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

The Animal Rescue Team (ART) is highly trained and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. During natural disasters, the team works with local agencies on pre-storm transports, 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 ART get called in to help?

The ART 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?

The ART responds 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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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, the ART receives a request for assistance from local authorities. The ART works with local authorities to decide what resources and staff are needed. If temporary sheltering is needed, the ART 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, crime lab, 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.

The most common is going in before the disaster hits (most common in hurricanes) or shortly thereafter (flooding, fires, tornados) to empty out the shelters and move animals to partners in other parts of the country. It’s important to note that we are removing animals who are already up for adoption in the shelter, NOT animals lost during the disasters. Emptying the shelters of their adoptable population gives the shelters room to take in any animals that are displaced by the disaster—either those who ended up loose or if the owner needs to shelter their animal(s) for a period of time while they figure out their next steps.

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 an ART 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 the Humane Society of the United States’ career page for open positions!

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How can I volunteer?

Please send us an application!

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