Hurricane Ian Response: ASPCA Assists Animals Impacted by Storm
As our disaster response efforts continue in Lee County, we are also providing support by serving as a liaison for animal shelters within impacted jurisdictions that need help. We are assisting with field assessments and helping to coordinate donations between vendors and the organizations that need the supplies.
“Being able to provide animal welfare organizations with the expertise helps streamline processes and limit duplicative efforts to ensure that all animal needs are addressed as quickly as possible,” said Wanda Merling, Manager of ASPCA Disaster Response, who is serving as a subject matter expert for the state incident management team in Arcadia, Florida. “Once we receive the request for assistance we help ensure that those donations get to the animal welfare organizations that need them the most.”
In addition to coordinating field assessments and getting supplies to animal welfare groups, we are also helping to collect data for the state to show how the resources were utilized and help prepare better for the next emergency.
Merling added, “We also provide guidance to shelters on coordinating with FEMA and the state on long-term housing options to keep families together with their pets. It’s a lot of problem solving and figuring out what can be done quickly and effectively to make the most significant impact to help animals and pet owners hit by this disaster.”
To date, more than 630 animals have been assisted through the ASPCA’s Hurricane Ian response efforts.
The ASPCA disaster response team continues to assist Lee County Animal Services, working closely with response partners to conduct assessments, distribute pet food and supplies, and respond to requests for assistance alongside local animal control officers.
“Power and water are slowly coming back to the area, but the community was heavily impacted by the storm and we’re currently doing welfare checks and distributing pet food to help pet owners in need,” said Susan Anderson, Director of ASPCA Disaster Response. “We will continue to provide assistance and relief to support the community and help animals in need.”
Additionally, we have been providing ongoing support to help relocate and place adoptable animals in Lee County with partner shelters in Tallahassee and across the Boston area. To date, nearly 175 adoptable animals have been safely transported by the ASPCA Animal Relocation and Placement teams.
“Whether we’re assisting in a disaster response or cruelty case, our strong partnerships with placement partners across the country enable us to work quickly to find options for homeless animals,” said Jessica Rushin, Director of ASPCA Placement Partnerships. “There are many moving parts and steps involved in securing shelter placement for homeless animals during a disaster, but it’s touching to see animal welfare groups leaning in and working together to provide relief to impacted communities and giving these animals a second chance.”
At the request of Lee County Domestic Animal Services, we are still on the ground in Fort Myers, Florida, conducting water and land search-and-rescue and supporting local emergency sheltering and pet food distribution for animals and pet owners impacted by Hurricane Ian. We are also providing subject matter expertise to support critical disaster response efforts in Arcadia, Florida, and are assisting in the transport of more than 80 homeless dogs and cats this week to shelters outside of the disaster zone. This is in addition to the 50+ cats and kittens we evacuated prior to the storm making landfall.
We continue to engage with impacted shelters to support additional animal evacuation and disaster response needs.
This lifesaving work is made possible thanks to support from The Emergency Fund by Rachael Ray Nutrish®, as well as the multiple national, state and local organizations collaborating on this joint effort including: Humane Society of Vero Beach, Leon County Humane Society, Louisiana State Animal Response Team, Michigan Humane, RedRover, San Diego Humane Society, and The University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service Team.
UPDATE 9/30/22: Following our evacuation efforts, we are currently on the ground in Lee County, Florida, to support animal search and rescue operations as we work with shelters across the impacted area to identify critical needs.
9/28/22: The ASPCA is on the ground in Florida, assisting with the evacuation of more than 50 homeless cats and kittens in the path of Hurricane Ian. The shelter animals are being relocated at the request of Lee County Domestic Animal Services in Fort Myers and Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa as they work to evacuate animals from their shelters ahead of the storm making landfall. We are transporting these animals out of harm’s way to Boston-area shelters including Massachusetts SPCA, Second Chance Animal Services and the Animal Rescue League of Boston. All of the animals transported out of impacted communities in advance of the storm are unowned and will be made available for adoption in the coming weeks.
Hurricane Ian is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 storm bringing heavy rainfall, storm surge and high winds throughout the next several days as it quickly approaches Florida’s Gulf Coast. Our disaster response team is in communication with local and state emergency response agencies and stands ready to assist displaced animals and pet owners upon request. At this time, we are strongly urging residents to incorporate their pets into preparedness and evacuation plans.
“As Hurricane Ian continues to intensify, we are reminding pet owners in impacted communities the importance of including pets in all disaster preparedness plans, especially those involving a potential evacuation,” said Susan Anderson, Director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA National Field Response Team. “We commend the local animal welfare organizations for quickly identifying the need to evacuate these animals out of the storm’s path as well as our Massachusetts-based partners for opening their doors to bring these cats to safety.”