Expert Voices

Dogs to Prairie Dogs, Animals Need Rescue from Disaster (Op-Ed)

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The HSUS responds to natural disasters and human-caused crises for animals — whether hurricanes, tornadoes, puppy mills or hoarding cases — to help dogs, cats, horses and other animals at risk.

But the span of those efforts is wider than you may think, in terms of species diversity and geography — recently, helping prairie dogs from the floods in Colorado and camels in Egypt.

The recent flooding in Colorado has been eerily reminiscent of the early days of Katrina. Families stranded, communication shut off and homes and whole communities destroyed. One difference, as seen over and over on the news, was the welcome sight of pets, as well as people, being picked up — by pontoon boat, helicopter or canoe — and delivered to safety. [What is a 100-Year Storm? ]

The disastrous flooding appears to have resulted in seven human fatalities, hundreds unaccounted for, and nearly 12,000 residents evacuated across four counties. And on top of this, more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed and more than 17,000 were damaged. Local agencies and groups have been working tirelessly around the clock to rescue, shelter and care for the thousands of displaced Coloradans, including their pets and farm animals.

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The HSUS's Prairie Dog Coalition, with our team leader based in Boulder, Colo., was in the field in Boulder County over the weekend, saving prairie dogs trapped in flooded areas, many of them combating hypothermia. In just one day, they rescued 45 prairie dogs from the freezing waters, and now have them recovering safe and warm — ready for a new home when conditions improve. See the Prairie Dog Coalition in action in this video.

At the same time, The HSUS is also halfway around the world, for a particularly human-caused crisis — the political turmoil in Egypt. Because the ongoing political unrest has kept foreign visitors away for many months, horses, donkeys and camels who once carried tourists around the pyramids are starving because, with no money coming in, their owners can't afford to provide for them.

Now, Humane Society International and several other non-governmental organizations have stepped in to fund the efforts of the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends to offer relief.

Despite violence in the streets and days of extreme heat, ESAF has been able to feed and offer veterinary attention to nearly 2,000 animals during a four-week period in the districts of Nazlet El-Semman and Kafr El Gabal.

Too often, animals are caught up as innocent victims when natural or human-caused disasters disrupt their lives and the lives of their caretakers — but rescuers stand ready to respond.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was "A Blueprint for Ending the Euthanasia of Healthy Animals" This article was adapted from "Helping Animals Weather the Rain and Political Storms," which first appeared as on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.