The strong bond between people and animals cannot be denied. Pets are part of the family, and those who don't have human children love their pets as much as any parents. Thousands of residents along the Gulf Coast chose not to leave their homes in advance of Hurricane Katrina's strike because most evacuation centers do not accept pets. We have since witnessed the horrific results of those decisions in countless images too graphic to describe.
"I think that this is going to do a lot for the community to show that there is a need for more evacuation shelters that accept pets," says Melanie Otero, public relations director of the Humane Society of Greater Miami. Since the hurricane, "there's been an incredible outpouring by people who want to help," says Otero. One generous example of compassion is the anonymous $20,000 donation the HSGM received to create a "Paws for Relief" matching fund to challenge the community to raise another twenty grand to support the massive pet rescue efforts of the Humane Society of the United States. "This is a long-term, ongoing effort," says Otero. "The way that we felt we could best help is to raise money for the shelters closer to the affected areas." At press time, nearly 5000 animals had been rescued along the Gulf Coast, and more than 200 pets have been reunited with their families.
To raise money for the Katrina relief efforts, as well as for our local homeless animals, the HSGM has two fundraising events for you to enjoy this week. On Saturday, September 24, you and your family (pets too, of course) can hop over to the Fall in Love Animal Fair at the Soffer and Fine Adoption Center. Canines can express themselves at the Paw Art booth before being primped and pampered (for a five-dollar donation) at the Dog Wash. There will also be discounted adoptions and microchipping, and Cold Stone Creamery will be giving away free ice cream at noon.
Pups who love to party won't want to miss the Animal Fair magazine Jeep Yappy Hour event Wednesday, September 28, at the Mayfair Hotel & Spa. Pretty poodles and dashing dachshunds can sniff and yap at the other fur kids while their parents mix and mingle with Miami Heat players Udonis Haslem and Matt Walsh, and Animal Fair editor Wendy Diamond. There will also be plenty of light bites and libations, and guests will receive a special gift.
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But before darting off to party, you should make plans to prepare yourself and your pet in the event of another hurricane. "We always emphasize for people to plan ahead," says Otero, who encourages pet owners to call or visit the HSGM Website for a copy of the Pet Hurricane Preparation Guide. "The important thing is to be prepared."