Update on Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

The Red Star team has deployed to Teterboro, NJ and began distributing the Whiskas and Pedigree yesterday morning at 9 a.m. from the Bergen County Shelter and Adoption Center, with the assistance of the Bergen County Department of Health Services. It was a great day with representatives from local shelters and rescues, as well as families in the area. There are people in need all over the community and we are all working together as a team to make sure every animal gets help.

Two representatives of the Friends of the Clifton Animal Shelter organization stopped by to pick up food.  They had a large supply of donations (towels, blankets, hard carriers, cleaning supplies, etc.) in their storage that they have been trying to get down to the Atlantic City area and since more Red Star team members are heading to Atlantic City we were glad to help them out. The Red Star team loaded up their cars with 100 bags of dry Pedigree, 50 cans of wet, 10 packets of wet Whiskas and 40 boxes of dry for the Clifton Animal Shelter, and then two of our Red Star volunteers drove to their shelter to load up our trucks with supplies to be taken to Atlantic City later today with the team. They were beyond thrilled that Red Star was there helping and that they will be able to help out those in need in Atlantic City. They have been sheltering animals for those who lost power, and when the nearby Pasaic Animal Shelter lost power, they housed all of their animals. In addition, they mentioned that they are so thankful for these supplies because now they can use the money they are saving on food to buy much-needed medical supplies.

It’s been a great week helping families and their pets and today more help will be coming to Atlantic City! We will continue to bring families and their pets happily back together.

A special thanks to you – our friends and supporters!  We couldn’t do this work without your ongoing loyalty and support of our mission.

On My Holiday Reading List: ‘Thunder Dog’

This holiday season, I want to take the opportunity to share with you a few books that have been on my reading list lately; books that will make the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. These books offer tales of hope and will surely bring a smile to that special someone’s face.

Guide Dog RoselleIf you’re a reader of this blog, then you’re no doubt aware of our American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ and the story of Roselle the guide dog. Roselle and her handler Michael Hingson truly defined what it meant to be heroes on both ends of the leash. And on one of the worst days in American history, this pair rose to make it their finest hour. Michael, along with Susy Flory, recap their dramatic escape in the new book, Thunder Dog, and I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down until the very end.

On the morning of September 11, just like any other work day, the two were on the 78th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. Michael was prepping for a big sales meeting when suddenly he heard a massive explosion, which caused the tower to lurch. Sensing something was wrong, but not knowing the gravity of the situation, they evacuated the office and headed for safety. Always ready to do her job, Roselle rose to the occasion like never before. Her whole life had been spent leading up to this moment, and she and Michael worked together through a series of commands he used to evacuate the imperiled building as quickly and safely as possible.

As Michael recounts their harrowing descent down those 1,463 stairs, he weaves in tales of his own personal history and also sheds light on what it means to be blind in this country. You learn about his strong family upbringing, with parents not wanting their child to be seen as different from his peers. Michael’s constant reminder to the reader is that being blind should not inhibit anything you want to do and that the only thing stopping you is yourself. Indeed, he loved to ride his bike as a kid, has driven a car and even flown a plane!

I learned a lot about the way in which blind people are trained to work with and paired up with their guide dogs. Michael has had several dogs since he acquired his first, Squire, as a teenager. Michael clearly has a great amount of respect for the trainers of these brilliant animals, and of course loves each of the dogs as members of his family.

In the 10 years since that fateful day, a lot has changed in our lives, and certainly Michael’s. Sadly, Roselle passed away earlier this year, but her legacy will live on. He never wants us to lose sight of the bravery exhibited every day by such heroes. Although they are doing what they are trained to do, we should never take it for granted.

I never got to meet Roselle during the run-up to the Hero Dog Awards, but I feel as if I know everything about her through Michael’s beautiful writing in Thunder Dog. This is a must for your reading list this holiday season. It will certainly give you a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication these guide dogs put in and why they are all heroes to me.

Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ Deploys to Joplin to Shelter Animal Victims of Tornado

A lot can happen in 60 seconds.

In 60 seconds, a child can give her good old dog a hug and get a comforting lick on the face. In 60 seconds, a grandfather can teach his grandson how to use a string to play with his new kitten. In 60 seconds, a family can lose everything — homes, loved ones, beloved pets — when a massive tornado rips through their community, as it did in Joplin, Mo., on May 22.

That’s why American Humane Association is there to help.

Just back from an intense deployment to Memphis, our Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ team is now on the ground in Joplin. In partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), we have deployed 13 staff and volunteers, as well as our 82-foot, 16-wheel Rescue Rig.

After a day of travel and debriefing, the team began work Friday morning. The Animal Search and Rescue Team conducted a “grid search” to find trapped or displaced pets who may be injured or dehydrated, as temperatures in Joplin are beginning to rise. Red Star also began helping to shelter the hundred of desperate animal victims that have arrived at the Joplin Humane Society’s emergency shelter — some with scratches, deep cuts or crush injuries that require amputation. And Red Star’s presence is giving much-needed relief to the brave Joplin Humane Society staff, many of whom are experiencing devastating personal loss.

“We have been in crisis mode,” said Karen Aquino, Executive Director of the Joplin Humane Society.

But in the midst of the sadness, some incredible stories have emerged from the rubble:

  • Betty, a family dog, was discovered several days after the tornado, under the rubble of her family’s home.
  • Sampson, a chocolate lab, was blown out of his home in the storm and later found in a culvert and rescued.
  • An elderly woman on a “missing list” was found sitting with her cat outside her wrecked house.

There have also been stories of amazing generosity. On Friday morning, a mail truck pulled up, filled to the roof with pet toys, paper towels, peanut butter and more — all donated by pet-lovers from across the nation.

“It was an amazing outpouring of kindness,” said Tracy Reis, Red Star Program Manager.

In the coming weeks, there is much work to do in Joplin, for both people and animals — and our Red Star team will be there to help. As they were for Hurricane Katrina, as they were for the floods in Memphis, as they have been for hundreds of disasters in our nation for nearly a century, Red Star will be there.

You may not be able to be there with Red Star, but you can still help. Consider making a donation or completing training to join our Red Star team.

10 Tips to Keep Children and Animals Safe and Help Them Cope After a Disaster

Following a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster, we may assume that the worst is past, but hazards remain – especially for the most vulnerable, namely children and animals. President & CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert, Chief Veterinary Advisor Dr. Patty Olson,  and other experts at American Humane Association have put together a series of 10 simple tips to help parents and other caregivers keep children and animals safe and help them cope with the physical and emotional aftermath of a disaster.

For Children

  • Even though the worst seems to be over, supervise children closely and inspect those areas in which they are playing. Gullies, downed electric wires, and sharp debris are just a few of the hazards children may encounter following a major disaster.
  • Keep an eye on children’s emotional reaction to the crisis. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
  • Regardless of age, reassure them frequently that you, local officials, and their communities are all working to keep them safe and return life back to normal. Older children may seem more capable but may also be affected by the displacement in their lives.
  • Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
  • If you are concerned about the way your children are responding long after the crisis is over, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.

For Pets

Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers.

  • Your pet’s behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers.  
  • Animals need comforting, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.
  • Following a disaster, keep your pets on a leash.  Changes in the landscape may confuse them and fences and other landmarks may have changed, making it more likely for them to become lost.
  • Be careful when allowing pets outside where they may encounter sharp or toxic debris.
  • Animals may be at more risk to various diseases that accompany natural disasters.  Consult your veterinarian if your pet displays any unusual physical symptoms, and determine if any precautionary measures should be considered.

Displacement, Loss, and Reunification

If pets had to be temporarily housed away from their families, be sure and explain the reasons to children, letting them know that their animals will reunited with the family as soon as possible.  If a pet is lost and cannot be found, it is important to seek help for all family members who are grieving the loss of a best friend.  And once pets are reunified with their families, whether at home, a friend’s house, or a shelter, remember that animals, just like people, often do best with structure in their lives.  As the family reunites and rebuilds – structure will again emerge.  The best part is when everyone – pets and people – can once again find stability and normalcy in their lives.



Taking Hope on the Road: “Hope Tour” with Disney TV Star Orlando Brown to Help Memphis Recover After the Floods

As soon as the storms and flooding struck the south, American Humane Association responded.

Our Animal Emergency Services staff immediately contacted local communities and partner agencies. We gave grants and supplies to storm-affected shelters in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. Then, on May 3, our Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ team deployed to Memphis, where they rescued and sheltered hundreds of desperate animal victims of the horrible floods there.

Skies have cleared and floodwaters have receded, but our work is not done.

It’s time to refresh, regroup and refocus on the task of rebuilding the community physically and emotionally. With Disney TV star Orlando Brown, our newest National Ambassador, we’re launching a “Hope Tour” in Memphis to honor the city’s valiant First Responders, to provide financial support and supplies to area animal shelters and to bring cheer to community members after this disaster.

Yesterday was a day full of inspiring interactions with the amazing people of Memphis. In the morning, we hosted a country ham and biscuits “Community Heroes Appreciation Breakfast” for Memphis’ First Responders. We met with the staff of Shelby County EMS, who care so much about their community members that they’re going back into flood zones to check on residents who wouldn’t or couldn’t evacuate.

In the afternoon, we visited local animal shelters and shelters for displaced families. We delivered a grant to the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County and brought along to share these 10 tips to keep children and animals safe after a disaster, which our animal and child welfare experts put together. Orlando Brown gave a dance performance that wow-ed the locals. He encouraged the children to dream big and have hope for the future — while teacing them the famous Peter Pan dance!

I have hope for the Memphis’ recovery, and I hope you do too.

I can’t tell you what it means to me to be able to reach out to these wonderful people in Memphis who have been through so much in the past few weeks. I am so grateful to be a part of American Humane Association and its 134-year effort to build safe, healthy and humane communities for the voiceless and the vulnerable. And I am so proud to be here right now with the magnificent women and men who have done so much for the city of Memphis.

Flood Relief “Angels” Reach Out to People, Pets in Memphis Area

Of course, there’s no way to count the lives saved by the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services teams since its inception in 1916 to help animals on the battlefield during World War II. Since then, Red Star has responded to disasters across the U.S., from Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 to countless California wildfires and the recent floods along the Mississippi River.

Debbie and Steve Gabbard, who live just outside Memphis, TN, recently discovered out how valuable Red Star could be.

“I’ve never come across people like this,” Debbie said in a phone interview May 13, following devastating floods in the Memphis area. “These wonderful people have given up their lives to help us, and to help our babies with four legs. They’re angels. That’s all there is to it.”

There were warnings that the Mississippi and nearby tributaries would flood, likely exceeding record levels. But the Gabbard’s home had weathered the 1997 flood, and flood prevention had been bolstered since then.

“We’re 10 or 15 miles from Mississippi and not very close really to other rivers,” says Debbie. “We really didn’t think it would happen to us.”

However, when it became clear there could be severe flooding, the Gabbards were out the door with their daughter and two young grandchildren, and as many belongings as they could take. Soon, extended family pitched in to help move as many of Debbie and Steve’s belongings into storage as possible in two days.

“When the water came up, it came up fast,” Debbie recalls. “The rivers were coming up anyway, but for hours the biggest downpour I had seen in a long time was going on. My brother, my husband and our pets were the last ones out — and it’s amazing they made it — only by the grace of God.”

But where do you go with three dogs and two cats?

“They’re my babies,” Debbie says, holding back tears. Those babies include a 7-year-old Pit Bull named Diamond; a 2-year-old Pit Bull called Big Daddy; Chico, a 9-year-old Chihuahua, and two cats, 7-year-old Bella and 16-year-old Dusty.

The Gabbards did find a hotel to house the brood, but the cost was high, the couple was charged an extra deposit for pets, and the location was far from where the Gabbard’s children and grandchildren found refuge.

The American Humane Association, and partners ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), PetSMART Charities, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Animal Rescue League of Boston were assigned to a create an animal shelter out of empty warehouses in Memphis. A friend told Debbie about the emergency facility for animals.

“The minute I walked in, I received a hug,” she says. “I began to talk, and, I believe, mostly cry.” Now in tears, she adds. “I explained, I really need someone to care for the animals while we figure out what to do.”

The reply, “That’s why we’re here.”

“Big Daddy got away from my husband and came flying inside the shelter, like he was saying, ‘I belong here.’ They even have available veterinary care.”

After finding a secure place for their animals, the Gabbards were notified that the storage facility containing their belongings was about to be flooded out. Once again, they were forced to move what they could.

“What would we have done with the animals all that time?” Debbie wonders. “I don’t know. Thank goodness they were being cared for.”

Debrah Schnackenberg, senior vice president-emergency services at the American Humane Association, says that while the Gabbards did lose their home, at least they were able to save their pets.

Due to mandatory evacuations, most people in the affected areas around Memphis made it to safety. However, some pets did not. In some cases, people left when flood waters rose faster than expected, and never made it back to retrieve their pets.

Schnackenberg says rescuers went out by boat to save stranded and sometimes starving pets.

“This work involves great skill,” she says. “We’re talking about traumatized animals rescued from flooded homes, or sometimes getting cats from trees over several feet of water. Some animals do come right to rescuers, but others do not.”

Schnackenberg feels that shelters for animals are best when located adjacent to those for people, so families can stay intact.

“It’s better for children, for sure, and even adults when pets are kept very close so families can see them anytime and help to care for them,” she says. “When the sheltering is co-located, a feeling of community is developed, and people meet one another and help each other.”

Following tornadoes and the recent flooding in the Memphis area, PetSMART Charities has provided (to date) 17 truckloads of supplies for victims. Hundreds of animals have been given safe haven, and in some cases rescuers have saved lives.

“I keep saying, they’re angels who kept my babies safe,” says Debbie. “I will never forget.”

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to petworld@stevedale.tv. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.” He’s also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.