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Disaster FAQ

Learn more about animal rescue efforts that are underway in the wake of Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey and the California wildfires.

Last updated October 23, 2017 4:26pm EST


General Hurricane Maria Hurricane Irma Hurricane Harvey California Wildfires

General Information

How can I support HSUS efforts to help animals impacted by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey and other natural disasters?

Your support is urgently needed so that we can continue to help in the aftermath of Maria, Irma and Harvey and so we can be there at a moment’s notice when other disasters strike. Please consider making a gift to The HSUS Disaster Relief Fund today so we can continue to respond to these and other disasters.

Where can owners find their pets if they were separated during evacuation or rescue efforts?

First and foremost, contact the animal control agency in the area you last saw your pet.There are several websites that also have information on animals rescued during the Hurricanes. You can find an updated list of these sites at Find My Lost Pet. We encourage owners to try different search terms, as animals are sometimes labeled by different breeds then what owners have on paperwork.

I want to foster a displaced pet. Where can I go to sign up?

Please go to fosterahurricanepet.com for more information on fostering. If you are able to help with equine, please visit the Horse Helpers Directory.

We also encourage you to reach out to our Emergency Placement Partners near you to see if fosters are needed.

The following shelters have taken in adoptable animals from Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and/or the British Virgin Islands in response to recent hurricanes:

  • San Antonio ACS (TX)
  • Houston Humane Society (TX)
  • St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center (NJ)
  • Seattle Humane (WA)
  • Oklahoma Humane Society (OK)
  • Tulsa SPCA (OK)
  • Humane Society of Tulsa (OK)
  • Humane Society of Central Oregon (OR)
  • Homeward Trails (VA)
  • Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation (VA)
  • Humane Rescue Alliance (DC)
  • Tri County Animal Shelter (MD)
  • Anti-Cruelty Society (IL)
  • McKamey Animal Center (TN)
  • Nashville Humane Association (TN)
  • Humane Educational Society (TN)
  • HAWS of Waukesha (WI)
  • Northwoods Humane Society (WI)
  • Animal Rescue League of Iowa (IA)
  • Wilson County DART (TN)
  • Harbor Humane Society (MI)
  • Mohawk Hudson Humane Society (NY)
  • Lakeshore Humane Society (WI)
  • Fox Valley Humane Association (WI)
  • Potter League for Animals (RI)
  • Southhampton Animal Shelter Foundation (NY)
  • Angels of Assisi (VA)
  • Van Buren County Animal Control (MI)

My shelter can take animals, how can we help?

If you are located in an area impacted by recent storms, we encourage you to reach out to area shelters to let them know you can help. If you are interested in becoming an Emergency Placement Partner with The HSUS in the future, please visit humanesociety.org/epp.

I heard that a particular city or area needs help. Can you help?

In order for an out-of-state organization to assist in a federal disaster area, there has to be an official request from the appropriate agency or emergency official. If a group or agency is in need of help, we ask that they contact their local emergency officials, who—if assistance is needed—will get the request to us. These protocols are in place to ensure there is not chaos created by outside groups coming in unrequested, and to ensure the assistance is sent to where it is needed most.

I can travel to an area impacted by one of the disasters, how can I help?

Beyond trained responders who were contacted, it is imperative that no one go to the area on their own or self-deploy. The HSUS won't be able to use volunteers who haven't gone through official training. If people who self-deploy come, and get stranded, emergency response attention must then add them to the long list of rescues, and divert attention away from the existing priority rescue work. It is simply too dangerous, and also may result in lost/stray animals not going through the official systems that can ensure they are reunited with owners.

If you are not a trained volunteer but would like to become one, you can learn more about the requirements and fill out an application.

What do I need to take when evacuating with my pet?

If you are evacuating or relocating with your pet,see our disaster preparedness kit list to make sure you have everything you need to keep them healthy and safe.

What percentage of donations to the Disaster Relief Fund go toward Disaster Relief?

Donations made to our Disaster Relief Fund are used for The HSUS’ preparedness, rescue and relief efforts for these and future disasters. This includes paying for: the care of animals; the cost of deploying resources to a location (such as staff, transport, etc.); increasing the infrastructure and capacity of our disaster response efforts through fundraising, education and awareness raising; the support of shelters and rescues taking animals from us; transporting animals from affected areas; and in some cases, long term support of pets in the community going forward.

Our priority is always to use donations in the most effective and efficient way possible so that we are always ready to help animals in times of disaster.

Hurricane Maria

What is The HSUS doing to help specifically in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes?

The need in Puerto Rico has been so great that The HSUS has combined efforts with our affiliate, Humane Society International to help as many animals as possible. We have checked in with all of our shelter partners and clinics that we work with regularly through our Humane State program, and have provided physical and personnel support as needed in conjunction with local and federal authorities. Assessments were carried out to ensure we are meeting the most critical needs first.

Humane Society of Broward County, GreaterGood.org, Wings of Rescue, St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center and The HSUS worked together to fly animals who were up for adoption at severely impacted shelters off the island to safety at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey. There will receive care and medical attention before moving on to Emergency Placement Partners across the country.

How can owners evacuate Puerto Rico with their pets? There are reports many are being told they cannot fly with their animal.

We know there are many stories about individuals not being allowed to leave the island with their pets – this is of great concern to us, as families who have already lost everything should not be forced to lose their four-legged family members as well. Thankfully, we are seeing efforts being made to expand options for those leaving the island.

We have been told that both Delta Airlines and Jet Blue Airlines have waived some pet fees and extended the number of pets allowed on each flight. In addition, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam have announced that an emergency order suspending import paperwork requirements for pets has been issued for evacuees arriving in Florida. We are grateful for these efforts, and will continue to work on additional measures to support pet owners, like ensuring that airline carriers are available for travelers who need them and that veterinarians are available to provide the health certificates needed for pets to fly out of San Juan airport.

Where, exactly, in Puerto Rico are you helping?

We have come to form strong relationships with shelters and rescues on the island through our ongoing Humane State program, and plan to assist in multiple areas. We also have a team on the Island of Vieques, where we have worked with residents to care for the wild horses as part of our Humane State program.

How can I send supplies to Puerto Rico?

Due to the added level of complexity of getting supplies and transportation in and out of Puerto Rico, we are currently working with corporations on sending bulk donations, and are not collecting donations from individuals for Puerto Rico at this time. In the coming days and weeks as we move animals out of Puerto Rico, we will have more information available on how people can help support the relief efforts.

What is The HSUS doing to help the horses in Puerto Rico?

The HSUS is currently working with local authorities as well as other organizations to formulate a plan to care for horses in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. We have gathered resources for distributing aid and will keep our supporters updated and as we work aggressively to meet the needs.

What is The HSUS doing to help in the Caribbean outside of Puerto Rico following the hurricanes?

The HSUS’s global affiliate, Humane Society International, was on the ground on Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, caring for shelter animals, and with the help of H/3 Foundation, HSI has done three transports of shelter animals from Tortola to the U.S. You can get further updates on HSI’s Facebook page.

Where is The HSUS and HSI helping in the Caribbean?

In addition to Puerto Rico where both The HSUS and HSI have been active after the storm, HSI has provided rescue and relief efforts for animals in the British Virgin Islands. As you can imagine, the need in the Caribbean has been widespread, and other organizations such as IFAW and World Animal Protection have also stepped up. IFAW is the lead organization for this effort on St. Thomas and St. Martin.

What kind of animals are you helping?

Our transport efforts have focused on dogs and cats, but the HSI team is committed to making every effort to rescue animals they come across who needs help, whether cat, dog, horse, cow or wildlif.

Hurricane Irma

What is The HSUS doing to help animals in the wake of Irma?

We have reached out to communities and animal shelters in the impacted areas to offer our support, and deployed several members of our Animal Rescue Team to help carry out assessments where our support was requested. We also coordinated the transport of shelter animals, who were up for adoption prior to the hurricane, from Florida shelters to our Emergency Placement Partners outside of the state to help increase the capacity of shelters in Florida.

You can get further updates on The HSUS Florida Facebook page.

Who can I call for information and assistance in Florida?

If you see a person or animal in distress, or you are in a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1. Other questions and request for information can be directed to the emergency manager for your county.

Where can I take my horses if I'm trying to evacuate?

We encourage those in need of emergency placement for their horses to visit the Horse Helpers Directory.

What about the South Florida Wildlife Center?

Based in Fort Lauderdale, our affiliate South Florida Wildlife Center is the highest volume wildlife hospital, trauma center and rehab center in the country, and the team there spent the days leading up to Irma preparing for the storm. All animals in the center who were not ready to be released were relocated by the Friday before the storm. Equipment and supplies were transported offsite to a local veterinary clinic, or secured onsite above ground level, and the facility was boarded up and protected as well as possible from the storm. The facility sustained $350,000 worth of damages, but all animals and staff were safe. Despite the damages, staff treated hundreds of wildlife in need in the days that followed Irma, and opened within a week of the storm.

You can find the latest information on the South Florida Wildlife Center’s Facebook page.

Hurricane Harvey

What is The HSUS doing to help during and after Hurricane Harvey?

When Hurricane Harvey hit, The HSUS had teams on the ground ready to help. In the following days, those teams helped with assessment and/or rescue efforts in Rockport, the City of Beaumont, League City, San Antonio and Dickinson, and worked with agencies such as the Houston Humane Society, the SPCA of Texas, Emancipet, Animal Investigations & Response, and Beaumont Animal Care.

We also enlisted the help of our Emergency Placement Partners, Wings of Rescue and GreaterGood.org to assist with the transport and placement of animals who were available for adoption prior to the storm to make room in local shelters for evacuee’s pets. We coordinated transports after the storm to continue to increase capacity so that people have a longer period of time to be reunited with their pets, which is our number one priority.

We also carried out an aerial assessment of stranded cattle in Southeast Texas via helicopter. We provided geographic coordinates of distressed cattle observed during our aerial survey to the Texas Air National Guard, the agency conducting the hay drops via a Chinook helicopter, to feed the cattle until the water receded.

But we know this isn’t a one and done effort, and thanks to generous funding from the Alex & Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust, Emancipet – a Houston-based nonprofit veterinary clinic – and The HSUS are offering free services to owned animals affected by Hurricane Harvey through December 8th.

I want to donate supplies for local animal shelters. What should I send?

The best thing for out-of-state folks to do is donate money and supplies to impacted shelters and those that are taking in animals. Please check with those organizations before sending supplies to make sure what you want to send is actually needed and helpful; several impacted shelters have lists of their top needs on their websites. Below are some of the online wish lists impacted shelters in the area have posted:

How is The HSUS reuniting owners with their animals?

We worked with local agencies to answer direct pleas for assistance from pet owners and ensuring pet owners are contacted after rescue. Local agencies are scanning for microchips, and we have also made certain that space is available at local facilities to take in lost and displaced pets and hold them long enough for owners to be able to search for their missing loved ones. Our priority is reuniting people with their pets.

Are animals who are rescued being euthanized?

The Humane Society of the United States’ field teams rescued animals and brought them to the proper location so that they could receive the proper care. We did not euthanize any animals that we rescued from the field. Our teams always work with agencies and organizations on the ground to get animals the care that they need with the hope that they will be reunited with their owners. We would never rescue an animal from the field only to euthanize them unless it were deemed medically necessary. In that case, euthanasia would be performed by a licensed veterinarian. We were fortunate that such a situation did not occur.

Are you helping wildlife?

Staff from our South Florida Wildlife Center were deployed to assist in Houston with wildlife rescue efforts, and helped care for impacted wildlife.

What about horses and livestock?

We want to ensure that equine and livestock are also receiving the care they need, and have reached out to the agencies we are working with to ensure they know our capacity to help. We identified thousands of stranded cattle in east Texas by conducting an aerial survey, plotting their locations, and worked with partners, including GreaterGood/Rescue Bank and Equine Rescue of Aiken, on hay drops to the animals so they can survive until the waters receded. We have also offered our assistance to the Texas Animal Health Commission, as TAHC is coordinating relief efforts for impacted equine and cattle.

Who should ranchers and farmers contact if they need help in Texas?

If owners of cattle and equine need assistance, they should contact AgriLife (the Texas A&M Extension Office) at 979-845-7800.

California Wildfires

Where can I receive up-to-date information on the California wildfires?

Through our California based team, we are receiving regular reports and updating any new or changed information. We will do our best to update this page, but there are a variety of resources for up-to-date information. In addition to local news outlets and law enforcement sources, specific information is available on the following pages:

What is The HSUS doing to help?

We have been in touch with local organizations regarding the wildfires in California, and continue to be in touch regarding their needs. Through our California based team, we are receiving regular reports. We have provided a grant of $10,000 to Sonoma County Animal Services, and our assistance has not been requested in other capacities as of this time.

Should I evacuate with my pet?

Please refer to local news outlets for evacuation orders for specific counties.

Remember, if it is not safe for you in an emergency, it is not safe for your pets. There is no guarantee of when evacuees will be allowed back into a given area, so the best way to protect your pets is to take them with you, or to bring them to a designated emergency shelter.

See our Disaster Preparedness Kit for a checklist of what to bring with you to ensure your pets stay healthy and safe.

Where can I take my pet or large animal when evacuating?

Wildfires incidents can change rapidly and resulting advice on conditions and evacuation sites is subject to change. Below is the most recent information we have received regarding evacuation sites. People in the affected areas are encouraged to contact their local emergency management officials, law enforcement, animal control or related services agencies for the latest updates and advisories. Butte County:

  • Small Animals: Old County Hospital, 2279 Del Oro Avenue, Oroville, CA 95965
  • Large Animals: Camelot Equestrian Park, 1985 Clark Road, Oroville, CA 95965
Yuba and Butte Counties:
  • Large animals can be brought to the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds, which has been set up as an emergency shelter. 442 Franklin Avenue, Yuba City, CA 95991
Nevada County:
  • An animal shelter has been set up at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, Gate 8, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley, CA 9594
Orange County:
  • Pets can be taken to Orange County Animal Service, 561 The City Drive Orange CA 92868. Please call 714-935-7158 for more information.
  • Large animals under mandatory evacuation orders can be taken to Los Alamitos Racetrack, 4961 Katella Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630. Please call 714-995-1234 for more information.

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