Our Animal Rescue Team is on the ground in parts of Florida that were ravaged by Hurricane Michael. We are coordinating the movement of adoptable dogs and cats out of shelters affected by the storm and to shelters in other parts of the country, making room for animals who started to flow in before and after the storm hit.

Over this past weekend we coordinated and funded the transport of approximately 30 animals out of Escambia County to the Michigan Humane Society. The animals came from a shelter in Dothan, Alabama, which was hit hard by the hurricane and had such bad infrastructure damage that it destroyed one of the shelter’s buildings, stranding the animals who had to be temporarily accommodated in crates. Over the course of two days, we also moved more than 80 adoptable dogs and cats from Port St. Joe and Bay County, Florida, into Escambia, and they will soon be sent to other shelters across the country to make room for more animals. Later this week, these animals and other adoptable animals that were at the Escambia shelter will be moved to San Diego and other points west. Three hundred animals are expected to make this lifesaving cross-country journey.

These special souls are all amazing, adoptable animals, like Bourbon, a five-year-old, neutered blue nose pit bull, who is on the contingent headed to San Diego. Bourbon was pulled from the Humane Society of Bay County, which had no electricity or running water after the storm, and was expecting an influx of displaced animals. Our team members drove through devastation and debris to pick up this extremely well-mannered dog and dozens like him to ensure they could be delivered to safety. Bourbon, who is great with other animals, will certainly make some family very happy.

Some of the most important work we do before, during and after a storm is that of coordinating and funding transports of adoptable shelter animals away from decimated areas and into other shelters around the country where they have an opportunity to find a forever home. There are a number of elements our team needs to consider each time there is news of an intensive storm or disaster bearing down on communities across the county to ensure that as many animals affected receive the help they need. This process starts when we reach out to our shelter partners and allies, as well as emergency management officials, to encourage them to move unowned shelter animals out of harm’s way and secure pet-friendly transportation or shelter for residents evacuating with their animals. We work with animal care officials to identify a "hub” facility where animals rescued or surrendered after the storm can be accommodated. From this station, we work to move out any adoptable animals at affected shelters to other states or counties.

The need for transporting animals is especially acute this time around, given the scale of the damage Michael caused. Many shelters directly in the storm’s path, like the shelter in Dothan, took a major hit, stranding hundreds of animals. Michael also came right on the heels of Hurricane Florence. Shelters in adjacent states affected by Florence are still in recovery and have limited capacity for support.

As always, we are poised to serve the needs of all animals affected, from chickens to cows and everything in between. Michael permanently changed the landscape of the Panhandle, leveling homes and trees, and turning communities into heaps of debris. Animals affected by the storm are disoriented and still struggling for survival. Our Animal Rescue Team is there, on the ground, to offer immediate relief and support for the animals, the professionals in the state who are working to protect animals every day, and the people that love their pets.

The lasting effects of Hurricane Michael will be felt for many months or years to come, but as always, we are committed to seeing this through and making sure we are there for those in need during a time of crisis. But we cannot do it without your help. Please consider making a donation to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund. With your support, we can continue to answer the call during natural disasters, situations of extreme cruelty and neglect, and whenever animals are in need of urgent rescue.

As busy as we are during times of natural disasters, we are all pausing today to reflect on the life and legacy of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who was as well known for his philanthropic work as he was for his leadership in the corporate world. Allen, who died yesterday, was dedicated to saving the world’s most imperiled wildlife. Allen conceived the HSUS-backed ballot measure in Washington state to fight wildlife trafficking, and put all of his energy and resources behind it, helping usher the initiative to unprecedented success in 2015. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. was instrumental in enacting similar wildlife trafficking laws in Oregon and Hawaii, and supported Humane Society International’s rhino horn demand reduction programs in Vietnam. Allen was also behind the Great Elephant Census, an extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive survey of elephants spread across 18 African countries, that showed alarming declines in the populations of savanna elephants in the continent. With Allen’s passing yesterday, animals have lost a true friend.