Homeless Hurricane Sandy Pets Get a Free Ride to California

Sixty Hurricane Sandy Pets Fly First Class To New Holiday Home

SeaWorld Rescue team member Anita Yeattes poses with a rescue dog on a cross-country flight from New Jersey to California.

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the northeast United States, many pets became homeless. Area shelters have been overflowing with new residents. So a few organizations stepped up to lend a helping hand. Sixty orphaned dogs and cats — from Save A Pet in Long Island and Delco SPCA in Delaware County — were  flown across the country via a donated charter from Southwest Airlines, chaperoned by SeaWorld‘s animal rescue experts, just in time for a safe and secure new home for the holidays at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe.

The extraordinary rescue is being made possible by Southwest Airlines, whose flight crews are donating their time and whose fuel provider BP is donating fuel; along with the donated manpower of SeaWorld, who is providing  veterinarians and animal technicians to chaperone the furry and four-legged passengers during the cross-country flight. SeaWorld’s animal experts in San Diego also will donate transportation for the pets to their new home after they land. Once at the Helen Woodward Animal Center, the animals will be evaluated by a veterinarian and receive medical treatments, vaccinations and spaying or neutering before being placed in loving homes with adoptive families.

“We know the Northeast is still recovering from Sandy and there is a long road ahead, which is why we have devoted our aircraft and resources to bringing in volunteers to assist on the ground,” stated Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Vice President of Communication and Strategic Outreach.  “Helping these animals find their forever homes and making room for the many animals displaced by the Hurricane is something we were happy to do, but wouldn’t have been possible without the generous spirit of our employees and partners.”

“We have a long history of rescuing animals and giving them a second chance at life and helping this effort is a natural extension of our resources,” said SeaWorld spokesperson Becca Bides. “Helen Woodward Animal Center and Southwest Airlines are big-hearted organizations and long-standing partners of SeaWorld and we are thrilled to team together for a cause. Everyone involved in the rescue is going to incredible lengths to aid these displaced pets and to get them into loving homes.”

 SeaWorld Rescue team members Jessica Decoursey and Dr. David Brinker pose with rescue dogs onboard the Southwest Airlines flight.

SeaWorld Rescue team members Jessica Decoursey and Dr. David Brinker pose with rescue dogs onboard the Southwest Airlines flight.

Sixty Hurricane Sandy Pets Fly First Class To New Holiday Home

SeaWorld Rescue team member Jay Tacey helps a rescue dog board the Southwest Airlines flight.

Sixty Hurricane Sandy Pets Fly First Class To New Holiday Home

SeaWorld Rescue team member Anita Yeattes and Southwest Airlines Captain Sean McMahon pose with a rescue dog.


Hurricane Sandy and the Effect on Wildlife

Over the past week, Hurricane Sandy blasted through the East coast of the United States and made her way into Canada. Many people suffered extraordinary losses as their homes were destroyed or damaged by storm surges, flooding, and downed trees. Many lost (and continue to be without) power, leaving them without heat, warm showers, transportation, and fresh food.

Dead tree with broken branches

Here at Animal Fact Guide headquarters in New London, Connecticut, I looked out the window of my darkened house on Monday afternoon. The wind was shaking the building, and big branches cracked as they snapped off a tree and then thudded to the ground. I noticed a squirrel perched on one of the tree’s lower branches huddled against the trunk, bracing himself against the powerful gusts. I wondered if animals were as adversely affected by hurricanes as we were.

I think that with people’s complete dependence on their homes and technology for safety and for their way of life, hurricanes do have a more devastating effect on people. But hurricanes also deeply impact wildlife in several ways:

Wind Dislocation
While songbirds and woodland birds can usually ride out a storm by holding on to their perches, powerful winds from a hurricane can blow migrating birds hundreds of miles off course or push shore birds inland.

Downed tree branchesTree Loss
Downed trees can be devastating to species who rely on certain types of trees for food and shelter. Food sources are also lost as the seeds and fruits get blown off trees.

Storm Surges
Storm surges destroy seaside habitats. Nest sites can be washed away by rising tides. In certain cases, entire beaches can be washed away. (This happened here in New London when Hurricane Sandy washed away Osprey Beach.) The influx of seawater also disrupts the balance of salt in wetlands, causing harm to marsh grasses, crabs, fish hatchlings, and minnows. Furthermore, the flooding causes sediment and pollutants to enter waterways, which negatively impacts marine animals.

What You Can Do
During a hurricane, the best thing you can do is stay safe.  Listen to government officials and heed their advice. Evacuate your home before the storm if necessary and seek shelter in a safe location. Stay inside during the storm to keep safe from falling branches and flying debris. After the storm, avoid going near downed power lines.

In terms of helping wildlife, if you see any rare species or injured animals, report them to your local wildlife agency. You can also fill your bird feeders to help tired songbirds recover after the storm.

But in the grand scheme of things, the increasing frequency of storms like Sandy remind us of the effect global warming is having on our planet.  A warming planet means more extreme weather headed our way more frequently. It means more storms and more droughts. With that in mind, it’s important to renew our efforts to curb our carbon emissions on a personal level and appeal to our politicians to instate policies that will cut back on carbon emissions on a global scale.

Learn more about how hurricanes and wildlife: