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Red Cross to the rescue

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A passionate plea on behalf of local flood-affected pet owners has seen the New Zealand Red Cross come to the rescue.

The humanitarian organisation has supported communities before, during and after disasters for nearly 100 years and has had a vital role in Wairoa’s Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery, including providing a $1.1 million Liveable Homes Fund to help whānau restore their flood-affected homes to a safe and liveable standard.

The Red Cross has now stepped up again to fill a void left by government agencies.

Juanita Savage, Wairoa District Council Community Services and Development Group Manager and Civil Defence Controller, has been battling for months to have costs relating to displaced pets reimbursed.

“Whānau couldn’t take their pets to the evacuation centres or other whānau homes, so these animals were kindly looked after by Council or at CoastVet, the back-up animal evacuation centre.

“We were really fortunate to have the support of CoastVet as the Council dog pound was initially not available due to flooding, so we were very appreciative to have the CoastVet site as our initial backup option.

“There are costs involved in looking after these pets, and part of my role, is to claim back cyclone-related expenses. I believe animal welfare fits the criteria to be approved for reimbursement and applied to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the government lead for emergency management, only to be told the bill was not claimable and their support is for people, not animals. NEMA advised that it is an MPI matter. However, MPI then advised that they only deal with livestock, not domestic animals. 

“My concern was that I didn't want this cost to burden displaced whānau or ratepayers.

“In the end, I took our plea to the Red Cross, which kindly agreed to pay the cost. This is not just about the money; it is about looking after whānau, which means looking after the pets they love. We are grateful, once again, to the Red Cross, which has been a tremendous support to the Wairoa people and continues to help us in such special ways.”

Meanwhile, Council staff have proactively looked after displaced animals, found homes, and supported temporary caregivers. 

The Animal Control team has been supporting Wairoa’s pets and pet owners, which has been a huge task with so many animals relocated from their homes due to flooding.  

Wairoa has also received additional external support to help with animal-related costs. This includes support from New Zealand-based HUHA (Helping You Help Animals), which visited Wairoa after the cyclone to assist the Council’s Animal Control team. The animal rescue group set up housing for dogs that had lost their yards and/or kennels. There have also been donated dog and cat food, blankets, shelters, and dog runs from many sectors to help make recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle easier for pet owners.

For anyone who needs assistance with their pets, Council is there to help and is just a phone call away. For 24/7 assistance, phone 06 838 7309 if you have any inquiries or animal concerns.

18 September 2023

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