PCRM Pitches In on Katrina Tragedy
When news reports first revealed that Katrina evacuees were being forced to leave their companion animals, PCRM issued an immediate statement criticizing federal authorities for forcing evacuees to choose between their possessions and their companion animals.
PCRM psychiatrists said that being forced to leave animals behind aggravates the trauma the flood victims have already endured. For many, companion animals are like other family members. “The evacuation process is already terribly difficult. It is only more painful when evacuees are forced to leave their animals behind, condemning them to a slow death by dehydration,” said PCRM ethologist Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
PCRM member Steven Stigers, M.D., a volunteer in the relief effort, also issued a statement after his return from New Orleans. As part of a volunteer physician team organized by Louisiana’s emergency response system, Dr. Stigers provided medical care to people suffering from the aftermath of the devastating hurricane. Dr. Stigers discovered that in some areas, organizations were not being allowed in to help animals, and people were not being permitted to evacuate with their pets. “Now that human relief efforts are solidly under way, we must tackle the horrific situation still threatening so many animals,” he stated.
PCRM member psychiatrist Carol Tavani, M.D., also weighed in with an op-ed distributed nationwide through Knight Ridder Information Service. Her piece, “‘No Pets’ Policy Traumatizes Survivors and Impedes Evacuation,” called on authorities to prevent this tragedy from happening again.
Fortunately, thanks to the outrage expressed by PCRM and others, relief organizations eventually began changing their policies. There is now a major national effort under way to ensure that future relief efforts recognize companion animals as family members.
PCRM Online, September 2005