As Alabama recovers from a blitz of devastating tornadoes, the Humane Society of the United States is on the ground in Lee and Barbour Counties. Staff responders are coordinating efforts to empty local shelters of unowned, adoptable animals so that these agencies and organizations can respond to urgent community needs and focus on facility repairs and related duties. Yesterday, we coordinated a flight that transported approximately 120 dogs and cats from Lee County Humane Society and Southern Souls Animal League to animal rescue and shelter partners on the West Coast.

Often, after events like these, shelters see an increase in the number of animals who are either lost or whose families have lost their homes and need to arrange temporary care for their beloved animals. In addition to freeing up space at the shelter for other animals in need, relocation gives these animals a second chance at finding forever homes.

At the HSUS we can pivot at a moment’s notice when disaster strikes. We train all year round, we maintain and upgrade our vehicles and equipment, and we stay connected with local, state and federal emergency response authorities so we can best serve the affected communities. With many years of experience under our belt, we are well-equipped and ready to respond.

We are grateful to our partners in Washington and Oregon, including Seattle Humane Society, Humane Society for Southwest Washington, Oregon Humane Society, Newberg Animal Shelter, Lincoln County Animal Shelter, Progressive Animal Welfare Society, Hood River Adopt a Dog and Willamette Humane Society, organizations that are now receiving the animals from Alabama.

Yesterday, we coordinated a flight that transported approximately 120 dogs and cats from Lee County Humane Society and Southern Souls Animal League, to animal rescue and shelter partners on the West Coast.
Photo by Phil Skinner/AP Images for the HSUS

The period following a tornado is a difficult and chaotic one for people who may have lost everything they own, not to mention their having to bear the pain of losing a beloved family member or a pet. If you happen to live in the affected region and are missing a pet, we recommend you follow these steps:

  • Check in-person at your municipal animal shelter, and file a missing pet report. Do this in surrounding communities as well.
  • Search your neighborhood and hand out a recent photograph of your pet and information on how you can be reached if your pet is found.
  • Post notices at grocery stores, community centers, veterinary offices, traffic intersections and other locations. Include your pet’s sex, age, weight, breed, color and any specific markings.
  • Check the internet. There may be a “lost and found” page for your community on Facebook or other social media platforms. Alternatively, check other sources such as Nextdoor, Craigslist, Center for Lost Pets, Fido Finder, Lost Dogs of America, Lost Pet USA and Missing Pet Partnership.

For more tips on finding a lost pet, go here. It is important that you do not give up, because animals who have been lost for months have often been reunited with their owners in the past.

Severe weather can strike without warning, so it is essential to make a disaster plan for your pets beforehand. Make sure all pets are identified with a registered microchip and secure collar with identification. For horses and large animals, use non-toxic spray paint to spray paint your contact information onto their body.

When a tornado approaches, the safest place for you and your pets to be is in the basement or a storm shelter underground. Animals often become frightened and hide during extreme weather. Practice bringing your animals to the location you have identified as your tornado shelter space, before a storm looms. As soon as a tornado watch is issued, secure your pets and move them to the safe location. Remember: If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.

Our friends at Red Rover have compiled a list of tornado safety tips for pets. For more tips on pet disaster preparedness, go here. And please consider making a donation to our Emergency Animal Rescue Fund. Your support will make all the difference in helping us reach the most animals during this and other natural disasters and whenever animals are in need of urgent rescue.