not pay the fee, but if you don't pay the fee (which would be used to pay for shelters, stockpiled food, etc), then you don't have a 'public' place for your pet to go.

Our heartstrings all get pulled when we see abandoned animals, but when disaster strikes we need to think with more than our emotions. We need to get our plans in place and solidified for taking care of people first. Hurricane Katrina was a huge disaster followed by the horrible flooding when the levies broke. It was the largest disaster on American soil ever! Even bigger in scope than 9/11. There were a lot of mistakes made, there were some good things done. Let's hope that when this sort of thing happens again (and it will) that our response is better and few mistakes are repeated. And let's make sure we keep our priorities straight.

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