Update 11/24/2023: Our team in Mexico wrapped up three weeks of disaster response work, helping more than 1,300 animals in the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Otis. This massive effort from our team on the ground meant that veterinary care and much-needed pet food and other supplies could reach the badly affected communities after the destruction. 

On Oct. 25, Hurricane Otis slammed into the Pacific coast of Mexico near Acapulco. The storm unexpectedly and rapidly intensified to Category 5, becoming the strongest storm to hit that side of the country on record, according to the National Hurricane Center. Nearly 50 people were killed, and 60 more are still missing. Wind gusts reached up to 205 miles per hour, some of the strongest wind speeds recorded on land anywhere on Earth.

With multiple storms making landfall in Mexico over recent months, it has been a particularly catastrophic hurricane season for the region. Humane Society International staff in Mexico have been regularly in touch with potentially impacted communities, sharing preparedness information and successfully advocating for pets to be included in evacuation procedures.

Thankfully, prior to Hurricane Lidia hitting the coastal region of Puerta Vallarta in early October, all eight of the temporary emergency shelters for people decided to also allow pets. The decision came after our HSI team conducted a training on the importance of including companion animals in emergency shelters. I’m immensely proud of the hard work of our team that helped to prevent families from having to make the gut-wrenching decision between their own safety and the safety of their companion animals.

Diana Mena from HSI/Latin America surveys the destruction wrought by Hurricane Otis.

Before Hurricane Otis arrived in Acapulco, officials publicly announced that temporary shelters were welcoming pets and shared information about how people should prepare to evacuate with their animals. What turned into a nightmare situation for the region could have been even worse.

Now the work of healing is beginning. Earlier this week, in response to the severe impacts from Hurricane Otis, our Animal Rescue Team deployed at the request of the Guerrero state Animal Welfare Unit to assess the needs at animal shelters and temporary shelters where people were living with their pets. Our team has been working each day to visit locations requesting support and checking on animals for urgent needs.

While handling the most pressing cases, the team is also thinking about what will be needed in the weeks ahead, making plans to provide long-term aid to communities suffering from damage so severe that they lack resources to care for the animals due to the impacts from the storm.

Mena from HSI/Latin America gives some love to a local dog.

Our disaster response work is in high demand, as natural hazards are occurring more frequently and with more intensity. Prevention of suffering becomes just as important as sifting through the rubble, so we are helping to equip governments and communities with disaster preparedness plans that could save people and animals. And in many cases where long-term recovery is needed, we continue to support communities for weeks and months while they rebuild their lives.

Your support allows us to respond to crisis zones when we’re needed, and to stay if we can continue help. Consider donating what you can.

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.