When Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast in October, the PetSmart Charities® Emergency Relief team sprang into action.
As details of the event unfolded, we prepared our Emergency Relief Waggin’® vehicles for deployment. Each trailer is stocked with more than $80,000 worth of essential supplies—that’s 16 tons of things like pet food, wire crates, plastic carriers, bowls, leashes, fans, generators, battery chargers and lights.
“We had heard stories of supply trucks that were practically being bombarded,” said Emergency Relief Manager Wanda Merling. “The drivers actually had to turn around and come back with a NYPD and National Guard escort. That’s how badly people needed food for their pets.”
Immediate response: filling a desperate need
Starting Nov. 1, we sent four Emergency Relief Waggin’® vehicles to Syracuse, New York—a safe staging area for volunteers distributing supplies to desperate pet parents within the affected area.
A temporary distribution center
With so many supplies to unload and distribute, so PetSmart Charities worked with the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the state of New York to set up a temporary distribution center to ensure pets received what they needed. Volunteers from PetSmart Charities and PetSmart® were already on-site in Syracuse to provide assistance.
Sarah Jones Rindon, a pet safety specialist from Phoenix, helped set up the temporary distribution center. She said the long hours and intense physical labor involved were a real challenge, but one with a huge payoff for all involved.
“We knew that getting supplies to these affected areas was going to have an immediate impact, and that motivated us to keep going,” Sarah said.
Through our Syracuse distribution center, we have been able to support about 3,000 pets. We’re continuing to work with the ASPCA to coordinate ongoing relief efforts in New York.
Secondary deployments: New Jersey and West Virginia
We also deployed a trailer to Monmouth County, New Jersey that has supported more than 500 pets in need. There, we’re working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to coordinate ongoing relief efforts.
While it hasn’t been in the headlines as much, West Virginia was also hit hard by heavy snowfall related to Hurricane Sandy. We’re working with the Federal Emergency Management Association, or FEMA, to get pet food to distribution points in West Virginia via Yaeger Air Force Base.
This is the first time that pet food has ever been distributed at the military base as part of disaster relief. According to Wanda, “The National Guard was patiently waiting for these pet supplies so they could distribute them at the same time as their overall relief efforts for people in need.”
This week, PetSmart Charities and PetSmart associates are repackaging 200,000 pounds – 100 tons – of dog and cat food into one-pound bags. We’re repackaging the food to ensure that it gets to those in need—it makes it easier for the Red Cross to distribute, easier for storm victims to carry, and also impossible for anyone to resell.
These bags will be distributed by the American Red Cross in and around New York City. It’s another great show of collaboration in a time of need. It’s the first time that the Red Cross will be distributing pet food, along with human food and supplies, through its emergency response vehicles, or ERVs.
The next wave of relief: more trucks and ERVs
Once we finish repackaging the pet food for the Red Cross, we’ll send another deployment of Emergency Relief Waggin’ vehicles to affected areas. Thousands of pets in the area still need our help.