For most of us, suffering the devastation of two major natural disasters within a few weeks of one another is unprecedented in our lifetime. No sooner had southeastern Texas begun to fully digest the magnitude of the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, islands in the Caribbean and the entire state of Florida were dealt a harsh blow by Hurricane Irma. Amazingly, many of the same authorized responders who had been in Texas helping with rescue and recovery were dispatched to Florida to help their colleagues yet again. I was personally awestruck by the offers of assistance to Florida from some of the very organizations impacted the most by Harvey. Folks in our industry are made of some tough stuff!
For the most part, these two terrible events brought out the absolute best in our industry. Seeing folks work together despite differences in geography, demography or philosophy certainly made me realize again what an amazing field this is to work in.
Having observed firsthand the ability of our industry to pull together during times of major disaster, I am even more encouraged that we can — and must — do the same thing throughout the year when addressing some of the smaller, more insidious “disasters” of our day-to-day work.
Balancing supply and demand of homeless pets is just one good example. We all know that there are regions of the country where there are very few animals still available for adoption in shelters and rescue groups. Yet, there are also major sections of the U.S. where pet overpopulation is still the order of the day. When I heard a colleague say once, “The only thing standing between life and death for these animals is a ride,” my first response was that this was an oversimplification. But, in truth, it’s not. By methodically moving animals from areas of high supply and low demand to areas where demand is high and supply is low, we have been able to put a major dent in a long-term crisis.
The key to successful transport programs (see SAWA’s Best Practice on Companion Animal Transport) involves organizations putting aside egos and petty differences and focusing on working together for the greater good.
When we fail to get along and place the focus on our differences, our missions — and the animals — suffer. It is critical that we recognize that everyone in this industry has a role to play and that each of those roles represents a piece of a big, complex, beautiful puzzle. Once that last piece is put into place, we will have realized our dreams of saving lives and of helping animals and communities.
We are one … and we must keep it that way to continue making the kind of progress we’ve made over the last many years.