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December 5, 2012

FAQ: The HSUS and Hurricane Sandy

Answers to common questions about our relief work

Click on the questions below to see the answers.

How can I help the pets left homeless from Sandy?

Please give to The Humane Society of the United States' Disaster Relief Fund to help animals affected by Hurricane Sandy and future disasters, too. Your donation will be used exclusively for our disaster relief work, which varies by disaster and may include animal rescue, emergency sheltering, grants to local organizations, and even longer-term animal services in affected areas.

Please donate at humanesociety.org, call 866-720-2676, or text ANIMALS to 20222 to donate $10 to support The HSUS's Disaster Relief Fund (standard messaging and data rates apply).

What is your role helping animals and communities after Sandy?

After the storm cleared the area, we were asked to assist, and The HSUS deployed trained personnel and equipment to New York and New Jersey. We were the lead group in New Jersey, and worked in New York City through the NYC Office of Emergency Management's Animal Planning Task Force.

Rescues and sheltering in New Jersey

In New Jersey, we worked with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Governor's Office to establish and staff a toll-free hotline for people forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuated. The hotline received more than 1,300 calls. The HSUS also had agreements with emergency management agencies in Ocean and Monmouth Counties to do storm-related animal sheltering and pet rescue. We rescued 216 stranded pets from devastated areas of the state.

The HSUS also operated an emergency animal shelter in each affected county until all animals in Monmouth were transferred to our Ocean County facility. We cared for more than 300 pets in the Ocean County shelter, including a variety of birds, fish, iguanas, hamsters, dogs, and hundreds of cats. The displaced families were relieved to know their pets would be safe and cared for. Our Ocean County facility closed on December 4 after 232 animals were returned to their owners, 50 were placed in a long-term foster care program we established with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, and—remarkably—fewer than 20 were placed with partner shelters to find new homes.

Teaming up for animals in New York

We worked with our partners in the New York City Office of Emergency Management Animal Planning Task Force to run a toll-free hotline for New Yorkers and accepted more than 1,000 calls. We also partnered with Nassau County Emergency Management, North Shore Animal League, Nassau County SPCA, and the Pet Safe Coalition to care for nearly 300 pets in an emergency animal shelter. The shelter provided pet care for Long Island families homeless because of the storm. The HSUS began helping care for the animals at the Nassau County facility soon after the storm hit. As part of our partnership, we provided more than 40 trained staff and volunteers, arranged for needed pet care supplies through Pet Smart Charities, HSUS vendors, or other partners, and provided professional guidance on shelter, disease, and volunteer management in a disaster situation.

The Disaster Foster Program

Through a groundbreaking partnership with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center and the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey, The HSUS helped initiate a program that is rare to disaster response—foster matching. Many pet owners whose homes were devastated by the storm were desperate to hold on to the few things they had left, especially their beloved pets. With the website FosterASandyPet.org, those pet owners were able to connect with animal lovers across the state willing to open their homes to an animal.

The outpouring of support was inspiring—more than 800 people volunteered to foster animals in need. One woman who lost her home in the hurricane needed a place to keep her pet until she was able to find pet-friendly housing. She signed up with the foster program and her pet was placed in a loving home within days. When she was able to find herself a suitable apartment, she gratefully took her pet back home and then promptly volunteered to serve as a foster herself. Her pay-it-forward attitude is just one example of the compassion our rescue team witnessed in storm-ravaged New Jersey communities.

Our shelter staff was deeply moved by the emotional responses of families in need and the foster volunteers. They came together as strangers, but will forever be bonded, one family entrusting the care of their beloved pet to another. Knowing that their pets were going to be safe and sound was a welcome relief for the families who needed to rebuild their homes or start over in new ones. In the end, more than 50 animals and numerous families were assisted by this program. We hope it will be a model for disaster responses in the future.

Which agencies is The HSUS partnering with on the Sandy response?

We are working with American Logistics Aid Network, Animal Care and Control of NYC, Animal Welfare Association (N.J.), ASPCA, Associated Humane Association, Bideawee, Bucks County (Pa.) SPCA, Burlington (N.J.) Animal Control, City of Long Beach (N.Y.) Animal Control, Delaware Animal Care and Control, Delaware Animal Control, Hempstead (N.Y.) Police Department, Hempstead (N.Y.) Township Animal Control, Humane Society of Atlantic County (N.J.), Humane Society of Berks County (Pa.), Jersey Shore Animal Control, Kent County (Del.) SPCA, Linden Township (N.J.) Health Department and Animal Control, Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, Monmouth County (N.J.) SPCA, Nassau County (N.Y.) SPCA, New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture, New Jersey State Police, NJSPCA, North Shore Animal Shelter, North Shore Animal League, NYC Office of Emergency Management Animal Planning Task Force, NYC Veterinary Response Team, Ocean County (N.J.) Emergency Operations Center, Passaic (N.J.) Animal Control, Pet Safe Coalition, PetSmart Charities, RedRover, Seaside Heights (N.J.) Police Department, Seaside Park (N.J.) Police Department, Somerset (N.J.) Regional Animal Shelter, SPCA of Kent County (Del.), St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center (N.J.), Toms River (N.J.) Animal Control, Toms River (N.J.) Police Department, Uniondale (N.Y.) Fire Dept., and the USDA.

We are handling supplies and distribution with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, Monmouth County SPCA, and the Animal Welfare Association. With these groups, we have established four distribution sites in affected New Jersey counties.

Also, members of the community, local animal welfare organizations, PetSmart Charities, PetCo Foundation, TJ Maxx, and Purina have generously donated food and supplies to be distributed through the four distribution sites.

I've lost my home and I don't know what to do with my pet. Can you help?

Ideally, it's best to keep your pet with you. Your best option is to find a friend or family member who can provide temporary housing for you and your pet so you can stay together.

If that is not an option for you, we strongly encourage you to check www.FosterASandyPet.org to see a list of volunteers near you who are offering to take the pets of families displaced by Sandy into their homes for several months to give those families time to get back on their feet. This may be a great option for your pet while you secure permanent housing.

If you are in a resident of Ocean or Monmouth counties in New Jersey and your pet is missing because of Hurricane Sandy, please call our temporary animal shelter at 609-384-0306. All other routine calls and calls in other counties should be made to your local animal control organization.

We will collect your information and work with local officials to do everything we can to rescue your pet. Every call is included in our daily log which we will share with law enforcement, emergency management and, in Monmouth and Ocean counties, with our disaster response team. All calls are prioritized based on urgency and need. The devastation is so extreme, and the need is so great, however, that we are unable to specify a particular response time. Our responders are on the ground now and no animal in urgent need we are able to rescue will be left behind.

If you are in New York City, please call 347-573-1561.

I was forced to leave my pet behind when I evacuated. Can you help?

The HSUS is working with local officials to help respond to inquiries regarding pets in need. If you are a resident of Ocean or Monmouth county, N.J., please call our temporary animal shelter at 609-384-0306. If you live in New York City, please call us at 347-573-1561. We unfortunately cannot guarantee that we will be able to rescue your pet—but please be assured that we are doing everything we can to make sure animals in need are rescued and receive the care that they need.

In the first several days of operation, a 24-hour hotline set up by The HSUS to receive reports of lost and missing animals needing rescue from the storm received more than 900 calls. HSUS staff members are working around the clock to reunite those pets with their owners. According to a Red Cross volunteer, the ability to provide residents of the Red Cross's temporary shelter with a toll free number to report missing pets has provided comfort and relief to families who have lost so much.

I want to volunteer or foster a displaced pet. What can I do?

If you are able to provide temporary housing for a displaced animal, particularly if you live in or near New Jersey, please visit www.FosterASandyPet.org to learn more about a foster match program set up by St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, the Animal Welfare Federation of New Jersey, and The HSUS to provide services to help keep pet families together throughout affected areas of New Jersey by building foster relationships and providing supportive services.

If you're interested in joining our team for future deployments, please apply to join us on our Animal Rescue Team's volunteer page.

The HSUS's National Volunteer Center can be reached at volunteer@humanesociety.org or 301-258-1489.

Can I adopt one of the pets you rescue?

Our primary goal is to give pet owners the opportunity to reunite with their pets if/when they are ready to care for them. For pets who are not reunited, we will work with our shelter and rescue placement partners to help find homes for them. At this point, it is too soon to provide any details on how to adopt animals specifically impacted by the storm, but we strongly urge you to visit www.TheShelterPetProject.org and consider becoming a hero to pets in your own community who need homes. Every animal adopted saves a life and potentially frees up space for additional animals in need.

I want to send supplies. What is needed and where do I send it?

The organizations harmed by the disaster are in need of financial contributions more than supplies, although blankets and towels are needed and appreciated. Gift cards are a great way to help them, particularly cards for fuel and from building supply stores. Individual organizations have posted specific supply requests on Twitter, and we are sharing that information on our Twitter account (@HumaneSociety).

We have also posted a list of shelter supply requests on a section of our Facebook page. Please check there for an updated list of needs.

A distribution site is being established at the St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, located at 575 Woodland Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940. Please check St. Hubert's Facebook page for updates on needs. The Animal Welfare Association is also accepting donations of gift cards to building supply and pet supply stores, and dog and cat crates in good condition and with all pieces included. AWA's address is 509 Centennial Blvd., Vorhees, NJ 08043.

St. Hubert's and the Animal Welfare Association may be able to provide an updated supply request list if you contact them directly, but please be patient due to a very high volume of inquiries.

We will post more information about contributing supplies as needs and receiving locations are identified.

Is there any truth to the rumor that pets at Hurricane Sandy evacuation shelters are being euthanized? I received an email regarding animals at Susan Wagner High School on Staten Island.

No. The animals at evacuation shelters belong to the evacuees. No lost, stray, or found animals are housed at Susan Wagner High School or at any other evacuation shelters in New York City.

Who should I contact if I've found an injured wild animal?

Please locate and contact a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife posts a list at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/rehablst.htm, or you can reach them by phone at 609-292-2965. For New York, please visit this resource from the New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, http://www.nyswrc.org/counties.htm.

Members of the public requesting additional information on wildlife response can contact The HSUS at wildliferesponse@humanesociety.org.

How does this disaster compare to Katrina?

While the loss of human life is thankfully smaller, the devastation of property, the number of people left homeless and the size of the area impacted is larger than what we saw after Hurricane Katrina. The needs of the animals are immense and we anticipate operating emergency shelters and otherwise providing on-the-ground assistance for weeks if not months to help the region recover.

One of the many lessons learned from Katrina is the importance of including pets in disaster planning, and in this crisis many human and animal lives were saved because officials included pets in the human evacuation. After Katrina, The HSUS helped to secure passage the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act in the U.S. Congress and legislation in 16 states, including New Jersey and New York, to include pets in disaster planning, and those policies undoubtedly helped prepare for Sandy and mitigate its impact.

I want to raise money for your work to help the animals after Sandy. What do I need to do?

We greatly appreciate the generous spirit of everyone willing to help pets in times of need. The easiest way to help raise funds is to encourage your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers to donate through our website at www.humanesociety.org or the other methods listed above and below. If you are interested in coordinating a fundraiser, we ask that you please send an email to corprelations@humanesociety.org and tell us how you plan to raise the funds. If you're planning an event, please tell us: the state where the fund-raising would occur, whether you're doing this as an individual or as an organization or business, and whether you have a date/time frame. If your fundraising effort would be promoted on a website, please provide us with the website address. The more you can tell us about what you have in mind, the quicker we can respond.

My company wants to donate part of our profits to help. Can I work with you to promote our project?

Yes, please email corprelations@humanesociety.org and someone will contact you promptly.

Can you designate my donation to go to help the pets impacted by Sandy?

The donation you make to The Humane Society of the United States' Disaster Relief Fund may be directed to help animals affected by Hurricane Sandy, but it is vital that we prepare for future disasters, too. If you do give, you may be certain that your donation will be used exclusively for our disaster relief work, which varies by disaster and may include animal rescue, emergency sheltering, grants to local organizations, and even longer-term animal services in impacted areas. Please donate at humanesociety.org, call 866-720-2676, or text ANIMALS to 20222 to donate $10 to support The HSUS's Disaster Relief Fund (standard messaging and data rates apply).

This document will be updated as new information becomes available and new questions arise.

Get up-to-the-minute disaster relief updates on The HSUS's Twitter feed »
Go to the main Hurricane Sandy page »

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