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November 2005
United Animal Nations’ Emergency Animal Rescue Service: Bringing Animals Out of Crisis and into Care
By Alexis Raymond

 

Prosper family and their dog, Nick, reunited.
Courtesy of United Animal Nations

United Animal Nations, through its volunteer-driven Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), was one of many organizations rescuing animal victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast.

For nearly two months, almost 300 trained EARS volunteers operated three emergency animal shelters in Mississippi and Louisiana and supported animal rescue and recovery operations in St. Bernard Parish in Chalmette, Louisiana and Lufkin, Texas.

Establishing temporary shelters for animals during and after disasters is vital to both human and animal safety. Because human evacuation shelters do not allow animals, many pet owners choose to remain at home rather than leave their animals behind; statistics show as many as 70 percent of people who refuse to evacuate during disaster do so because they will not leave their animals.

The heart-wrenching images from Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath illustrate the grim result when people are forced to choose between their own safety and their pets’ lives.

Since 1987, the EARS volunteer corps has responded to more than 60 disasters and now numbers more than 2,400 people nationwide. These volunteers are the backbone of UAN’s disaster relief efforts. EARS volunteers provide the labor necessary to operate temporary shelters—to walk the dogs, comfort the frightened, and provide veterinary care to ill or injured animals. And at the end of the effort, EARS volunteers are delighted to reunite lost animals with their families or find them new forever homes.

EARS volunteers at our shelter in Monroe, Louisiana, witnessed many happy reunions and none failed to bring tears to their eyes. One family that had relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, searched the Internet for their beagle, Nick, for more than a month before finding him at our shelter. Every EARS volunteer working at the shelter that day took a break to watch the family of four become a family of five again.

EARS volunteers traveled to the Gulf Coast from as far as Seattle, Honolulu, New Hampshire and British Columbia to help displaced animals. Hundreds more expressed their desire to help by volunteering, donating supplies or fostering animals.

Wondering how you can volunteer with EARS the next time disaster puts animals at risk?

You Can Join
UAN offers many training workshops across the country each year for those who want to join the Emergency Animal Rescue Service. UAN’s daylong training provides an overview of the EARS program; information about preparing personal disaster plans for animals; and the basics of the Incident Command System, which EARS works within when responding to a disaster.

Even if you are not able or willing to work hands-on with animals, you can help raise awareness about the needs of animals during disasters. The U.S. House of Representatives is now considering a bill that would require state and local agencies that receive federal funding to enable people with pets or service animals to safely evacuate with their animals in the event of a disaster. People who want to see animals protected the next time disaster strikes can encourage their representatives to support HR 3858, by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Alexis Raymond
is UAN’s Communications Director. To learn more about the Emergency Animal Rescue Service, sign up for a training workshop in 2006, or get tips for putting together your personal animal disaster plan, visit United Animal Nations online at www.uan.org.

 


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