Want To Help Animals Hit By Disaster? Here’s How!

As the devastation from Hurricane Harvey unfolds in Texas and the storm passes over Louisiana, we’re again overwhelmed by gut-wrenching pictures of stranded animals, dogs and cats in flooded crates or swimming for their lives, horses tied to rails with the water rising.

Animal advocates feel helpless.  We want to DO SOMETHING.  We want to get in our cars and go!

Experienced organizations appreciate your enthusiasm and concern, but, right now, what they appreciate most are monetary donations or gift cards for pet parents/rescues affected by the storm to utilize when they can assess their own needs.  To help you out, the Petco Foundation compiled this ever-expanding link to organizations in hard hit areas, with locations or causes who need your monetary support.  The Petco Foundation has committed to a $2.3 million donation to support these animal welfare organizations affected by Harvey, in Texas and Louisiana.

In addition, through September 10, all funds raised through Petco’s “All For Saving Lives” campaign in stores and online directly supports those organizations through donated supplies and financial support.  Please click here to meet some of Petco’s ‘Harvey’s Heroes’ and donate what you can on this link.   And whenever you shop in Petco, consider ’rounding up’ your total; that small change really adds up!

But if you’re still determined to hit the road, here’s why established emergency rescue organizations want you to think twice before getting in your vehicles today.

The rescue and rebuilding effort will be going on for months. 

If you wait till it becomes safer, you’ll have a greater opportunity to help and learn, without hindering the work of first responders!

Courtesy, Austin Pets Alive!

After the news crews have left the scene and emergency workers have returned to their homes, groups such as Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO),  RedRover Responders and Code 3, will still be on the ground in the hard-hit areas.  They, and many other groups, have experienced volunteers and workers trained in best practices for Emergency Animal Rescue mobilization.

If you have no experience in disaster relief, there are valid concerns that while the area is still flooded, well-meaning advocates will be more of a hindrance than a help.  Gas will become a hard-to-find resource. Sleeping, eating and showering facilities may not be available.  Organizations simply do not have the manpower to rescue well-meaning rescuers.

Courtesy, Austin Pets Alive!

So what do they advise if you still want to physically lend a hand?  Contact a group who is currently on the ground, or one you financially support. Let them know your skills, your experience and your time frame.   Be patient, they’re currently dealing with a disaster.

Here’s an online form from the Louisiana SPCA, which will detail your skill set and availability.   For the current needs of rescues/shelters in TX and LA, ARNO’s link here provides you with up-to-date information.  You can apply to be a foster home for displaced animals, something desperately needed.

The American Red Cross is still in need of volunteers.  Click on this link to apply.  They are currently experiencing a high volume of interest, so be patient.  Austin Pets Alive! has a wishlist of needed items and are looking for immediate volunteers: click here!  To assist the Houston SPCA, click here!

Courtesy, Austin Pets Alive!

Moving forward, because there will always be another storm down the road, get trained in Emergency Preparedness with a group like RedRover – here’s the link to become a trained responder! American Humane offers a “Basic Animal Emergency Services” course, through FEMA; for information, click here.

Code 3 Associates have certification programs in animal disaster response listed here.  The ASPCA has an extensive link of training programs here. Wag’N Enterprises also provides links to classes and suggestions on how to be prepared.

Become a member of CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team. More than 600,000 people have been trained through this program, click here!

Courtesy, Houston SPCA

With training from any of these organizations, you’ll be better prepared to help animals in and out of your community when disaster strikes.  Some of the training is just 2 days, some are more in-depth, depending on your time and availability.  You’ll meet like-minded individuals, who are all determined to make a difference for animals.  You’ll learn, and you’ll have fun!

And finally, some simple advice from this ShelterMe writer, who experienced post-Katrina rescue work first-hand.  When you do deploy, bring socks.  Bring plenty of socks!

And check out “Find Me“; this episode of ShelterMe introduces shelter dogs trained by search and rescue teams!

Lisa Blanck

Writing articles about animals for more than 22 years, she dove into the rescue world with the onset of Hurricane Katrina. As an outspoken advocate for animals, she's covered everything from paws to hooves, fins to feathers. She was the Orlando Animal Rescue and Worldwide Animal Issues Examiner for seven years. She's always thinking pawsitive, looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. She lives with one dog, one cat and one patient human. She welcomes your suggestions and is thrilled to be part of the ShelterMe.tv family!


  1. mongibello says:

    A wealth of solid and so useful information. I don’t think we here in Europe are quite so organised. Wish we were. We don’t have the hurricanes you have but we do have the floods in the winter and of course earthquakes. You could teach us quite a bit about animal disaster welfare.
    Well done for an excellent article which should go nationwide.

  2. Lajeanne Leveton says:

    GOOD article, solid info! THANKS!

    1. Karen says:

      Lisa, I could not get the link you gave to work. Please double-check it. Sure hope the rescue dog’s owner found him.
      Thanks, Karen in Florida

      1. Lisa Blanck says:

        Karen, thank you for caring! sadly, Frank did not survive. His owner retrieved his body and brought him home.

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