After a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, images of destruction pour into our newsfeeds. Most of these focus on the destruction of the landscape, or on the human suffering caused. In any disaster where people suffer and die, pets and livestock will suffer and die, too. This has grave consequences for the animals, of course, but also for their owners.
A paper entitled, The National Capabilities for Animal Response in Emergencies (NCARE) Study: An Assessment of US States and Counties published in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management investigates whether American communities are prepared to deal with the animal victims of a catastrophe and how and where emergency response plans can be improved.
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused 2.9 million pet and livestock deaths, and thousands more owners lost their pets. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was particularly devastating. The Louisiana SPCA estimates that 15,500 animals required rescue, and that 80-85 percent of these animals were never reunited with their owners. A loss of animal life not only has an economic, but also a psychological, impact. Studies show that pet loss after a disaster can be devastating for humans.
People with pets are more likely than people without pets to refuse to evacuate in an emergency situation. This puts their lives, as well as the lives of the people sent to rescue them in danger, but can be avoided by emergency plans that provide pet friendly transportation, and pet friendly shelters, where owners can take refuge with their pets. Fifty-six percent of Americans now have pets. In the future, due to population growth, and the increase of not only the percentage of Americans living in disaster-prone areas, but also the number of natural disasters, the problem is going to get bigger.
In light of these facts, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) conducted the first ever nationwide assessment of emergency response capabilities for animals, both to highlight the progress that has been made, and to spotlight areas that need to be improved. The results of the survey were mixed—much progress has been made, but there is still much to be done.
In 2006, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed. This act required States asking for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to have plans to evacuate pets and service animals. Communities with well-developed animal response plans, along with trained and equipped animal response teams, are typically better able to protect resident livestock and companion animals during a disaster, with fewer animals lost, higher human evacuation compliance rates, and a greater percentage of pets staying with their families.
“Enhancing animal response capabilities at the local level through an established, skilled and actively engaged Animal Response Team that is recognized by emergency management saves lives. In our experience, most animal deaths occur within the first 24 – 48 hours of disaster onset, when local response is essential. As we have also seen recently with Hurricane Harvey, with heartbreaking images of people fleeing their homes — often with their pets in their arms — Animal Response Teams are a crucial element of disaster preparedness,” said co-author Dick Green, Senior Director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA.
Read the original article here:
C. Victor Spain, R.C. Green, Lacie Davis, Gregory S. Miller, Susan Britt: The National Capabilities for Animal Response in Emergencies (NCARE) Study: An Assessment of US States and Counties, 09.09.2017