September 22, 2010
Determined Flood Victims Stand by Animals
Mexicans won't leave their pets
by Kelly Coladarci
On Sunday, September 19, our first day on the ground in Mexico, we found ourselves in the area of Floresta (Puerto Veracruz) to do an assessment of the flooding there after Hurricane Karl. Our goal was to see how we could be of assistance and we quickly went into "rescue mode" to address immediate needs. When we arrived, people were being evacuated by local authorities and were not allowed to take their animals with them. Seeing our HSI t-shirts, many came over to meet us and quickly began giving us their addresses in the hopes that we could help the animals they had left behind. They also reported animals who had been abandoned when their owners left days before the storm. We found many people who would not evacuate if their animals could not go.
Working together to help
We began collaborating with the Marinas nacional, the federal agency in charge of the evacuation operations, to go in and retrieve pets, bringing them ashore to reunite with their owners. Many times we did this in the same boats as the human evacuation team, taking people and their pets at the same time. We also visited homes to do food drops when animals' owners were unavailable or if they had no means of taking their pets to somewhere safe.
Companions matter most
One particular instance made us all realize the importance of what we were doing. During the evacuation process, people were not allowed to go back to their homes as boats were being used for mostly human evacuation, besides the few we were able to use. An older gentleman came to the shoreline after he’d been evacuated, riding in an inner tube with two sticks to paddle and a crate. When we approached him, he was leaving to get his cats himself, planning to paddle many miles to do so. Though we tried to assure him we would help once we secured our next boat, he insisted that he was not going to wait any longer. It was dangerous for him to go himself and he was very emotional and determined to go. We helped him secure an available kayak and we loaded him and a crate into it, and he retrieved his cats. He was grateful and elated that he had the only things in the world that mattered to him, even though all his material belonging were gone.
Kelly Coladarci is a Program Manager for Humane Society International.