During a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, aide workers and volunteers are rescuing pets that are separated from their owners. Dogs, cats, pet birds, reptiles, rodents… all kinds of pets need to be re-located - not to mention equine and farm animals. Local pet shelters may not be able to provide enough shelter for all of the pets that need it, so the pets are shipped to various affiliate shelters throughout the U.S., sometimes very far away from their homes. What can you do?
1. Foster Pets
No matter how much a shelter provides for each pet, pets in crisis all have one thing in common: they are frightened. The best thing you can do for one or more of these temporarily abandoned pets is provide them a temporary home - that means shelter, food, and companionship.
Of course, even a temporary guest pet needs to fit into your permanent family. If you already have pets, you want to make sure that they will accept a new family member, even for a brief time. If your own pets will exhibit aggression towards another cat or another dog, perhaps you can foster a rabbit or a bird that can be caged and kept away from the bigger guys. Just make sure your visiting pet will be welcome and comfortable. Remember, they are already frightened.
2. Provide Appropriate Care
You may not know how to care for the pet you are fostering. The shelter, maybe your local SPCA or Humane Society, will help you learn how to care for that pet. You may need a cage or crate, special food, and even medicine. The shelter may offer a preliminary veterinary exam just to assure there are no immediate medical issues of concern. Usually, unless the pet has a chronic condition, he can be released to a foster home. Still, it’s recommended that you get a veterinary opinion on the health of your pet. It’s likely that the disaster, and the move, and the shelter, and a new environment will cause some emotional distress to any animal.
Find a special spot for your foster pet. Photo: Swiss.com
I do recommend that you try to find a special space for your foster pet - even a small space that he can ‘call his own,’ where he can get some rest, uninterrupted. For a dog or cat, a pet crate with a blanket or large towel might be a comfy place. Show it to him and leave the crate door open. Give him his own water bowl and, if it’s not going to create problems with your other pets, maybe a few toys. Feed him separately.
3. Find The Owners
You can use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media sites to post photos and descriptions of your foster pet. But probably the best sites to check are the lost and found sites in particular cities. The image above is a section listed on the KHQ TV station in Spokane, Washington. Many local TV channels have similar posting sections for lost and found pets. Of course, you can search Google ‘lost and found pets’ in the areas where your foster pet was found.
4. Cooperate With The Owners To Return The Pet
Hopefully the pet and her owners can be re-united. Once you’ve contacted the owners, be cooperative in helping to return the pet. Do what you can and get the assistance of the local shelter as well. Remember the owners have been through tremendous trials themselves.
If you and the pet shelter are not able to locate the owners after a certain period of time, the shelter may ask you if you want to adopt the pet. If you do not want to keep the pet permanently, you and/or the shelter can try to find someone to adopt her.
Whether you foster and/or adopt, your reward is the pleasure and satisfaction of making one or two little guys steadier, safer, and happier during a period of otherwise great stress.
5. Donate Money To National Or Local Animal Rescue Agencies
Not everyone can foster a pet. Though SPCAs and Humane Society chapters are the most well-known, there are many other animal rescue services in almost all communities in the U.S., and they all need money, especially at this time. When disasters require them, these agencies are there - just to rescue abandoned pets.
The agencies, on the national and local levels, need money. They don’t need blankets or food in a disaster. They need money so that they can buy specific items in shortage. There is one thing you can provide instead of money and that is cages or carriers. There is always a shortage of them.
If you live close to a disaster area, you may also volunteer to rescue abandoned pets, horses, or livestock if you have the transportation vehicles required.
Whatever you can do to help pets that are terrified by disasters in their towns and homes will be repaid in so many ways.