What is the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team?

The Animal Rescue Team is highly trained and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. Before and after disasters, the team works with local agencies on pre-storm preparations, developing pet-friendly evacuation plans, securing food and other resources and emergency field rescue for animals caught in harm’s way.

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How/when does the team get called in to help?

The team typically gets called in to assist with disasters or cruelty cases when the scope of animal needs exceed what local law enforcement or animal services has the capacity or resources to handle. Resources we can offer in these situations include legal assistance, temporary sheltering, on-scene assistance with evidence collection and animal handling, animal transportation and assistance with placement through our network of shelter and rescue partners—all at no cost to the community requesting help. In order for us to deploy, an official request must be made through the appropriate emergency management or law enforcement official.

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What sort of situations are you typically called in for?

We respond to animal needs in disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and wildfires. The team also assists with cruelty, animal fighting and neglect cases.

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How do you use your mobile veterinary unit?

Thanks to a generous donation from the Fund for Second Nature, the HSUS has a custom-built mobile veterinary unit, equipped with a surgery suite, ultrasound unit, EKG machine, blood test analyzer, anesthesia machine and more. The unit enables our team to provide full-service veterinary care during deployments and at temporary sheltering locations when there are no nearby emergency veterinary clinics or local clinics lack the capacity to treat large numbers of animals.

During rescue deployments, animals with immediate medical needs are treated in the mobile vet unit. Nine kennels and nine pet carriers provide holding space for urgent care animals, who can be treated and closely monitored in a calmer, quieter environment. (Kennel dividers can be inserted to increase the number of separate holding spaces or removed to accommodate large dogs or moms with litters.)

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If you hear about a situation where animals need help, can you just go?

For both cruelty and disasters, it’s important to note that we always work in partnership with an emergency management official, law enforcement or animal services. We must receive an official request from the appropriate agency in order to deploy to a case or disaster.

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Can I call you if I know of animals who need help?

We recommend reaching out to your local animal control or law enforcement agency to report suspected cruelty. You can also contact us.

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How do you assist in cruelty cases?

We assist law enforcement/animal control on a daily basis in many ways. Sometimes we’re able to help from afar with guidance and financial support. We typically deploy for boots on the ground assistance when a cruelty case exceeds the local capacity and they officially request our assistance. Exceeding local capacity could mean financially, it could mean literally space capacity, or it could mean a lack of experience of local officials in handling animal crimes.

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How does a typical cruelty deployment work?

First, we receive a request for assistance from local authorities. We work with local authorities to decide what resources and staff are needed. If temporary sheltering is needed, the team will find and rent space to set up a temporary emergency animal shelter. The Humane Society of the United States will mobilize assets such as transport vehicles, mobile veterinary unit, staff and shelter supplies to the region.

Once the warrant is served, the rescue team can assist law enforcement with evidence documentation, animal handling and transportation of the animals to the safe location. Often, there are initial veterinary assessments on-scene, and then further exams continue at the temporary shelter location. Animals receive expert care in a safe location as the legal process determines custody.

If custody is awarded to the HSUS, the HSUS contacts shelter and rescue partners to arrange placement for the animals, then animals are transported to shelter and rescue partners and begin seeking loving homes.

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How do you assist in disasters?

The team fosters relationships in areas that are prone to disasters and sets up pre-agreements. This works out well in the event a disaster strikes and they need assistance, as the paperwork is already complete. Getting contracts signed is complicated and time-consuming on a normal day, but close to impossible when there is a disaster! We can be asked to assist in disasters in a myriad of ways.

We also assist with field rescue as the team is certified in swift water and slack water rescue. So in times of flooding, if animals have either been left behind or if their owners tried to stay but now have to leave, our team is able to respond in the floodwaters and safely remove animals. We can also be asked to assist with sheltering. This could either be assisting within a brick-and-mortar shelter or setting up and running a temporary shelter for displaced animals.

Again, all of this is done at the request of law enforcement/animal control and the city/county/parish/etc. that we have an agreement with.

Read Our Disaster FAQ

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What training/experience is needed to become a team member? Is it a full-time position?

The Animal Rescue Team is made up of full-time staff and reserve staff that works on a contract basis. Team members have a variety of backgrounds, including backgrounds in local animal services.

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How can I join?

Keep an eye on our Careers page for open positions!

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How can I volunteer?

Please send us an application!

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