Best Friends helps with animal rescue efforts after flooding in Mexico

After two weeks in the flood-ravaged Mexican state of Tabasco, Best Friends rapid response manager Rich Crook has concluded operations there and returned to Utah, confident that companion animals are now as safe as they were before a tropical storm inundated the state at the end of October.

Best Friends helps animals in flooded Mexican state of Tabasco

Crook arrived in the city of Villahermosa soon after the storm hit the southeastern coast of Mexico, and was joined by Best Friends staffer Pam Crook and photographer Troy Snow.

Coordinating efforts with the Mexican government, local veterinarians and other animal rescue groups, Crook took charge of water operations for the city and outlying areas. He set up a staging area on the campus of a local university and assembled several teams composed of volunteers and staff from Best Friends and other animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, the Asociación Protectora de Animales de Tabasco (APAT), and Gente por la Defensa Animal (GEPDA). Each team included a veterinarian, a dog handler and a translator.

They distributed food and fresh water to animals in flood-affected areas and provided vet care when needed. By the end of the operation, the teams had distributed more than 8,000 pounds of food, delivered hundreds of gallons of fresh water, vaccinated 225 animals, and rescued a number of dogs in need of medical attention. A total of 950 dogs, 36 cats, 20 horses, 16 pigs, five cows, two parrots and countless chickens received care.

Takeaways for future animal rescue operations

"This trip proved to be a great model for how we can assist in future animal rescue operations," says Paul Berry, Best Friends’ chief executive officer. "And that’s by lending our expertise where it’s needed, marshalling the resources we have, and coordinating our efforts with other rescue groups. We couldn’t be more pleased with the results."

What kept the situation in and around Villahermosa from becoming a Katrina-like disaster? Mexican authorities were able to pump out most of the floodwater within seven days, much sooner than the 30 days the government originally estimated. Also, local authorities never prevented residents from returning to their homes. "It was a huge plus for the animals that their people were able to come and go," Crook said.

He also said that cooperation was superb among the various animal-rescue groups during the critical stages of the operation. "This was a collaborative effort like none I’ve seen in the past. Many local and national organizations showed up ready to help – and looking for someone with a plan."

In the final days, Crook and his teams conducted a thorough search of Villahermosa, its suburbs and outlying farmlands to make sure the mission was accomplished. He says, "After doing our search, I felt that we had accomplished our goals, which were to assist in sustaining life, rescue those in need, and provide on-the-spot medical attention until the waters receded and the locals were able to return to their homes."

Throughout the operation, Crook worked closely with a group of local veterinarians, who thanked Best Friends for the help. "The vets really appreciated the fact that we cared enough to make the trip and contribute to the effort," says Crook. "All in all, this was a great trip for Best Friends. We spent two weeks assisting in all facets of the operation at all levels, and it was well received."

To ensure that the homeless animals of Tabasco don’t lose the help they still need, Best Friends is providing financial support to GEPDA and APAT to sustain their ongoing field operations. The funding will allow them to continue delivering food, water, vaccines, vet care and medicines to animals throughout Villahermosa and in the outlying municipalities of Tabasco.

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Photos by Troy Snow