Tennessee Floods Impact Pets: How to Keep Your Animals "Disaster-Safe"
Kyle Held, Midwest Director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, holds a goat that the team rescued from a flooded Tennessee residence on April 12. (Photo Courtesy of ASPCA)
No one expected what was forecasted to be "just" a couple of days of thunderstorms to result in the worst flooding in the history of the region, but that's what happened in Tennessee earlier this month.
The flooding disaster has impacted countless Tennesseans, with an estimated $1 billion in damages, and has resulted in 31 confirmed deaths. The toll on pets and animals is still being assessed by various animal agencies, but the impact can be seen clearly in area shelters, which are overrun with displaced animals.
The Tennessean reports that people have been finding animals in basements, attics, ventilation shafts, vehicles, bushes, and on the streets. Some have microchips and collars, but the phone numbers listed for them are temporarily out of service, The Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, the ASPCA has been following up on calls from families evacuated from flooded and damaged areas.
“The family had been able to move the animals to higher ground before they were evacuated. But this was almost four days ago, and we had no idea the conditions we would find them in,” Allison Cardona, the ASPCA’s director of operations, said of one specific case.
In search and rescue boats, the ASPCA's Field Investigation and Response team arrived at the scene to discover a dozen chickens, a peacock and a goat congregated on a tiny area of dry land, and a cat in the house and another on what appeared to be a small trailer engulfed in water. With animals secured in a boat able to hold dozens of animals, the team headed back to dry land.
“As soon as the animals were secured in the boat, they fell asleep,” said Joel Lopez, ASPCA’s logistics manager. “Between the rain, followed by severe heat, and not having access to food or water, they were just exhausted. I like to think they were finally able to relax, now that relief had come."
Once back to the shelter, the animals all went through a decontamination process which consisted of repeated washings in Dawn liquid dish detergent as the flood waters turned toxic.
“It’s polluted by everything you find in a home — sewage, kerosene, garbage, bleach and other hazardous chemicals — and it’s everywhere,” explained Kyle Held, Midwest Director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, of the danger which is compounded when animals groom or preen themselves and create a serious risk for illness.
This group of rescued animals was quickly reunited with its family.
“The family was there to greet us as we arrived back at the shelter,” said Lopez. “Emotions were high — they were just so happy to be reunited with their beloved pets.”
But many more animals are waiting for their happy reunions as shelter directors say they're running out of space for newly rescued pets. As of last week, the Nashville Humane Association closed its doors to strays, reserving its remaining room for families in need of temporary boarding for their pets.
At Metro Animal Care and Control, animals are allowed to stay indefinitely if they are found collared or micro-chipped, which is a bend of the rules.
According to The Tennessean, "by law, the agency is required to keep dogs and cats only for three business days before they can be evaluated for adoption or euthanized. The agency also is waiving boarding and impounding fees."
To help pets and pet owners affected by this FEMA-declared disaster area:
1) Donate to the Red Cross: Simply text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts. Every little bit helps and is so greatly needed right now. Or, log onto their website to donate via credit card.
2) Donate to Nashville Humane Association: NHA has provided shelter for many of the displaced pets while their guardians are at Red Cross shelters. You can help two ways: Either donate money via their Web site, or deliver supplies to their shelter for distribution to pet guardians and pets in need.
3) Donate to the Community Foundation: The Community Foundation has established disaster Response Funds to help Davidson County as well as Middle Tennessee counties with flood relief. Learn more here.
4) Donate to Brown Dog Foundation: The Brown Dog Foundation is raising funds to assist displaced pets with medical care and needs through their Disaster relief Funds program. Learn more and donate here.
How to Keep your Pet "Disaster-Safe"
The Tennessee floods of May 1 - 2, 2010 should also serve as a reminder to pet owners to make sure you have a disaster plan in place which accounts for your pets.
The ASPCA suggests:
Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write "EVACUATED" across the stickers. Click here to get a free emergency pet alert sticker for your home.
Arrange a Safe Haven
Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind. Remember, if it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards.
Note: Not all Red Cross disaster shelters accept pets, so it is imperative to determine where you will bring your pets ahead of time:
1. Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
2. Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
3. Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
4. Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits
Keep an Evac-Pack and supplies handy for your pets. This kit should be clearly labeled and easy to carry. (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)
Top 5 items should include:
1. Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet) and an extra leash or harness.
2. About a week's worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food, and bottled water.
3. Disposable litter trays and litter.
4. Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
5. Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires.
Choose “Designated Caregivers”
This step will take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence, is generally home during the day, or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. When selecting this "foster parent," consider people who have met your pet and have successfully cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. If you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials.
To minimize evacuation time, take these 5 simple steps:
1. Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible.
2. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet's ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Also do the same on your pet's carrier.
3. Consider micro-chipping as a more permanent form of identification.
4. Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
5. Consider your evacuation route and call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone at the first sign of disaster.
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