Wayne Pacelle: The HSUS responds in wake of destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew

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Partly because of the enormous interest in the Presidential race, Hurricane Matthew – a massive storm that affected an enormous area of Florida and contributed to immense flooding in the Carolinas – has not gotten the focus it would have otherwise attracted in the national media. We took the forecasts of a cataclysmic storm very seriously after the Category 4 hurricane pummeled Haiti and headed for South Florida, where we maintain the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in the United States. As a precaution, we evacuated close to 500 animals from the HSUS South Florida Wildlife Center.

Fortunately, the storm passed over Fort Lauderdale without much incident, and we’ve restored full operations there and returned the animals to our facility. But other areas to the north didn’t fare nearly as well.

Last week, we organized the move of approximately 100 animals from Greenville and Charleston in South Carolina ahead of the storm. Some of these animals arrived at our Gaithersburg office Thursday and were transported to our Emergency Placement Partners in New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Pennsylvania where they were safe and well cared for as Matthew subsequently lashed South Carolina. It was very good indeed that we helped get those animals out of harm’s way.

Our staff continues to remain in South Carolina today to help with the influx of animals into shelters that usually follows such an event. Although the hurricane has migrated out into the Atlantic and lost much of its force, flooding remains a real risk as rivers are cresting and hundreds of thousands of people are without power and cut off because access roads have been washed away. We have just sent a team to Horry County in South Carolina, where the Horry County Animal Shelter is overflowing with animals and in need of help.

Our relief work is not limited to the United States. HSI is dispatching a team to Haiti, whose southern coast was devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds of people lost their lives in this long-battered and beleaguered nation, and there were tens of thousands of others displaced. The United Nations has proclaimed this the worst disaster in the country since the 2010 earthquake. We implemented a long-term response to the earthquake six years ago, and this time too we will be on the ground to help.

Our team, which lands in Haiti tomorrow, will bring in humanitarian supplies, like water and tarps, because we are entering the scene early on when humanitarian assistance is still scarce.

Our team, working with local groups, will provide rescue and treatment to any animals impacted by the hurricane. We will identify locations that have the greatest need and set up vaccination and treatment clinics for animals of all types, including companion animals, equines, and farm animals. HSI will provide veterinary outreach in Haiti for as long as it takes to assist in stabilizing this storm-ravaged country whose animals and people are in dire need of help.

Our response teams typically respond to human-caused crises, such as a puppy mill or a hoarding case. But we also respond when wind, rain, and water surges threaten animals and the people who care about them. We’ll need your support to stay the course, since it’s in the aftermath of these storms that we work to help the animals and pick up the pieces.

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