How we plan for animals in emergencies

Hurricane Katrina inspired a national pet evacuation policy. The plan could save human lives, too.

It all started with Snowball. In the days after Hurricane Katrina inundated much of the Gulf Coast and burst through the New Orleans levies, the Associated Press reported that a boy had his small white dog Snowball taken from him by a police officer before he could get on a bus to be evacuated to Houston. “The boy cried out — ‘Snowball!’ Snowball!’ — then vomited in distress,” the AP reported.

The story was just one tragedy among thousands during and after Katrina, but it caused a large amount of anguish among pet owners across the country. Reports of thousands of abandoned pets and the many people who refused to leave their homes unless they could take their animals with them sparked a change in evacuation policy and a recognition of the strength of the human-animal bond. As for Snowball, there is some dispute as to whether the dog was ever found. Soon after the initial story was published, a federal government official told USA Today that Snowball had been reunited with its family…


How we plan for animals in emergencies

After fires pass, wildlife rescue services apply first aid and care as they can. Wild animals depend on pre-planning, such as the creation of safe corridors for travel. AAP Image/Adelaide Zoo, Minnie McCreanor

Animals are desperately vulnerable to natural disasters. An estimated 350 koalas have died during catastrophic bushfire conditions across eastern Australia and reports of injured animals continue to pour in.

It’s not just wildlife at risk. February’s Townsville floods claimed the lives of some 600,000 cattle. People are often injured while attempting to rescue pets, and the thought of leaving a dependent animal to face fire alone is devastating…

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