The floods have now abated in Kerala, but they’ve left massive destruction in their wake. Millions of people and animals have been left homeless by the calamity that has also claimed more than 400 human lives and, according to the government of Kerala, millions of animals, including large numbers of birds on poultry farms.
Our Humane Society International Animal Rescue Team was one of the first to arrive after the floods hit, and we are still on the ground there. Among other important work, we have been helping farmers affected by the floods by providing their animals with feed, and we have been working with local shelters to reunite lost animals with their families. Our animal rescue helpline has been inundated with calls from pet owners worried about animals they were forced to leave behind, and, working with local animal groups across Kerala, we have been going house to house rescuing any stranded animals. In the past two weeks, we have helped rescue more than 200 animals and coordinated the rescue of almost 1,000 others with the help of volunteers and allied rescue organizations.
One such animal was Appu, a dog separated from his family when they evacuated to a relief camp. They were among hundreds of families forced to choose between saving their families and their animals when humanitarian rescue crews refused to let people bring their animals with them. When Appu’s family returned home, they couldn’t find their beloved dog. Our HSI team received information about a dog who seemed to fit Appu’s description: he was living in an area near a river that had been hit by a landslide, and by the time we found him he was very scared and starving. We reunited Appu with his family, fed many other dogs who had also swum to that area seeking higher ground, and left behind supplies for those trying to help the animals.
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[/media-credit] Appu (pictured above), was separated from his family when they evacuated to a relief camp. He was very scared and starving when we found him, and was thrilled to be reunited with his family.[/caption]
In another case, HSI rescuers walked through waist-deep water to find Ray, a German Shepherd, who had fled his home in terror as the waters rose. He became disoriented after the water submerged the once-familiar landscape around him, and was missing for five days before HSI found him and reunited him with his family.
It is possible, as often happens after disasters of this scale, that hundreds of animals could go on to develop respiratory and infectious diseases, and the area could see outbreaks of canine distemper and parvovirus. So after the floodwaters have subsided, HSI/India will assist local groups with their efforts to provide veterinary care, and to implement large-scale feeding programs for starving animals in remote and poverty-stricken areas. We’ll also arrange an adoption event to find loving homes for puppies rescued from the floods.
HSI/India already has an established vaccination and sterilization program in Kerala, which we launched in January 2017 to humanely manage street dog populations, so we were well-placed to spring into action when the floods hit the state. Now that the worst of the floods are over, we will extend our deployment in order to make sure that the animals continue to be safe from diseases that could loom as a result of the waterlogging. As HSI/India Director Rahul Sehgal says, “if we were to simply pack up and leave after the initial rescue, we would be condemning hundreds of animals to perish later on as their weakened bodies are overwhelmed with disease or infection.”
In the past two weeks, we have helped rescue more than 200 animals and coordinated the rescue of almost 1,000 others with the help of volunteers and allied rescue organizations.[/caption]
HSI is also helping animals in Coorg, in the neighboring state of Karnataka, which was also affected by heavy rains and landslides. We teamed up with local partners CUPA India and Woof Wagon Pet Services to help rescue animals in Coorg and feed street animals. Last week, we distributed relief materials donated online by supporters around the country to local animal rescuers and pet parents who lost everything in the floods.
Through all of the suffering and sadness, we have seen heartwarming examples of the deep bond between people and their animals. In my first Kerala blog, I told you about one woman, Sunitha Sinto, who refused to leave her dogs behind. She managed to contact HSI and we arranged for a local team to rescue her and her dogs. However, when the relief camp refused her entry with her dogs, she returned to her house where HSI provided the animals with veterinary care, including sterilization, as well as food for her and her dogs.
Sunitha’s dwelling has been ravaged by the floods and she was not able to get food for herself or her dogs, so HSI has been continuing to supply her with rice and dog food and other basic provisions. Sunitha is one of us, and we want the world to know that we’ll stand strong behind animal rescue workers who emerge in times of crisis to support animals in need.
“My dogs are my children, and if ever I am in a life or death situation like the floods, I will never leave without them,” she told our team. “I’m so happy … HSI/India was here to offer help when I needed it, and still now after the flood when we are still in need … I want to let people around the world know that animal lives matter too, and when calamity strikes they rely on us to save them.”