Thinking back to Hurricane Katrina – September 2005
We all wanted to help. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was a massive outpouring of aid to animals caught up in the catastrophe. The Humane Society of the United States alone received something close to $50 million in special donations. Thousands of people came to New Orleans to work at the rescue centers. Thousands more, known as the “stealth volunteers,” worked to reunite people with lost pets and to transport dogs and cats to shelters across the country so they could be placed in new homes.
It was an amazing effort, and truly worthwhile. But, for many small shelters in other parts of the country, Katrina turned into a local disaster – right there in their own neighborhoods. That’s because hundreds of shelters who weren’t involved in the Hurricane Katrina rescue quickly found themselves being sidelined when it came to donations and volunteers. After all, whether you’re lost and homeless in New Orleans or New Hampshire, you’re still lost and homeless, hungry and abandoned, sick and lonely.
But suddenly, with all eyes on Katrina, it was difficult for shelters everywhere else to get their donors and volunteers to focus on the local needs.
It wasn’t just about money; it was about adoptions, too. For people thinking of adopting a dog or cat, it suddenly had to be a “Katrina dog or cat.” They’d go online, they’d drive to other shelters in other cities where the Katrina animals were being brought in. They’d even drive down to Louisiana to find their special Katrina pet.
“I want a 9/11 dog”
This is actually a well-known phenomenon. After the Twin Towers fell in New York, and lost or homeless pets were being taken into shelters there, people were calling up from all over the country asking to adopt “a 9/11 dog.”
“The best way you can help,” shelter people tried to explain, “would be by adopting one of our other dogs so we have space to take in the 9/11 ones and give them the care they need.”
“No, no! I don’t want one of the others; I want a 9/11 dog.”
Shelter managers were stuck. They needed to bring 9/11 animals in for special care, and they needed to get the others out as fast as possible. So, what would you do in their place? Yes, indeed! One or two of them later confided that “We gave up trying to persuade people to do the right thing and, instead, found them ‘the perfect 9/11 dog for you.’ Everyone was happy: the new family, the dog they adopted, and the real 9/11 dogs who so urgently needed our care!”
Back to the Gulf
Yes, of course what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico is a huge catastrophe … one of the worst ever. But for other animals of all kinds, anywhere across the country, today can be their own personal mayday, too.
It’s as much a catastrophe for you if you’re a coyote caught in a trap, desperately trying to chew off your foot so you can escape. It’s a catastrophe if you’re a bird on migration and the lake you’ve always landed on is now poisoned by the run-off from a coal mine. It’s a catastrophe if you’re a dolphin who’s being massacred in the infamous cove at Taiji in Japan. It’s a catastrophe if you’re a squirrel or a mouse and your home is being paved over for a new shopping center.
For all these animals, it’s all the same.
And the good news about that is that it means we really can all help. So check out your own local wildlife rescue group, or go online and see how you can help in your own neighborhood. Join the local chapter of a bird protection group or help pass a new local environmental measure.
That’s how we can all help the “Gulf animals.”