Helping Dogs During Natural Disasters

Posted by David Hallum on

In light of recent hurricanes, people want to know how they can best help the literally thousands of pets who have been made homeless or who may have experienced some type of hardship resulting from a natural disaster.

Dog in Hurricane

Communities can be devastated by hurricanes, fires, tornados, or other natural disasters deemed to be "acts of God." Regardless of whether any deities were involved, people and animals will need help. Organizations that may need help include:

  • Local shelters: big or small, if they are in a twenty-mile radius of the disaster, they are going to need some help
  • Rescue organizations: these will often be smaller than shelters but they will be also taking in animals that shelters cannot hold. And there have been times when the rescues themselves have been directly in the path of the disaster, destroying their property.
  • Transport organizations: these folks will also be working overtime (voluntarily, of course) by transporting animals to a safer area. They will need gas money mostly, if not also food and supplies.
  • Pet Food Banks: if you are in a community that has a pet food bank, consider donating to them. They may be offering extra food to other shelters in need, so their stock will need to be replenished. 

There are plenty of places happy to accept your donation. A well-run place will offer you a receipt, and you should be able to list this on your income taxes as a charitable donation. If you are interested in how funds are used, then you can ask for a yearly report as well. 

Here is what you can do:

  1. Send money.

This is the easiest way to help. Organizations are going to be stretched ridiculously thin. Unless these places have just won the PowerBall, chances are that they are running on a shoestring budget. A disaster increases their needs and dilutes their resources. Even with the best of intentions, no organization can run for very long without a steady supply of funds. Shelters in the immediate area will absolutely need help but so will neighboring places. There is often a ripple effect with disasters that cause organizations even hundreds of miles away to feel the pinch for a long time afterwards.

  1. Give Supplies

Some places will come right out and say that they need dog food or dog bowls or crates. A few places will say "anything helps." If that is the case, go ahead and order what they need. If it is an "anything helps" situation, think about what the most basic need would be: probably food and bedding. This isn't the time to send fancy toys or bedazzled jackets. 

It is important to consider how the items will get to the shelter or rescue. If they are in a flood zone and a delivery truck cannot get there safely, you may have to send items to another address. Find out in advance before you learn that the emergency bag of food is sitting in a mail warehouse.

If a shelter or rescue says that they do not need anything, then do not burden them with additional items. Your heart is in the right place, but honestly you are making life more difficult for them. They may not have the storage capacity for fifty bags of dog food. Some unlucky worker or volunteer will then have to drive the items elsewhere, or throw them away. Any and all donations should be given on what is most needed. And if you truly want to give items more than cash, there will always be an organization somewhere that will be receptive. The fact is, many places around the US have been taking animals transported out of the Houston area so donations to any of those safe haven spots would be wonderful places to donate to.

Another option is to donate DogSheetz!  They are waterproof and provide comfort while being useful to the humans helping these many animals!  Easy to clean and universal to any type of surface to sleep on, they are easy for volunteers to work with and keep clean.

  1. Volunteer Your Time

If you are not in a position to give financially, or if you want to do something additionally helpful, then volunteering your time may be an enormous service. You will most likely have to fill out an application, but organizations often expedite the vetting process in times of extreme need. Be warned: the work will not be glamorous. If you are volunteering at a shelter, then you may be the lucky person who gets to pick up dog poop or scrub cages. It is all important work and it has to be done. Obviously if you have specific skills that are in demand (vet-tech skills, construction or handy-man work, etc)  then you might just get VIP volunteer status and be on-call for a while.

Unless you live in or near the afflicted are, be wary of heading to an area that is dangerous. One volunteer helping out with Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts tragically drowned, and others have been injured. People and animals will need help but do not put yourself into a perilous situation that you will not be able to extract yourself from. 

Also, be aware that places will need volunteers for a long time after the disaster. You do not have to be a first-responder in order to help. 

Helping anywhere means you are helping animals. There is a very good chance that rescue organizations near you will be helping out in some capacity. Just because you cannot rescue a particularly sad-looking dog you saw on the news does not mean that you cannot make a difference. We all know that there will always be dogs to save.

  1. Raise Funds Through Your Business or School

If you a financially strapped, or if you cannot actually travel anywhere to help, perhaps you can organize a fundraiser at your place of business or your school. You can offer a percentage of profits to go to a specific rescue; you can collect pocket change from peers during lunch. You could even organize a fun-run to raise money. You may be surprised at how many people in your community want to contribute.

Here are some organizations to consider:

Safe Haven

Second Chance Animal Sanctuary

Houston Pets Alive!

Austin Pets Alive!

San Antonio Pets Alive!

Hope For Paws

Colorado Pet Pantry

Dog Is My Co-Pilot

Please click on one of these links, or google a breed rescue in your area. And remember that non-profit organizations need help all year long, not just during disasters, so please consider regular donations to your favorite group. It's all going to a good cause!

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