Healing Heart Sanctuary



Programs  |  Disaster Response

Map of animals returned to their families after Katrina

Map of animals returned to families after Katrina


PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’

PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’


Field Manager Laurel Ley with HSUS’ Scotlund Haisley

HHS Field Manager with HSUS' Scotlund Haisley

Photo credit: Kathy Milani

Like many other organizations, when Hurricane Katrina hit quickly followed by Hurricane Rita, Healing HEART Sanctuary Executive Director Laura Bradshaw began to manage all reunion-related animal transportation needs for Best Friends Animal Society. Literally hundreds of animals were transported back to New Orleans and reunited with their owners, or transported to other parts of the country where their owners had been relocated. Laura was recognized by Best Friends CEO Paul Berry for her related work.

Separately, in addition to extensive contributions related to the Katrina/Rita response, Board Member Laurel Ley is the HHS Field Manager, developed a transportation system and managed all transportation for Best Friends’ Celebration Station facility during January and February following the storms. Over a nine week period close to 2,000 animals were transported to various approved organizations. Laurel specifically took pride in the fact that animals sent to the receiving organizations could easily be accepted into their programs; less then a dozen were returned to Best Friends during that time due to an organization’s inability to accept a specific animal into their program.

It was through their separate activities that Laura and Laurel met, and began to coordinate their respective transportation responsibilities.

Following the closure of the Celebration Station facility, Laura and Laurel continued for many months to work on behalf of the animals and their owners affected by the storms. Most notably, they appealed to Best Friends’ CEO Paul Berry to extend financial support to the Waveland Animal Shelter, Hancock County, Mississippi resulting in hundreds of precious animal lives being saved as the area and facility recovered. The area had been particularly hard hit and had not received the level of support which New Orleans did.

As a result of Laura and Laurel’s involvement with Waveland, Precious’ situation was discovered by HHS; Best Friends’ agreed to take Precious into their Guardian Angel Program with Laura and HHS acting as the foster situation. Precious was flown to Salt Lake City where Laura picked her up and hand-carried her back to Kanab. Eventually it became clear that it was in Precious’ emotional best interest to remain as one of the Sanctuary Kids of Healing HEART Sanctuary as she fell in love with Helen, another resident. Additionally, she’s a perfect ambassador.

PetSmart Charities® Emergency Relief Waggin’®
Healing HEART Sanctuary is responsible for Field Services including the training, coordination, and management of the volunteer team for the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’ program.

HHS Board Member Laurel Ley is the HHS Field Manager for the program. Working with the PetSmart Charities Manager of Emergency Grants, Barbara Fought, Laurel has been involved with the program since its inception helping to define the program and its various elements.

Under the direction of HHS, volunteers meet each trailer to unload the trailer, set up equipment (tents, generator, etc.) and tend to other initial tasks for making the supplies ready for the responding agency to use, such as setting up crates. These initial tasks usually take between two to four days, not including travel. After initial set up, a Team Leader may remain with the trailer during the time of deployment to insure that supplies are off-loaded and disbursed appropriately. At the end of the deployment, remaining supplies will be inventoried in preparation for reloading and restocking.   The HHS team does not participate in the rescue of animals nor are we a sheltering group.  Most travel expenses related to participating as a volunteer with the PCI ERW program are paid for in advance or reimbursed.

The program’s first deployment was in response to a request from San Diego during the fires in October 2007. This deployment was followed two weeks later to the largest puppy mill closure ever, in Hillsville, Virginia affecting almost 1,000 animals. The volunteers who responded to both deployments had been trained during either the Louisiana training in March 2007 or the Florida training in June.

In 2008, the Healing HEART Sanctuary Volunteer Team has responded to eight deployments:

  • January/February: Shelter closure in North Carolina
  • March: Puppy mill/hoarding situation in Tucson
  • June: Cedar Rapids floods
  • June: Puppy mill closure in Tennessee
  • July: Northern California fires
  • August: West Virginia puppy mill
  • August: Hurricane Gustav
  • September: Hurricane Ike

From early-February through mid-August 2009, there have been 11 responses.

Our commitment is to providing an efficient level of support for the Logistics team of any response. And as such, we must choose volunteers based on their best ability to fulfill this mission. The HHS volunteer team has developed the reputation of efficiently getting the job done with a minimum of input needed from the requesting agency.

All volunteers are required:

  • To have ICS100 and IS700
  • Be willing to follow ICS when deployed with the team and any activities related to the volunteer team
  • Be comfortable with doing manual labor work sometimes in adverse conditions such as hot or humid weather
  • Meet certain physical and health-related requirements, etc. such as the ability to be able to lift 50 lbs repetitively for an extended period of time
  • Have a broad availability throughout the year as well as a reasonable number of days available, for maximum availability across the entire team
  • Be comfortable with not being able to handle or touch animals
  • Be flexible in often changing circumstances which can result in having to redo work such as move crates more than once
  • Like the logistics side of disaster response
  • Follow the paperwork requirements of the program
  • Be willing to adhere to the established Polices and Procedures
  • Available to attend an in-person training
  • Be willing to follow the Policies & Procedures (PDF) which are part of the Volunteer Manual and updated as needed

Trainings are held as needed to expand the HHS volunteer roster but not more frequently than once a year; usually in the spring. If you are interested in being considered to participate in a future training, please sign up on our newsletter form by checking the box “HHS Disaster Response Volunteer Team – Upcoming Training”. Please uncheck the default box which says “Any news HHS wants to share” if you only want to receive information on the volunteer team trainings.

For information on the program itself including how to request a trailer, the information is available on the PetSmart Charities website including the request form.

For additional information on volunteering with the program, please contact Healing HEART Sanctuary. For information on preparing for a disaster, check out the pets information at the Ready.gov website.

Or, help your community get prepared by promoting pet preparedness.

Community Pet Preparedness Toolkit

Disaster response is just another way that Healing HEART Sanctuary works to get animals and people back on their feet.

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Helping Animals & Children get back on their feet.