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September 19/2005   
What comes first - pet or your neighbor? by Stan Gielewski

It has been awhile since the Katrina hurricane rolled over Southern States leaving destruction behind. People lost possessions, some lost lives. Things have changed...

We have been preoccupied with stories of survival and followed up on desperate calls of those searching for missing friends or family members. Many have lost everything and are left only with this one comforting thought - making it out alive.

Two weeks have passed...

After the initial shock of what has happened people are settling down and start picking up their lives where they have been left. We have more time now to reflect and we can pay more attention to some finer and deeper aspects of what this crisis has left us with. Everyone has lost something they loved in one way or another. People talk more about their homes and what they have lost. As most of the people have been rescued from the affected areas, attention of the world turns now to the rest of our loved ones, still fighting for survival - our pets.

As usually, such extreme events like Hurricane Katrina raise lots of moral questions. Some would even say that this is a test of our humanity and integrity as a society. Pets are an unquestionable part of our existence. People are very emotional about their pets in peace times; some even get into fights over their pets! Definitely, our animal friends are something we can't ignore.

So, what happens when a nation has to come to a rescue of their fellow members? Should we leave our four legged friends behind hoping they will make it and focus on people, or should we rescue all of 'us' equally? Or perhaps those vulnerable creatures, which totally depend on us and give us that unconditional love, be treated with priority? After all they can't help themselves. They are our responsibility.

Yes, these are difficult choices, and difficult questions to answer. I will not pretend that I know what the best solution is, but in my opinion there are things that should be taken into consideration when planning for rescue efforts in case of future disasters.

I would imagine that to most of us it would be easier to watch a piece of even the most precious material item destroyed than seeing our beloved pet suffer. Adults and kids alike get very attached to their pets. For the latter loosing that fluffy puppy feels like the biggest life devastating.

I think it is important to plan ahead for rescuing 'the whole package' - both people and their animals. Just as we make shelters for unwanted pets during peace time we should make sure that we also have a safe place ready for those 'other' victims when the worst happens. People should not have to worry about what happened to their loved ones. If we are able to keep alive such enormous numbers of animals in our households we should be able to provide them with security in crisis. The pet industry is a huge business. Making our lives enjoyable by providing us with all we need to keep even the most exotic species happy, we keep this industry alive by spending money on what we need. Can we afford to maintain a back up rescue plan for our pets? I am sure we do. It is our responsibility.

As to the issue of people first or animals first... Personally, I think as principle we shouldn't have to make such choices. The system should be designed in such way that there is a place for both. Let it be a cat or a dog, bird, snake or a turtle, there should be always someone coming to their rescue. We talk about 'give and take' a lot, why would we even think of abandoning our friends?

This planet would die without animals. Even flowers would not bloom if not for the busy bees.

We tell stories about incredible animals which change our lives for better. We send dogs along with search teams to look for one of us when our world collapses. Just think - that left behind puppy during the Katrina aftermath might have been the one which would find you under that pile of rubble one day...

If not out of simple compassion but for all those other reasons, planning for rescuing animals in times of disaster should be not something to consider, but a thing to do.

      Story written by Stan Gielewski, Sept. 19th, 2005

More reading & related links:
        Basic snapping turtle info in one file - Introduction to snapping turtles.pdf (116 Kb)  


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