BOOKS: Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:

Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters by Leslie Irvine
Temple University Press (1852 N. 10th St., Philadelphia,
PA 19122), 2009. 176 pages, hardcover. $24.50.

Who fills the ark in time of disaster? Leslie Irvine in
Filling the Ark examines who is evacuated and who is left behind?
Practically everyone old enough to watch TV remembers
gut-wrenching scenes of National Guard troops yanking bewildered dogs
and cats away from the arms of hysterical children during the
evacuation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in late August
2005. Some pets were shot in the streets by sheriff’s deputies.
Charges against the deputies were dropped in 2008. Other animals
were tied up and shot sadistically in a school that had served as an
evacuation center. No one was charged with those killings. Tens of
thousands of pets were left to fend for themselves. Many were
rescued by the largest and longest sustained animal rescue operation
in the U.S. ever, but many others died before help could arrive.

Others escaped and went feral. Some may still live in the debris.
Katrina brought passage of the federal Pets Evacuation and
Transportation Standards act, enabling pet keepers to take pets when
forced to evacuate by disaster.
One of the major pet rescue centers operated on the campus of
the Louisiana State University veterinary school. Yet about 8,000
mice, rats, dogs, and monkeys died in the LSU laboratories,
acknowledged LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine dean Larry
Hollier. Only 16 dogs and an unspecified number of chinchillas were
At Tulane University, 175 boxes of transgenic mice were
rescued. Other Tulane lab animals who survived the storm but were
stranded by flooding were fed and watered once, a week after
Katrina, and then killed the following day.
Farm animals fared little better. Ranchers mostly discussed
their tens of thousands of cattle losses in economic terms.
Relatively few expressed concern that the animals suffered from the
hurricane winds and floods, and went weeks without adequate food or
palatable water. Farm organizations fed stranded herds, but
rescuing individual cattle was often left to nonprofit horse rescuers
who pulled cows out of the muck as well.
Animals endure pain and misery from many other types of
disasters. Irvine reviews the effects of oil spills on birds, fish,
sea otters, and many other marine species who lose their lives and
habitat. Rehabilitation of oil-injured animals tends to be slow,
costly, reaches only a small portion of the animal victims, and
has a notoriously poor success rate with many species.
Irvine points out in her discussion of animals and disasters
that species matters, just as at other times. Dog and cat owners
pump their fists in anger when domestic pets are laboratory subjects,
but few people become exercised over the treatment of rats and mice
in research labs, who are exempted from protection by the U.S.
federal Animal Welfare Act.
Filling the Ark challenges readers to demand better treatment
for all animals, including lab rats and mice.
“Instead of getting a bigger boat,” Irvine concludes,
“perhaps we can turn the ship around.” –Debra J. White

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