toggle menu

How are companion animals in your community affected by a disaster?

Floods. Hurricanes. Wildfires. 2017 has been catastrophic for many of our friends and neighbors. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes: unable to return to their jobs, their schools and their lives for weeks, if not months. It’s quite hard to imagine, actually. From food and clothing and bedding and my kid’s favorite lovey and prescriptions and new glasses and and and and and...the logistics must be overwhelming.

What happens to our pets in all this mess? If we’re lucky enough not to live in the danger zone, how do we help those that do? In this post, I’ll tackle the first question. I’ll answer the second question in the next blog post, so stay tuned for that.

As a reminder for new readers (welcome!), I’ve worked in animal welfare since the early aughts; first in humane societies and rescue in Florida, Texas, and California; now in rehoming support for families and pets throughout the US. This is my experience of how pets move through the community during and after a disaster.

Pets residing within the disaster area

  1. Animal shelters are closed and/or evacuated if necessary. In the event of an evacuation, other shelters and rescues outside of the disaster area volunteer to number of the pets at the evacuated shelter. Remember that each of these shelters and rescues is an independent organization. They are not related to one another and not related to any national organization. As you might imagine, there’s an intense amount of coordination that needs to happen quickly among these differing institutions, each with their own policies and leadership. “Animal people”, as I like to call the hardworking, creative, compassionate folks who work and volunteer for homeless pets, are excellent at making it happen. They work together to help as many pets and people as possible and they make it happen fast. Here’s the SPCA of Texas account of local agency collaboration during Hurricane Harvey.
  2. Pet owners who have been evacuated from their home may go to a shelter that accept pets or board their pet temporarily while they find housing. Pets aren’t accepted at Red Cross shelters, but thankfully pets are more commonly accepted at some county shelters for evacuees. This varies by state and by county. When pet owners are not able to find a pet-friendly shelter, a local humane society or shelter will typically step in to provide for local pets. For example, Marin Humane Society is providing emergency boarding for pets of the Northern California wildfire evacuees.
  3. As soon as it is safe to do so, animal control officers (ACOs) and other trained personnel work round-the-clock to patrol the disaster area and answer calls for rescue of stray and injured pets. As with firefighters, it’s not uncommon for ACOs to travel from hundreds of miles away to help.   
  4. Depending on the extent of the damage incurred by the disaster, veterinary resources within the immediate area may be limited or not available. Injured stray animals are then transported to a neighboring community for treatment if possible. The nonprofit agency receiving these animals pays for the cost of treatment and recovery given that the pet is a stray.  

Pets residing outside of but near to the disaster area

  1. Now the shelter pets from the evacuated area have been accepted at other local shelters. These shelters outside the disaster area probably had to quickly make space for more pets by calling on all available foster homes and creating makeshift space (portable kennels, for example) for extra animals in the shelter.
  2. These surrounding communities now have less total capacity for animals, for as long as the disaster area shelters remain uninhabitable. Also, there are more animals in the system because of the pets who require emergency boarding and the stray pets that continue to come in from the disaster area. These are animals that would not require shelter space otherwise, but now do. All resources- space, labor, money, supplies- are strained.
  3. Shelters and rescues may hold extra fundraising drives and events to help cover the cost of the extra labor, pet supplies, and medical support needed during and after a disaster. I’ll share more about that in the next post.

Does any of this relate to Wagaroo? Absolutely. Given the new resource challenges in the community, there will be fewer shelter and rescue spaces available for pets who need to be rehomed. Owner surrender waitlists grow because life is still happening that is totally unrelated to the disaster: someone loses a job and has to relocate to an apartment that doesn’t allow the 50-pound family dog; a senior parent dies and there is no family available to take in the resident kitty cat. Crises like this happen to loving pet owners every day. Wagaroo’s Family2Family program is available to help during these times, as a free support to the rehoming owners and to the shelters without space to offer.

We all know that recovery goes on long after a disaster occurs. The effects of a hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire are felt in a community for years after the catastrophic event. How should we decide where to donate our time and our dollars to help? That’s the question I’ll answer in my next post!

Have you experienced a natural disaster with your pets? I’d be very interested in hearing your story if you are ready to share it. I’m at elena@wagaroo.com.

Aroo and thanks for reading!


PS Let's all pledge to get prepared for an emergency before it happens: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/pet-disaster-preparedness

This is my cat, Theo. He woud definitely hide under the bed if we were trying to evacaute. 


It's #thankfulthursday! There's no better time to tell you about someone very special here at Wagaroo. We are thankful for Brooke! Brooke is the heart and mind behind the hundreds of customer emails at Wagaroo, in addition to sharing the wonderful dog updates on our social media accounts. She guides rehoming owners through the posting and response process, at a time when they are feeling incredibly sad about having to rehome their pet. She introduces those owners to potential adopters. And she answers questions. So many questions. Each one answered with genuine compassion and care. Brooke truly loves helping animals and people!

Here are just a few of the comments we’ve received:

The attention to detail and customer service were brilliant!

Very supportive and helpful. Personal contact and follow up emails made me feel as if we weren't alone in the process.

I really liked Wagaroo. The professionalism and level of service was something I did not expect from a pet adoption site.

Everything was exceptional working with Wagaroo, cannot think of one thing that needs improving.

VERY GOOD. The introductions worked very well. I like that Wagaroo had a middleman that would initiate the introduction between myself and who ever was interested. It really got things going and it was nice to know that someone was there to offer help whenever need be. I also really liked the helpful tip emails. They were great to have and I really felt that she was with me through the whole process. This is an amazing website and I'm so thankful that I was able to find the perfect home for my puppy.

The advice was invaluable and well appreciated. I'd really like to thank Brooke for her wonderful guidance.

AROO to you, Brooke! From your Wagaroo team, from all the people you help each day, and from the more than 500 dogs who have skipped the shelter because of your work!  

Brooke and Fufie. Fun fact about Brooke. She loves all dogs, especially pugs!

A goodbye to our friend, Daisy


In 2013, we published this heartwarming Wag Story about Daisy and her family. Sadly, Daisy passed away this weekend. Her mom wrote a beautiful tribute that she has graciously shared with us and with you.  We hope you will read it and hug all your loved ones, the four-legged and two-legged ones, tight. Tonight and always. Our love goes out to Daisy's family during this sad time. 

-Elena, Brooke, and Christine


For those who don't know, our sweet and crazy Daisy passed away this weekend. Thanks to my husband who decided we should bring her with us to Tahoe, she had a beautiful last couple of days enjoying the fresh air. She even climbed into the creek each morning for some cool relaxation. She received many pats on the head and ear scratches and she spent some beautiful quiet time with each of us as well. She waited for a quiet moment, when we were all out, to pass away. A nearby vet will take care of her remains and we will pick up her ashes in a couple of weeks.

Daisy had a tough start to life -a lost puppy in the streets of Oakland who was picked up by Oakland animal control and put into the city animal shelter. By luck, an SPCA representative from Vacaville visited the city shelter while Daisy was there and thought she showed potential as an adoptable dog. They took her to the SPCA in Vacaville and we found her advertised as Bernadette, the Bernese Mountain dog (no picture) on Petfinder. As luck would have it we were on our way north for a weekend in Tahoe and were able to meet her (love at first sight) and take her home. So appropriate that we welcomed her and said goodbye from the same spot.

Daisy has been by our sides for 11.5 years through thick and thin and we have a hole in our hearts today.  I like to think she is in a restful state somewhere with endless tummy rubs and swims and yummy food - perhaps even reuniting with other special family members who have passed. They will enjoy her singing voice and loyal companionship smiley

On our walk before we received the call, our four year old son exclaimed with amazement and enthusiasm that Daisy and daisys are the same and that 'Daisy is everywhere!'  He hadn't drawn the connection before and it was really sweet to hear him thinking it through. Beautiful timing in retrospect.

Bay Area Landlords Save Abandoned Dog

Bay Area landlords are in the news and the news is usually not good. Whether you’re reading a story about rents climbing ever higher or our low inventory of rentals for pet owners, you can’t help but imagine that the typical Silicon Valley landlord bears a striking resemblance to Scrooge McDuck.

Enter Joe and Jenny. Joe and Jenny own a duplex in Stockton, California. They allow pets.  Yes, that’s right. THEY ALLOW PETS! This already puts Joe and Jenny in the awesome landlord category, however they took pet-friendly to the next level recently when their renters left a dog behind after vacating. Think about that for a moment. Put yourself in the paws of that pup. You’re hanging out in your backyard, just as you’ve done thousands of times before. The sun is shining and you’re watching your people bustle about going back and forth to the car. When they drive away, you don’t worry. They’ll be back because they always come back. Except this time, they don’t. Not after one day. Not after two. Not after ten. This lovely dog was left on her own for ten days.

Joe and Jenny could have easily called animal control to report the dog and have an officer pick her up. Instead, these compassionate folks committed to finding this dog a home. That’s when their daughter, Gloria, contacted Wagaroo to ask about posting the brindle shepherd mix in our Family2Family program. When we shared our recommendations about what to do with an abandoned animal, Gloria replied with this happy news:  

“We’ve received such incredible support from all our family and friends (several have wanted to adopt her), but in the end, we fell in love with the sweet girl and just couldn’t part with her. She was very fearful at first, but we’ve had her for about 3 days now, and she’s just so sweet and bonded to us. Curry had her full check-up yesterday and shots - everything is looking great!”

Here’s to Joe, Jenny and family! They saw an animal in need and committed to finding her a home. In the meantime, they fell in love and gave Curry her forever home. Congratulations to this wonderful family and to one lucky pup! 

Our new favorite Curry. Sorry, Steph!


Happy Curry with her new family!

My wiggly-butt-big-head-sweet-pit-bull-love Pepper

Some people say that dogs show you what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. That's true. I think the more remarkable thing about Pepper was how unconditionally I loved her. 

She never once made me angry. She never disappointed. She couldn't even if she tried.  She was nothing other than pure love and joy.

It all started when I was 17 years old.  I had been volunteering at my local animal shelter for several years by then and certainly had my heart broken more than once. One day, a sweet brindle pit bull caught my eye.  She was in one of the stackable cages with newspaper on the floor.  Her wiggling butt and fast circling tail made it clear that her cage was way too small for her. Even after weeks at the shelter, her love for life and people was unshakeable. All she wanted was to kiss you and hang out with you. So the day I noticed her kennel card was turned sideways -- an indication that she was likely to be put down soon -- I could already feel my heart breaking.  At the shelter with one of my good friends, we took her for a walk and did not come back. This time my heart didn't break.  


I remember arriving home with Pepper.  I am certain my Mom knew this day was coming.  We had indeed fostered a couple of dogs before.  

"We are just fostering her, Mom. She is definitely not a pit bull."  

We were definitely not just fostering her, and she definitely was a pit bull.  My mom probably already knew both of these things and just welcomed us all inside. 

It worked out well that my Dad happened to out of the country for a couple of weeks.  One of Pepper's first adventures was eating part of my Dad's chair.  The chair where you are only allowed to sit if you are over the age of 40.  The chair got fixed and don't get me wrong: Pepper wiggled her way into my Dad's heart after not long as well.  She was like that. She would get up in your face and love you until you have no choice but to love her back. It's why one Thanksgiving morning my Mom sent me this text of Pepper and my Dad on that same chair:

It's why I get exactly what my Dad meant when he remembered Pepper by saying:

"If she was a dog, she was the best damn dog we ever had."

For the first several years, Pepper would go on long runs with my Dad.  But, then Pepper became too lazy or realized being home was too awesome.  She still loved to go on trips to pick up bagels on Saturday mornings with my Dad, and go on daily long walks with my Mom. 

Two things that made Pepper the happiest?  First - going home.  It did not matter if she only had walked outside for 2 minutes or taken a 2-hour trip to the beach.  Whenever Pepper's paws stepped back inside our home, pure joy broke out.  She would sprint around, find a toy,  show her people her toy, and then convince her people to come sit with her and her toy on the couch. Sometimes, my parents would drive Pepper to the end of our block and back just so she could experience the joy of coming home again.     

Second - people coming to visit her at home.  One friend summarized it perfectly:

"What I remember about Pepper is how excited she was to meet people. She had the highest hops, the hardest tail, and the most energy of any dog I know."  

Once people came through the door, Pepper's joy did not dwindle.  Indeed,  a close family member recalls:

"Pepper showed her joy through that whipping tail, so much so that she'd self-induce a sprain when surrounded by the people she loved."  

For me?  What do I remember about Pepper?  Everything. 


The crazy thing is, I only got to live (full-time) with Pepper for one year.  After that, I was off to college, and grad school, and then my first job.  It didn't take long before Pepper was my Mom's shadow.  When I think of how much my Mom loved Pepper and Pepper loved my Mom, it is impossible to describe.  They were an unstoppable duo -- dance walking around the neighborhood -- showing off just how wonderful this wiggly-butt pit bull was.  And, of course, my Mom always kept me in the loop. 





I'll close with just two notes: 

Dear World: Let's just stop with breed discrimination. If you want to get into the economics behind why there are so many misconceptions about pit bulls, let me know.  But, a simpler answer is as follows: If you want a nice dog (or landlords - want to ensure your tenants have nice dogs), judge the dog's behavior.  A dog's behavior is more predictive of a dog's behavior than a dog's breed.  Breed discimination is less effective and causes pups like Pepper to be killed because they cannot find homes.  That is a lose-lose.  The world shouldn't be robbed of pure goodness like Pepper. 

Dear Mom - You are the best. I hope every kid is lucky enough to have a Mom who will love their pup like you loved Pepper. I promise to pass on her treasured pig, and I promise to pass on the love that you and Pepper showed me.