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Pets, Pain And Hurricanes

Written by: Rev Kaleel Sakakeeny, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The hurricane season has come and gone, for now, but our fragile planet is still savaged and whipped about by nature’s angry storms and protests.

Some say it’s nature’s response to human abuse, saying, basically, “I’ve had enough, and this is me fighting back!”

Certainly, the storms, floods, fires and ice are apocryphal, and as usual it’s the innocent, the poor the unprepared the marginalized that suffer the most. The animals.

Animals, especially our pets, who have played no part in assaulting the earth, pay a horrific price when caught up in nature’s fury.

In August 2005, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with devastating fury. It left in its wake, death, destruction and heartbreaking images of abandoned and dying family pets, most left behind in the belief their pet parents would be back soon to rescue them.

They never came back. The pets perished.

Many died on rooftops or were trapped in flooded homes, cages and bathrooms-waiting. They were found by the side of highways fighting for their lives.

About 250,00 pets were left behind. And in spite of heroic, desperate efforts,1,800 people and 150,000 pets perished in Katrina’s wrath. If any good came from this tragedy, it was a significant change in the legal status of pets.

Lawmakers were inspired to enact the Pet Evacuation Bill, which requires authorities to take pets into account with their emergency training and educate people on how to care for animals during natural disasters. Significantly, pets now must be evacuated with people. The federal government soon signed similar legislation, the PETS Act, into law.

Hurricane Ian

While millions of Floridians were told to evacuate ahead of Ian’s landfall, it proved easier said than done. Many could not evacuate. Some didn't have the funds to find shelter elsewhere or were disabled or too ill to move. They had no help or couldn’t read or understand English. Even though warnings were also posted in Spanish, there are multiple languages spoken in Florida. And many had pets they would not leave out of a deep sense of love and devotion.

While the final numbers of pets and people lost are not exact, stories are everywhere. In Fort Myers, lashed by 140 mph winds and inundated by floodwaters, veterinarian Sharon Powell and her husband retreated to the safest place they could find for themselves and their pets a downtown parking garage, according to the Miami Herald.

Saving Pets’ Lives

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recently issued advice on how to keep animals safe during storms like Hurricane Ian:

  1. If you’re evacuating, take your pets with you!

  2. Make sure your pets are secure inside a home. If you have a basement or room without windows, that's even better.

  3. Animals will experience anxiety during severe weather, particularly if they're sheltering in a new location, such as a basement. So make sure necessary prescribed medications are nearby, as well as toys and things that can comfort your pet ‒ like thunder jackets for dogs.

  4. If evacuation is necessary, be sure to have a leash, collar, dog tags, pet carrier and any essential paperwork on hand.

  5. Pet parents should know where favorite hiding places are for pets so they can be easily found during emergencies, the ASPCA advises.

Most pet parents, after the horrors of Katrina and Ian, are very unlikely and unwilling to leave their pets behind. It’s part of the profound, powerful bond we build with them as beloved family members. People who left their pets behind in Katrina in the belief they would only be separated for a day or two at the most, are still suffering guilt and remorse.

With new laws and a deeper awareness, we hope this kind of suffering will become a thing of the past. At the very least, we can be better prepared to care for our beloved animal family members the next time around.

Animal Talks is a Boston-based nonprofit animal charity with a global mission to help anyone who is suffering the pain of having lost a beloved pet to death. Individual, one-on-one pet grief counseling is available with Kaleel (Rev K), who is an ordained nondenominational pastoral counselor, animal chaplain and loss and grief counselor specializing in pet loss and bereavement. Animal Talks also runs a monthly Healing Circle support group.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!


Rev Kaleel Sakakeeny, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kaleel (Rev K) is one of the country's few ordained Animal Chaplains, nondenominational Pastoral Counselors and Credentialed Pet Loss and Grief Counselors. His work in the field of Loss and Grief, especially Pet Loss and Grief, has earned him recognition from The Washington Post, People Magazine, New York Times and other media. He is a “thought leader” in the emerging field of the animal-human bond studies, and a practicing therapist.



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