Rescued: Saving Animals from Disasterby Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson
Rescued tells the inspiring stories of dedicated organizations and heroic volunteers who saved animals and reunited them with loved ones after Hurricane Katrina. Heart-wrenching experiences and dramatic action photos open a portal into the unheralded world of animal shelters, sanctuaries, and charities that are emerging nationwide and becoming an important social movement. Chock-full of lifesaving information, this book prepares you to quickly and safely evacuate with animals in any emergency.
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Saving Animals from Disaster Life-changing Stories and Practical Suggestions
By Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson
New World LibraryCopyright © 2006 Allen and Linda Anderson
All rights reserved.
The Changing Relationship between People and Animals
Only in the past hundred years have animals become full-fledged, indoor-dwelling members of American families. Prior to this change in domestic life, most pet lovers had a casual relationship with their yard dogs or neighborhood cats. In bygone times, animals would no more be allowed inside the house than chickens could lay eggs on the dining room table.
Animals and humans forming socially and emotionally interdependent family units has had a profound impact on disaster preparedness and rescue operations. Hurricane Katrina indisputably proved that people today will risk their lives to keep from abandoning their pets. Whether decision makers like it, think it is a nuisance, or are pleased that the obvious has finally been recognized, today this is true: Animals are members of the family. Now every aspect of American society must deal with it. No longer is it permissible to separate people from the animals who share their homes, sleep in their beds, and have become their cherished friends.
Dr. Melissa Hunt, associate director of clinical training in the department of psychology of the University of Pennsylvania, studied the psychological impact of being forced to abandon a pet during the evacuations following Hurricane Katrina. She recruited survivors of the hurricane for the study. Half of them had lost their pets during the storms and flooding, and half had not gone through pet loss. Dr. Hunt told us that people who lost their pets experienced significantly more acute stress during evacuation and were significantly more depressed, showing more symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than survivors who safely evacuated with their pets. Based on her study, Dr. Hunt concludes, "You were just as likely to be depressed if you lost your pet as if you lost your home." The results of Dr. Hunt's study suggest that failure to implement effective companion animal evacuation policies carries a high cost in terms of the human survivors' mental health.
Our society has made animals dependent on the kindness and generosity of humans. In return, animals serve as conduits for people to fulfill their primal need for connection to nature. The animals in a home may be a person's only and deepest source of unconditional love. Millions of people need this kind of love — love without judgment, artifice, or stinginess — in a universe of emotional and spiritual isolation. Animals bridge the gap between our hearts and minds. As became apparent after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, many people will die rather than lose a relationship for which there is no human substitute.
Animals Are Essential to the Good Life
Even though animals play large roles in mythology, folklore, and religious practices of cultures around the globe, until recently they were not members of the American family. Only in the past century did dogs transform from working, herding, hunting, mostly outdoor protectors into car-riding, blanket-stealing, birthday party recipients. Among the wealthier classes of society, cats have always enjoyed hearth-occupying status. But in most rural and working-class American households, cats had to graduate from being exterminators who rid the property of mice and lived in the barn to being cuddly creatures with their own brightly decorated food and water bowls in the kitchen. Horses no longer earn their keep by pulling plows. Today they provide city dwellers with companionable rides through the countryside. Horses are more likely to be gentled, not broken; stabled, not tethered. Rather than leading the charge in battle on bloody fields, horses are dominant in the growing area of animal-assisted therapy, where they give rides to at-risk or disabled children and adults.
Respect for the profound connection between humans and animals has blossomed in this country since World War II. Within the past fifty years researchers have shown that people benefit in measurable ways from interactions with animals. Respected scientific journals publish studies proving that animals offer healthy rewards to their human guardians, such as lowered blood pressure, extended life span, and stress relief. National news segments show dogs detecting cancer cells better than sophisticated medical testing. University of Missouri–Columbia researchers report that walking the family dog daily promotes fourteen pounds of weight loss in a year — more weight than most people lose by participating in weight-loss programs. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the message has become clear: animals are good for your health.
As a nation, we have started expressing gratitude for the presence of animals and mourning their absence. Robert K. Anderson, cofounder and director of CENSHARE, an organization at the University of Minnesota dedicated to illuminating the benefits of human-animal connection, writes, "Today it is socially acceptable to grieve the loss of a pet, to carry pet pictures in your wallet or purse, to celebrate your pet's birthday with a party, to have pet medical insurance, and to buy special food. The newest trend is to buy special clothes for pets."
Hundreds of churches around the country celebrate the "blessing of the animals" on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology. Annually their sanctuaries fill with dogs, cats, chickens, fish, bunnies, and gerbils alongside human worshippers.
With an estimated 65 million dogs and 77.6 million cats inhabiting American homes, and expenditures of $39 billion per year on pet food, toys and other products, and veterinary care, ours has become a petobsessed nation. Americans spend $5 billion annually on presents for their pets. They take vacations with animal companions. They buy them fashionable clothes, relaxation and exercise at day spas, and stays at hotels that cater to canine and catly comforts. Animals receive advanced medical treatment from veterinarians who specialize in orthopedics and oncology. Alternative and holistic vets treat them with acupuncture and herbs.
At the risk of being labeled anthropomorphic, researchers study and publish scholarly papers on pet personality and animal emotions. And, as if to punctuate the belief in animal personality and emotion, in 2005 millions of people made a blockbuster hit out of the wildlife love story March of the Penguins. We have definitely come a long way, baby!
Jeannine Moga, clinical counselor at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center, calls this trend a win-win situation for everyone. She says, "The American lifestyle has become transient over time. This means that social networks and family systems are much more spread out, even splintered. For the many Americans who choose to share their lives with animals, those animals have also become family members and very important sources of social and emotional support." The increasing numbers of Americans who embrace pets as family have precipitated drastic changes in how the country views the merciful act of animal rescue. How can you look into the loving eyes of a companion with whom you share your home and turn away from your friend's species in an hour of greatest need?
Animal Rescue Gets Noticed
Almost a century and a half after the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Association (AHA) came into being, animal rescuers continue the good fight. With thousands of shelters and sanctuaries all over the country, virtually every community includes individuals or organizations devoted to protecting the welfare of animals. Yet if you ask your friends and neighbors the name of the closest animal shelter, where it is located, how big it is, and how it operates, you will probably get only blank looks and shoulder shrugs. Most people assume there is a humane society or SPCA somewhere in their community. Some may have used its services for adopting a pet or ridding themselves of an unwanted or stray animal, but most probably don't know much about it or even that it's there.
In spite of Americans' professed love affair with pets, the work of local, state, and national animal protection organizations flies under the radar of mainstream society. Except for a small number of caring people who hold fund-raisers and donate time and money regularly, animal shelters and welfare organizations operate in relative obscurity. No big-name celebrities host or perform at nationally televised fund-raisers for animal charities. Until recently, animal welfare and rescue weren't significant to America's vision of itself as a compassionate and caring nation.
Much of this lack of attention to animal rescue changed after Hurricane Katrina. Staff members of animal welfare organizations worked around the clock, and thousands of volunteers joined them. School-children gathered dog and cat food for Katrina animals. Manufacturers and suppliers donated crates, leashes, collars, and their parking lots for makeshift emergency triaging and sheltering.
As happened in Minnesota with Animal Humane Society and Animal Ark, media covered the stories of animal shelters from around the country answering calls for help from the stricken Gulf Coast. Photographers took pictures of staff and volunteers loading supplies onto trucks or minivans with animal shelter signage prominently displayed on their vehicles. Television newscasters profiled shelter personnel, who dressed in T-shirts with the names of their organizations displayed prominently for the camera. Accompanied by reporters and videographers, shelter workers formed caravans and drove thousands of miles to places that most of them had seen only on MapQuest.
People watching television were horrified to see dogs stranded on rooftops and cats cowering under houses. Because of the boon in media exposure, local and national animal shelters and organizations received an outpouring of donations. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) collected the largest amount of money in its history. Folks who barely knew there was an animal shelter in their community looked up its phone number and stopped in to make tax-deductible donations. Unused to an influx of visitors, animal shelter staff and volunteers gave tours of their facilities and offered up languishing animals for adoption.
Later, when local animal shelter staff and volunteers came back with "Katrina dogs and cats," the organizations held well-publicized adoption fairs. Unlike the animals that get surrendered every day, most of the cleaned-up and medicated hurricane and flood-survivor animals found themselves in good homes, some living in better conditions than they had ever known.
Another transformation occurred after local animal shelter staff and volunteers returned from the Gulf Coast. They were either invited to take or insisted upon taking a seat at the table when their community and the nation did disaster and emergency planning. Now, they wanted to make sure that if there were ever a disaster where they lived, the animals and people who love them would be safely evacuated, sheltered, and reunited if separation occurred.
Saving Animals Is Connected to Saving Humans
After Hurricane Katrina, community emergency planners all over the country began to understand that saving the lives of animals is necessary for the survival of humans. On an economic level, it costs a lot more to have to go back into a danger zone and retrieve stranded animals. On an emotional level, as noted above in the empirical data from Dr. Melissa Hunt's study, the depression that survivors suffer over separation from a pet is equal to other disaster-related losses they experience. Freelance writer and animal rescuer Barb Prindle of Minneapolis expressed to us why she believes animal rescue also has moral, ethical, and spiritual significance: "You are looking at the face of innocence when you look at a dog or a cat. They did nothing to create the situation. They did not create global warming or poor rescue plans. It is heartbreaking beyond my ability to ignore it. When you ignore innocent, helpless need, you are doing damage to your own soul, in my opinion."
For animals, a disaster is any situation that results in loss of the home or the humans that animals rely on for their health and welfare. Every day humans create disasters for animals through neglect, abuse, abandonment, and disruption of natural habitats. Preventing disaster for animals requires widespread support for organizations that protect animals' lives. And, in the case of human-created disasters, preventing disaster requires that we change our destructive behaviors. Both aspects of saving animals from disaster — prevention and making changes in attitudes and practices — are concepts whose time has come.CHAPTER 2
Who Rescues the Animals?
Thousands of Americans traveled to the hurricane-ravaged areas to help people and pets reunite and to aid in saving the lives of animals. Who are these people who devote their time, talents, and money to rescuing animals? What motivates them to leave the safety and comfort of their homes, whether after a national tragedy or to regularly volunteer at animal shelters? Why does your neighbor, your co-worker, your fellow parishioner, your relative, your friend, or your spouse have such an unrelenting desire and need to save animals from disaster? While researching this book, we had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of people who save animals. We asked them why they often put themselves in harm's way to make animals safer and to help them find good homes.
Who rescues animals? The following snapshots may surprise you.
Beyond the Stereotypes
The stereotype of the animal rescuer, like some we saw in the media after the hurricanes, is one of a person who wears hip-high wader boots and a face mask to keep from breathing in toxic chemicals. If she is a woman, she pulls her hair back into a ponytail and covers it with a baseball cap, looking like a determined macho chick on a mission. But, as we found out, not all animal rescuers match this stereotype.
Andrea Kozil works at the Portland, Oregon, administrative office of Defense of Animals–Africa. Andrea went to New Orleans to volunteer and was placed in charge of running Barn 5 at the temporary shelter that the HSUS had set up at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. It was the intense week of September 7, right after the levees broke in New Orleans. Inexperienced in shelter operations, Andrea struggled with having responsibility for hundreds of animals and not nearly enough resources to do the job.
One day Andrea noticed a woman wearing clean sweatpants and a fancy T-shirt. In the one-hundred-degree heat and stifling humidity, sweat trickled down the woman's face and streaked her makeup. Andrea watched as the woman walked a rambunctious, powerful German shepherd. In an attempt to control him, the woman held the dog's leash in a way that caused his front legs to lift off the ground.
Andrea rushed out of the barn to correct what she viewed as the mishandling of an already stressed-out animal. "That dog has four legs," Andrea scolded. "He needs to have all of them on the ground."
The woman snapped back, "I know what the hell I'm doing. I've been doing it for years."
"This," Andrea recalled for us months after it happened, "was me at my worst and her at her worst."
When the woman returned the dog to the shelter, she had a hard time getting him back into his cage. Afterward, Andrea says, "The woman tapped my shoulder. Then she said, 'This is pretty rough, isn't it?' We both cried and hugged each other as we each apologized. We had been stretched as far as could be. 'This is rough' had said it all. I thanked her for being there. She went on with her work. And so did I."
Excerpted from Rescued by Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson. Copyright © 2006 Allen and Linda Anderson. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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