Canadian Marine Mammal Rescue Network

Organizing an Animal Rescue Operation Following A Disaster- The Lessons Learned From Katrina and Rita

Carin Wittnich, Nesime Askin, Michael Belanger

Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, 12 Burton Avenue, Barrie, Ontario, Canada, L4N 2R2

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created catastrophic devastation that quickly overwhelmed rescue efforts partially due to the underestimation of the tremendous bond between pet/livestock owners and their animals. This created a huge need for outside aid to supplement what was already in place. We describe the numerous details to undertake such an emergency rescue mission.

The Oceanographic Environmental Research Society (OERS) was asked by the U.S. Humane Society to assist with Katrina/Rita rescue efforts. A Number of issues/items had to be organized prior to a rescue team being dispatched:

Paperwork- political and official clearances/paperwork had to be acquired from all of the appropriate departments.

Health- team members needed medical clearences and prepared for any potential health threats (ie. all vaccinations).

Transportation- transportation had to be arranged to safely get the team there and back (ie reliable vehicle/source of gasoline, oil).

Equipment- appropriate equipment required for the environmental conditions and for potential threats had to be secured (ie clothing).

Communication- finding reliable communication methods as there was almost no telephone/cell phone access.

- supplies had to be found to maintain the team and for the rescue operation in Mississippi.

Funding- funding had to be in place for any surplus needs of the team.

Any animal welfare/emergency response is filled with numerous pitfalls and requires pre-established protocols. The better prepared and organized a group is, the more efficient they will be at treating and caring for animals.

Presented as a poster at the Caring for Crisis Meeting 2007