Another Huge Hurricane Is Coming — Here's One Thing You Can Do Now To Help Animals

Shelters are already bursting as Irma heads toward the U.S.

A mere week after Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas, another potentially catastrophic hurricane may soon threaten Puerto Rico and parts of Florida.

Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, made landfall early Wednesday morning in the Northern Caribbean island of Barbuda, and shows no signs of slowing down. While Irma’s exact path is uncertain, Floridians will be bracing for impact over the weekend, and animal lovers around the country are preparing once more for action.

So what can you do to help animals affected by Hurricane Irma? The answer is simple: For those well out of the hurricane’s path, helping an animal in need is as easy as opening up your home to displaced animals — be it for a few days, weeks or, possibly, years.

With Irma looming, a great place to start is with your local animal welfare community, notes Kim Alboum, director of The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) emergency placement partner network.

“People need to be connected with a national group that fills the gap where shelters can’t, and they also need to be connected with their local community shelters. It is a wonderful time to adopt or donate to your local shelter, because all of these Harvey animals will have to be absorbed by other shelters as this recovery goes on,” Alboum tells The Dodo. “It doesn’t have to be a Harvey animal, but by making room in the shelter system, it clears room for animals in cases like this.”

This same advice can easily apply to animals who might be impacted by Irma.

As the floodwaters recede in Houston, the important task of reuniting displaced pets with their families and rehoming homeless animals is still underway. “Right now we are in the process of working in Texas, trying to clear the shelters of animals who were in them before the storm,” Alboum says. “This makes room for animals who were displaced, so they can stay closer to home and their families can find them.”

With the help of the HSUS emergency placement partners, approximately 315 shelters and rescues across the country, over 600 animals have been transferred in the wake of Hurricane Harvey — and they do not anticipate stopping anytime soon, notes Alboum. “Unfortunately, there were a lot of homeless pets in Texas and we need to make room to ensure those animals that were displaced can find their families,” she says.

So what lies ahead should Irma wreak havoc on the U.S.’ East Coast? “Our plans are the same as they were with Harvey. We’re going to check in with the animal shelters, our disaster response team is ready, and our shelter partners are emailing me from all over the country saying: ‘Our Harvey dogs were adopted, we’re ready for more, we have room for cats. What are your needs?’” Alboum explains.

“It’s really wonderful to see the animal welfare community rise together, and stand behind all these shelters that are going through this,” Alboum notes. “It’s such a wide range of area that is being impacted with Irma — we work in Puerto Rico, where the Humane Puerto Rico project is going on, we’re watching what’s going to happen in Puerto Rico and our hearts are in our throats.”

While storm clouds are certainly looming, all is not dark. “There are two parts to this story: one is that the shelters have come forward and really stepped up to help the shelters of Texas. But the second part of the story is that they can,” Alboum says. “Years ago, when everyone was dealing with pet overpopulation, when something like this happened it wasn’t so easy to place all of the animals.”

Fostering or adopting an animal in need is the only way to help shelters to continue to give back and save lives in the face of another possible disaster. When people come together, amazing things can happen. “Sheltering has evolved,” Alboum notes. “I mean, how incredible is it that we have a disaster of this size and we’re able to find placement for so many animals.”

To make a donation to the Humane Society of the United States’ disaster relief fund check out this link, and those who may be affected by Hurricane Irma can learn how to make a disaster plan for pets here.