When disaster strikes, our family and friends are often what help us make it through the tough times. Most pet owners include their beloved dogs and cats in this important network of support, but what happens when they need help feeding, sheltering or simply keeping their pets when a catastrophe has left them without a roof over their heads? Recently, some petfood companies have been teaming up with charitable organizations or starting networks of their own to lend a helping paw to pet parents who find themselves in need.
In spring 2013, Hill’s Pet Nutrition announced that it established a Disaster Relief Network through the Hill’s Food, Shelter & Love Program that would enable Hill’s to quickly deploy petfood resources in case of an emergency. The network consists of nearly 100 participating shelters across the country that Hill’s can work with to distribute emergency food supplies to pets who need it most. This US-wide system of shelters coordinates emergency petfood deliveries and is the first of its kind, claims the company. Hill’s is also helping educate pet owners on what they can do to keep their pets healthy and safe when disaster strikes.
Hill’s assisted shelters during Hurricanes Sandy, Isaac and Katrina; the Waldo Canyon wildfire near Colorado Springs, Colorado; the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri; and the tsunami in Japan. Hill's also joined forces with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation in 2010 to support more than 90 veterinary shelters and clinics along the Gulf coast struggling to respond to a record number of pets in need, whose owners were unable to provide needed petfood and medical care in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill.
More recently, Hill's activated its Disaster Relief Network to feed displaced pets and assist pet parents within the disaster zone of Edmond, Shawnee and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the wake of devastating tornadoes in the region. The company is also planning a convoy of food, pet supplies and other items to support stricken families in the coming weeks.
Earlier this year, The Pedigree Feeding Project searched communities across the country to find the organizations that would benefit most from the program that supplies shelters with 100% of their core dog food needs, at absolutely no cost. The brand has now named Erie, Pennsylvania and Detroit/Flint, Michigan the newest communities to participate. Pedigree currently feeds four communities (including Nashville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois) and more than 4,000 shelter dogs in the US.
A new national program, which kicked off May 4, 2013, will help temporarily homeless families keep all members of their family together—including their four-legged family members. The PetSmart Promise program, a result of a collaboration between PetSmart and Family Promise, will build pet kennel facilities at day centers for temporarily homeless families across the US. The PetSmart Promise program will build on-site dog and cat kennel facilities at existing Family Promise day centers throughout the country for families who are staying at the shelter and are in transition or temporarily homeless. The families, who stay at the shelter for 60 days or less, will be able to continue to care for their pet and keep their family together during a difficult time.
PetSmart established a pilot program with Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, Arizona in 2012, and will expand the program nationwide this year, with the goal of five new facilities opening each year until all 182 Family Promise facilities have the opportunity to participate in the program at a level that is appropriate for them. In 2013, on-site facilities are anticipated to open in Lake Houston, Texas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Bozeman, Montana.
Also in spring 2013, Urban Resource Institute (URI) announced the launch of New York City’s first-ever co-sheltering program to enable domestic violence survivors and their pets to reside together in shelter. The project, called PALS—People and Animals Living Safely—will run as a six-month pilot. URI is partnering with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (the Alliance) because of its expertise in ensuring pet safety in crisis situations. “There has never been a more important time for the domestic violence shelter community to open its doors to pets,” said URI President Nathaniel Fields. “As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, pets are members of the family and no one should have to make the impossible decision to leave them behind during times of crisis.”
Today, national data show that more than 40% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. Plus, more than 70% of pet owners who enter shelters report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets. URI is filling this critical gap by becoming the first organization in New York City—and one of few nationwide, they say—to welcome pets into domestic violence shelters. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals will be working closely with URI to provide staff training, pet safety education, petfood and supplies, and foster solutions for any pets PALS may be unable to accommodate.
During its six-month pilot phase, URI PALS will accept cats and smaller animals such as hamsters, birds and fish into shelter. With the goal of raising $250,000 for program support and expansion, URI plans to launch PALS in its three other domestic violence shelters in New York City and welcome dogs into the shelters, as well. These funds will enable URI PALS to make the structural and organizational changes—such as soundproofing, building dog runs and increasing staff training—that dogs and larger animals would require.