After more than a month helping the animals and people of the Moore, Oklahoma area recover from a deadly tornado, American Humane Association’s legendary Red Star™ rescue team is finally ending its deployment and I am glad to report that the mission has been a great success. We were able to rescue and/or shelter more than 200 animals, reunite nearly 100 with their families, place some with rescues and get the rest into good, loving homes during an Adopt-a-Thon we held with the city of Moore this past weekend.
We couldn’t have received a warmer welcome from the city officials, county officials, people and press. Following the stunning destruction caused by the EF5 tornado on May 20, Red Star™ quickly mobilized a team of staff and volunteers, our 82-foot Rescue Rig and our 50-foot Lois Pope LIFE Rescue Vehicle. Responding to an invitation from Oklahoma that was secured with the help of Miranda Lambert and her MuttNation Foundation, we raced to the recovery zone, covering 2,000 combined miles in just over a day. After assessing the situation and needs for the animals, we assisted with a temporary animal shelter at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.
It was a tremendous, emotional experience – and I almost missed it. I had just been hired as the new national director for Red Star Emergency Services, and my proposed start date was July1. But on May 20 the devastating Oklahoma tornado changed everything. We knew we needed to be on the ground in Oklahoma as soon as possible, and after some quick paperwork changes and a scramble to relocate my family, we hit the road to the Sooner State. I found an amazing crew of staff and volunteers ready to save animals, and we working through 18-hour, sometimes 100-degree days together, we soon established the kind of rapport that usually takes years to build. Each and every one of the 18 Red Star workers who helped on this deployment brings a unique skill set to animal emergency situations, and all do a wonderful job of continuing the legacy of this nearly century-old program, which was started by American Humane Association during World War I when the United States War Department asked us to save wounded horses on the battlefields of Europe. Since then, Red Star has been involved with virtually every major disaster response, including Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the Joplin tornado, the deadly earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the terror attacks on 9/11, and Superstorm Sandy.
I hope you’ll join me in offering thanks to all those who pitched in to help the animals of Oklahoma in their time of greatest need: Mars Petcare US, makers of PEDIGREE® Food for Dogs and WHISKAS® Food for Cats, sponsored the deployment of the giant Rescue Rig and donated emergency food supplies. Banfield Pet Hospital offered veterinary assistance, along with Zoetis Commitment to Veterinarians, which offered vitally needed medicines. Thank you also to philanthropist Lois Pope for donating our newest 50-foot rescue vehicle; actress, entrepreneur and author Victoria Principal for her personal and public support of the effort, and country music star Miranda Lambert and her MuttNation Foundation for helping secure the official invitation needed to provide emergency operations in Oklahoma. We’d like to thank Backstage Coaches for providing a tour bus to give our team much-needed showers and cool catnaps during the long, hot days in Oklahoma. And thanks to PetSmart Charities and Code 3 Associates for supplying and delivering much-needed extra crates. We are also very grateful for our partners who assisted on the ground with operations including NACA, Red Rover, Code 3 Associates, and IFAW. And finally, thank you to all our supporters who sent in the donations that made our deployment to help these animals possible. Because of you, some 200 animals who were desperate, scared, and in trouble are now safe, sound and in loving homes. Thank you. Your help is much appreciated!
I’d like to conclude today by thanking the people of Oklahoma for their hospitality and help during this trying time; we know that the road to recovery may be long, but the spirit and generosity of the people there will prevail. We wish you (and the many new pet owners who took in our grateful animals) all the best!