3 on the 3rd: PetSmart Charities Helps Animals during Disasters

BCLC's executive interview series, 3 on the 3rd, is dedicated to providing deep and valuable business insights delivered in a quick manner. As the column name suggests, interviews are three questions in length and air on the 3rd of the month.

Last week served as six month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and while the recovery continues, we are reminded of the strife that sets in during times of disaster. When disasters strike, there is a ripple like affect of hurt and loss that moves through families, businesses, churches, schools - the foundation of communities.

This is where PetSmart Charities comes in; during those times of loss and recovery, they are there helping you and your other family members - your pets. Find out in our interview with PetSmart Charities how they take on disasters and continue to keep pets housed, fed, safe and most importantly, keeping families' and their pets together, which only further helps the emotional and physical recovery process. BCLC works with businesses on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery – because all are crucial parts to withstanding disasters. It is the necessary all-encompassing approach, which PetSmart Charities believes as well.

What challenges do animals face in disasters, and how does PetSmart Charities help?

Animals face many challenges in a disaster, from losing their pet parent to being rendered homeless alongside their families. These pets are often frightened and don’t understand why they’re being uprooted. During a disaster, PetSmart Charities intervenes on behalf of pets in several ways. One, we provide our animal welfare partners with the resources they need to care for the pet victims of a disaster; we provide a safe haven for them while they and their pet parents recover. PetSmart Charities also provides pet food and other supplies to FEMA and the American Red Cross to help the entire household through a one-stop-shop approach.  Families can come through distribution sites and receive supplies for their pets at the same time they receive human supplies. This approach allows the entire household to stay together, rather than splitting up to seek out all of the supplies they need. And lastly, we provide grants our animal welfare partners to rebuild after a disaster or care for displaced pets. Our all-encompassing approach to caring for pets and the people that care for them during disasters allows more families to stay together.

How does your work after disasters relate to and support your philosophy and goals as a company and non-profit?

Our work after disasters is directly connected to our mission, "A lifelong loving home for every pet." Whether it’s providing outlets for adoption, funding spay/neuter initiatives, or supporting disaster response efforts, our goal is to find a permanent home for every pet. In our world, the term disaster does not just apply to hurricanes or tornados; a hoarding situations or puppy mills are also disasters. After pets are removed from these situations, we strive to provide resources to the organizations that care for them and place them in permanent homes.  Our approach to disaster response is holistic: we want to meet pets’ immediate needs, help them heal or provide them comfort during the time of distress and either reunite them with their pet parent or help them find a new permanent home.

How have you seen PetSmart Charities grow and progress in your dedication to disaster relief, and what are some of your goals for PetSmart Charities’ work in the future?

At PetSmart Charities our dedication has grown and progressed through our disaster work over the last ten years. After Hurricane Katrina, we realized that there had to be a way to get supplies quickly and effectively to the affected areas. Our solution: the Emergency Relief Waggin' program. We currently have six semi-trailers pre-loaded with nonperishable items staged at various PetSmart Distribution Centers across the country. These trailers are ready to deploy, along with a team of volunteers, within 24 to 48 hours. Just as human disaster response has evolved, so has pet disaster response; we work in conjunction with the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition and with federal partners to maximize our impact and avoid duplicating efforts.  By working with our federal partners, we are often able to work within the Federal Human framework. For example, during Hurricane Sandy, the American Red Cross, USDA, and National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) were all sitting close at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and worked on a pet food feeding program within the human feeding program.  The feeding program was such a success that we are working with our partners to expand the program for future disasters. Our ultimate goal is to keep pets safe and united with their families.