As severe weather events have become more frequent and more destructive in recent years, our Animal Rescue Teams at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have not merely expanded but also learned to pivot swiftly to respond to crisis situations. This includes policies that include animals in disaster planning, taking proactive steps to move animals to safety before disaster strikes, getting the word out to people in the path of the storm on how to keep their animals safe, and helping put the pieces back together in the aftermath of disaster with search and rescue operations.

I reported last month on HSI's work in India to rescue thousands of animals caught up in severe floods. This week, as the monster Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolinas and Virginia, our HSUS Animal Rescue Team is in full response mode, coordinating efforts with partners to empty shelters in the path of the storm and facilitating the transport of animals to safety.

This is an incredibly busy time for our Animal Rescue Team, which has conducted countless rescues and responses over the years. We have honed our skills over years of doing this work, and we are monitoring the situation closely and proactively reaching out to partners in the path of the storm to offer our assistance. We are also reminding people in the path of the hurricane that if it’s not safe for them, it’s not safe for their pets.

We are helping partners move animals to shelters in Maryland, Tennessee, New Jersey, parts of Virginia, Michigan and other locations ahead of the storm, which is expected to make landfall this week. We are incredibly grateful to our shelter and rescue partners that have responded to transport needs and/or are taking animals into their programs from animal shelters in Florence’s path. It is critical to move homeless pets out of the shelters to provide room for displaced pets. Within hours of our request for assistance, more than 25 shelters and rescues mobilized in some way to assist.

Some of the most moving images after last year’s string of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico were of people carrying their animals through waist-deep waters, or in boats, taking them to safety, a reminder of the deep bond humans share with their companion animals. For many people, animals are family, and leaving them behind during a disaster is unthinkable. This year, increasingly, we see government officials and agencies taking heed of the importance of including pets in disaster preparedness planning, and including pets in their messages for the millions of residents of areas threatened by Hurricane Florence.

Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed, so it is extremely important to include them in your evacuation plans. If you live in the path of the hurricane, here are some tips on making a disaster plan for your pets and putting together a disaster preparedness kit.

Our thoughts are with all of the residents who are evacuating and with all of the responders who will be working around the clock to try to minimize loss of life and damage to property. Hurricane season is upon us, with Florence one of several active storms at the moment. Your support will make all the difference in helping us reach the most animals and ensuring their safety during this and other natural disasters and whenever animals are in need of urgent rescue.

Help animals impacted by emergency situations