Come on, Irene (thoughts on disaster management & pets)

Yes, I am in the expected path of Hurricane Irene – I’ll get tropical storm winds for what looks like a sustained 12 hours, and possibly 24 hours. Philadelphia has already gone through the front rain shield of the storm, which was relatively mild; radar suggests it’s going to get progressively worse as the day goes on.

My on-going interest in disaster management means I’ve been watching this, the governors and mayors of various cities, with extreme interest. So far, my main conclusion is that no one wants a repeat of Katrina. Of course, this brings up a lot of fascinating questions about race, class, perceived value of location, and how much of that is in play versus simply, actually, learning.

The one thing, however, that is clearly and rather unequivocally a matter of “having learned” is how pets are being treated. A major issue in Katrina was that shelters were not set up, and would not take, pets. This, of course, led to a massive loss of pet life – and also human life, as people opted to stay behind with their pets instead of leave them to die afraid and alone.

And prior to Katrina, this attitude – I won’t leave my pets – seemed to baffle people involved in shelters and disaster management. The past few days, I’ve noticed with significant joy, that shelters in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia all take pets – and in fact, both Nutter (mayor of Philly) and Bloomberg (mayor of NYC) have emphasized that owners should not leave their pets alone, but bring them to the shelters with them. Likewise, the restrictions of pets on mass transit were lifted in NYC, before transit was shut down, and currently all taxis are required to accept pets.

In Philadelphia, Tara Murtha emphasizes, for Philadelphia Weekly’s PhillyNow,

If you need to evacuate your home, please do NOT leave your dog or cat behind to suffer or die alone. Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management has activated the local CART (County Animal Response Team) to organize accommodations for pets in conjunction with Philly’s Red Cross emergency shelters:

Roxborough High School: 6498 Ridge Ave.

Abraham Lincoln High School: 3201 Ryan Ave.

Bartram High School: 2401 S. 67th St

According to Red Cross Director of Communications Dave Schrader, all three shelters are prepared for you to bring your pets with you. Crate cats, leash dogs and bring dogs’ cages. “The pets do not come into the actual living quarters, but we worked out arrangements with pet agencies to take pets from the people who are coming,” says Schrader.

This is a welcome change that should help to save lives – both human and companion friends.