Natural disasters are devastating, leaving many people without a home, and their personal belongings and family memories forever destroyed. Animals of all species also fall victim to these horrendous events when they’re left to fend for themselves or accidentally become separated as families attempt to travel to safety.
With the help of search and rescue teams, the animals are brought to the safety of shelters and makeshift facilities in hopes of having them reunited with their families. But the influx of incoming animals can place a strain on resources and displace animals already in the shelter, leaving workers scrambling to find a place for everyone to go. Because of this, donations and support are critical after a disaster, and there are several ways you can help, whether it’s on-site or from afar.
Adopt or Foster a Shelter Animal
Being inundated with rescued animals is hard on shelters of any size, but it’s especially burdensome on smaller shelters with limited resources and those without a network of foster homes. And despite their best efforts to house as many animals as possible, some are faced with no other option but to euthanize those already in the shelter to make room for incoming animals. After a disaster, rescue organizations across the country band together to help take in animals from overwhelmed shelters, but they can’t do it alone.
One way you can help shelters make room – and save lives in the process – is to adopt or offer to be a foster home for animals. People often make the mistake of thinking that shelters are adopting out animals rescued from the disaster, forever separating them from their families in the process, but that isn’t the case. The goal in these situations is to move the animals that were already in the shelter, making room for new animals until they can be reunited with their families.
If you don’t live near the disaster area, or you’re unable to adopt, you can always check with your local rescue organizations to see if they need foster homes – and chances are, they do. Fostering provides relief by creating an opening for the organization to take in additional animals, and you can feel good about knowing that you did your part to help save a life.
The cost of providing food and medical care for animals can add up quickly, putting a financial strain on shelters that aren’t prepared to care for a large number of animals. Monetary donations are always welcome because shelters can use the funds to purchase what they need most, whether it’s food, blankets, medical supplies, or crates to house extra animals. Unfortunately, donation scams are common after a disaster, so always do your research to make sure your money is going directly to the organization.
Food, treats, litter, gas cards, and cleaning supplies are also a helpful donation if you prefer not to send money. Before you go shopping, contact the shelter or rescue to see exactly what they need, or see if they have an online “wish list” of donated items. A large donation of puppy food, for example, won’t benefit an organization that has taken in several litters of kittens. Checking with them first will help ensure that your donation benefits as many animals as possible.
The first thing any animal lover wants to do when there are animals in need is offer to volunteer. But before you plan a road trip to a devastated area, it’s important to have a plan in place. Disaster areas are incredibly dangerous, and first responders and other agencies are busy trying to save people and animals. If you want to lend a helping hand, check with national organizations that have a system in place for disaster relief volunteers. You can also reach out to local organizations to offer assistance with transporting animals from shelters or gathering donated supplies.
Keep in mind that thousands of people step up to help in these situations, so even if an organization doesn’t need your help right away, that doesn’t mean they won’t need it later. Many organizations located in disaster areas will continue to need help for several months (if not longer) as they recover from the devastation and work to reunite pets with their families, so be patient until an opportunity becomes available.
Whatever you decide to do, know that your help is appreciated more than words can ever express. No good deed is too small, and it’s often the simplest of acts of kindness that have the greatest impact.
Lead image source: FEMA/Wikimedia