Fort McMurray Fires impact Furry Friends

In recent weeks, the devastating fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, have driven over 80 000 people from their homes. But they weren’t the only ones affected. In the course of the evacuation, an estimated 600 pets were left behind – often by individuals at school and work.

Desperate to save their pets, but unable to return home, many owners took to the internet. Some reported their missing pet on a municipal rescue website. Other issued an SOS via social media. The pets varied from conventional companions like dogs and cats to “hamsters, birds, snakes, parrots – you name it”. One person even pleaded for help recovering 32 geckos!

On May 8, several organizations heeded the calls. With the fires relatively contained and winds blowing away from the city, the Alberta SPCA and the Calgary Humane Society set out with pet food and water. The local animal control service also toured the city, collecting abandoned pets on the streets.

Several “rogue” rescue groups soon joined the effort. Armed with a crowbar, they broke into the homes of worried pet owners and rounded up pets. It wasn’t always easy. In one case, they used an owner’s voice on speaker phone to coax out a terrified Chihuahua. However, in the end, the group successfully retrieved 230 animals (before being ejected by police due to looting concerns).

The rescued animals are now in an emergency holding facility in nearby Edmonton, Alberta. They are receiving care and “mounds of kibble”, much of it donated by animal lovers and non-profits like The Pack Project. They will remain there until healthy enough to return to their owners.

But tragically, not all owners will have the means to keep their beloved pets. Already, “some displaced families have decided that caring for a pet is too overwhelming during such a traumatic time”. In the words of Miranda Jordan-Smith, CEO of the Edmonton Humane Society, “We have had some animals surrendered from evacuees. It’s disheartening, but when people don’t have a home, they will do this.”

This will likely increase the stress on the city’s animal care unit. With space for 60 cats and 60 dogs, the unit is already at maximum capacity. Local shelters have volunteered to house the overflow, but they will surely require additional food, blankets, toys, and other support.

If you’d like to help, please donate to the Alberta SPCA, the Edmonton Humane Society, or The Pack Project. Also, consider completing Op4G surveys for our partners, the Animal House Shelter, Austin Humane Society, and Dell City Humane Society.


Four Years After the Quake, Recovery Lags in Haiti

Haiti CrisisIn recent months, the world has endured several devastating natural disasters: the earthquake in Pakistan, flooding in Cambodia, and the massive Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. These disasters remind us of another tragedy closer to home – the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Approaching its 4th anniversary, the 7.0Mw Haitian earthquake claimed the lives of approximately 250,000 people and injured hundreds of thousands more.  It also destroyed (or severely damaged) 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings, leaving over a million people homeless. The resulting humanitarian disaster remains one of the worst of the 21st century.

So what is the status of Haiti today? The country and its foreign partners have made progress on several fronts. As of 2013, they have removed most of the 10 million cubic meters of debris and housed 158,000 affected families. They have provided grants, training, and over 470,000 temporary jobs. They have vaccinated 3,000,000 children and constructed new hospitals. Moreover, they have enhanced preparedness for future disasters. But these achievements are overshadowed by the crippling challenges Haiti continues to face.

JP HRO Haiti Relief
According to The Economist, more than 350,000 Haitians still live in tents or substandard housing in “hillside shanties and seaside slums”. Unemployment hovers at around 75%. A cholera epidemic, which has taken over 8000 lives, continues to spread. Furthermore, the underlying, long-term problems inflicting Haiti remain unaddressed. Yet, aid for the tiny Caribbean country is running out. Many non-profits have disbursed their funds and are struggling to attract new donations given “donor fatigue”. Others have succumbed to corruption, squandering funds on exorbitant salaries, travel, and consultant fees. Finally, as highlighted by the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, many aid pledges have simply gone “unfulfilled”.

Op4G’s partners, however, remain committed to serving the people of Haiti. Greater Good: Haiti focuses on delivering primary school education programs and sustainability projects in under-served communities, while A Chance for Kids works for the “relief and betterment” of Haitian children. Please help create lasting change in Haiti – support these non-profits today!


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