Disaster Response Team
Spring 2011 was unprecedented for devastating weather events in Missouri. The State Emergency Management Agency designated HSMO as the lead agency responsible for animal rescue when natural disasters occur across the state. HSMO’s Animal Cruelty Task sent a 23 member Disaster Response Team to Joplin, MO, to rescue and shelter pets affected by the devastating EF5 tornado on May 22.
Our field assessment team canvassed the area searching for and rescuing lost, injured and trapped pets, and established and operated an emergency shelter, in cooperation with the Red Cross, to care for injured and lost animals. HSMO staff members and volunteers spent almost a month assisting with Joplin rescue efforts.
HSMO’s Disaster Response Team was also on the scene rescuing and sheltering animals from summer flooding in counties bordering the Missouri River, and spring flooding in Butler, Pemiscot and Stone Counties in Missouri. We established and staffed a regional emergency animal shelter in Sikeston, MO with capacity to care for more than 300 animals. Over 30 animals were brought back to our headquarters for sheltering and additional care. A German Shepherd with five week-old puppies was among the group which travelled safely back to HSMO on BART. Between spring flooding and tornado recover efforts HSMO rescued 413 animals.
During summer’s record-breaking stretches of 100 degree plus days, the Animal Cruelty Task Force responded to hundreds of heat-related calls concerning animals in possible jeopardy. Summer 2011 was the fourth hottest ever in St. Louis, since temperature records began in 1870. The heat is extremely hard on animals unable to protect themselves. We see too many pets with inadequate, or no shelter from the sun, and not enough water. Despite PSAs and other community outreach, each summer we respond to calls about frantic dogs locked in hot cars.
During these ongoing annual weather-related disaster situations, it is easy to forget those with no voice of their own. Disaster response work is both dangerous and expensive. Our rapid response rescue efforts are possible because of donors supporting our efforts.