The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

May 27, 2013

Ryan Richardson: Oklahoma pets in crisis in wake of tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — Monday's destructive tornado in Moore, Okla., was a stark reminder of how volatile the Midwest can be this time of year.

Like many of you, the town of Moore was not far from my mind during the two-year anniversary of the Joplin tornado. I read the reports from the Globe's Andra Bryan Stefanoni while watching the news, hoping for the best out of a tragic situation.

One thing that caught my eye was how many pets were lost in the massive EF-5 tornado.

There were a lot of tearful reunions caught on camera that made my desk a wee bit damp, but I know there are so many animals crawling through the wrecked homes. Undoubtedly, some of those pets will be reconnected with their owners, but there will be countless pets that once had loving homes that will either end up at the Central Oklahoma Humane Society or be out on the streets for a long time.

Joplin went through this on May 22, 2011. I know how inundated it was with unclaimed pets, and I've heard about the outpouring of support it received from across the country. Getting those pets home was a long task, and, while I'm sure Moore is up for it, I know it will be difficult.

This is a topic I've touched on before, but I will say it again: Your pets need to get back into your arms as soon as possible. Any measure pet owners can take before a disaster strikes that will cut down on that time should be taken.

If you haven't chipped your pet yet, do it now. There isn't an excuse for you not to do this. After touching base with several vets in the Joplin area, I found the average cost to be about $45, and it's an outpatient, non-anesthesia procedure.

Dogs, cats, birds, ferrets -- you name it -- it can get chipped. There isn't any pain involved and the risks are minimal.

Get the chip in and then register it with your information including your address, pet's name and contact information. It's as simple as that. If your pet shows up at a shelter it will be scanned. Then the registry will be checked and you'll be contacted to pick up your pet quickly. The space your pet would take up can be used for one that wasn't as lucky.

Beyond that, get your pet a set of tags with the information engraved, not etched, into metal. Put your contact information, pet's name and any special instructions for your pet on there. Make sure the tags are connected securely to your pet's collar by something more than a little piece of metal.

Finally, keep an updated log of all of your shot records in a safe place. Make sure it includes any allergy listings, reactions and immunizations. If you have to pound the pavement and look for your animal, this is good information to get out into the public.

My heart goes out to the people of Moore and their pets. Those people are in for a rebuilding process that I can only begin to fathom. I want them to find the strength to come back strong. It will be tough, but when they rebuild, I want their pets to be right beside them.

The Central Oklahoma Humane Society in Oklahoma City has three different facilities housing displaced pets. It has already helped reunite 33 owners with their pets, but more are coming in daily. Members are working tirelessly to reunite families with their pets, and they are seeking more volunteers. More information is available at www.facebook.com/okhumane or 405-607-8991.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at rrichardson@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7363.

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