In the aftermath of the storm that devastated parts of the eastern seaboard on October 29, 2012, many residents found themselves homeless or with severely damaged homes following hurricane-force winds, torrential rain and massive flooding.

Recovery is still under way in New York, New Jersey and other states in the Northeast, where FEMA, along with the American Red Cross and other relief agencies, are working to provide assistance to storm victims.

After making certain that humans are taken care of, attention naturally turns to the pets that belong to residents affected by the storm. To that end, the American Kennel Club’s Companion Animal Recovery department is actively involved in providing help where it is needed.

Indeed, AKC CAR began its efforts when the storm was still out at sea. Prior to a storm of this kind, AKC reaches out to clubs in the storm’s path, offering CAR’s assistance. “Through news outlets and social media, we disseminate evacuation tips, as well as information about how to stay home safely with pets,” says AKC Director of Communications Lisa Peterson. “After the storm hits, we reach out again to clubs in the affected areas to see what the needs are in their communities, as well as to shelters themselves, offering funding through grants and any other help we have available.”

Humans weren’t the only victims of Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012. Photo ©

The fact that, with Sandy, the AKC CAR headquarters and staff were also affected by the storm made efforts more of a challenge than usual. Outreach became difficult for several reasons. On Monday when the storm hit, the AKC office in New York was closed after mass transit was shut down by order of state officials. By Tuesday, the storm had knocked out power to much of lower Manhattan, including AKC’s office at 260 Madison Avenue. So Peterson and others worked at home. “At my house in Connecticut, the power was out, and I had no heat or water,” she says. “I kept recharging my cell phone in my car so that I could attempt to contact people to see what we could do to help, as did my co-worker Stephanie Smith from her apartment in Queens.” Making connections with local shelters was a challenge too because many of them were without power. But staff members persisted.

In addition to contacting local shelters, CAR works through the dozens of local AKC clubs in affected areas, because, as Peterson says, “The clubs serve as ‘boots on the ground,’ and they know what the needs are locally.”

CAR has now provided assistance in myriad ways. “In New York, we sent more than 100 toys to keep dogs engaged and comforted at the New York City Animal Care and Control’s Manhattan facility,” Peterson reports. “We donated a $5,000 disaster relief grant to continue their care for animals, with many flooded facilities around the city.” In Connecticut, an assistance grant of $5,000 went to the Animal Welfare League of New London County Inc. to help the displaced dogs in that area.

“In New Jersey, CAR sent more than $2,000 worth of collars, leashes, pet beds, cage bedding, dog and cat food, and cleaning supplies to help the Woodbridge Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center, which was submerged in more than five feet of water after the hurricane,” notes Peterson. In addition, a $3,000 grant was sent to the Humane Society of Atlantic County, which was completely flooded. “We also sent St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J., 100 AKC blankets to keep pets warm to cope with dropping temperatures after the shelter lost power,” she says.

In response to the storm’s devastation, the AKC Humane Fund created the “Sandy Fund,” seeded with $10,000 donations from the Humane Fund itself and the Westminster Kennel Club. Grants from the fund will be distributed through AKC clubs and other local organizations to provide support and services for people affected by the storm. The first donation from the Sandy Fund was made to the Staten Island Companion Dog Training Club to support relief efforts in the local community.

The Humane Fund’s next two grant recipients were the New Jersey Federation of Dog Clubs and the New England Saint Bernard Club, which both received $1,000 to help residents hit hardest by Sandy.

Clubs that would like to apply for grants to assist local disaster relief can send requests in writing to AKC assistant vice president Daphna Strauss link live.// Donations to the Sandy Fund can be made here (mark your donation for the Sandy Fund) or checks or money orders may be sent to:

The American Kennel Club Humane Fund Inc.
Attn: Daphna Strauss
260 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016-2401

Part 2 of this story will be posted on Wednesday, November 21, when we’ll examine how the federal government responded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and how the resulting PETS Act helped save lives, both human and canine, during the latest storm.