Hurricane Irene: Best Friends New York team prepares to help

UPDATE: Thankfully, the worst seems to be over. Our thoughts are with everyone who is now dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Check back Monday afternoon for the latest news from our New York staff.

As the threat of Hurricane Irene looms — with forecasts projecting arrival in the tri-state area late Saturday — all of us involved with Best Friends New York programs have been busily making preparations to do what we can to help keep pets and their people safe. It has been a busy, stressful, and at times frightening few days, but it also touches us deeply to see how the animal rescue community has pulled together to do all we can for the animals. Communication lines are definitely open!

We in the New York office of Best Friends have been in uninterrupted communication with tri-state volunteers and local groups and shelters, especially along the shoreline, to see what assistance is needed and to make preparations to care for pets before and after the storm.
Volunteers from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have responded, offering to help in their areas as our go-to people if needed. The response has been amazing — the love, support and collaboration overwhelming.

Volunteers throughout the tri-state area are currently on alert, ready and willing to help. We are grateful for their proactiveness — their positive and can-do attitudes. Come Monday, we will know more about where help is needed and how people’s generous offers of assistance can best be utilized. It’s the nature of natural disasters that, unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what is needed and where it is needed quite yet. People don’t know what is going to happen in their own backyards when the storm passes through and what help they can offer in the aftermath. It is a waiting game as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Of course everything has been made a little easier by the fact that everyone has learned so much since Hurricane Katrina. Plans have been made for people to be able to take their pets with them, not leave them behind. Pets are welcome at all New York and New Jersey state evacuation shelters, and New York City has mandated that yellow cabs allow pets in all evacuation zones.

We’ve been fielding questions from folks who need information and resources about hurricane preparation. Many people are looking for information on shelters that allow pets and rail and other transportation closures and policies. And we are happy to have state-by-state information to share and resources on our New York programs Facebook page.

Please also check our New York programs Facebook page for updates and timely information about where immediate help is needed. We are using our page to facilitate communication during the storm. We have asked groups and volunteers to please post to our page if they need help.

In the meantime, we are sending out heartfelt wishes and love to all those being affected by Hurricane Irene. During this scary and anxiety-producing time, I take heart in knowing how important animals are to so many people as well as knowing we are all doing what we can to ensure the safety and well-being of our four-legged family members and friends.

Julie Castle with Sunny the dog
Julie Castle
Best Friends Animal Society