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What To Do When It Rains Cats and Dogs

September 14, 2010

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the local Houston chapter (HSPCA) have created a disaster preparedness campaign that runs year round, but focuses on specific types of disasters during different times of the year. With hurricane season upon us in Houston and other parts of the nation, the ASPCA has taken on the role of educating animal owners on disaster preparedness.

Texas ranks as one of the most hit states in terms of hurricanes, but also leads the nation in the number of stray and homeless animals. The severity of the situation increases during hurricane season and times of bad weather. During hurricane Rita, many people traveled with their animals, mostly unprepared for the care they would need and thus resulted in the sickness and death of many pets.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is the first and largest humane society in North America. In their estimations, the ASPCA has somehow positively affected the lives of over 20 million animals in 2008 alone. The ASPCA has detailed that they have found homes for over 51 thousands animals, saved the lives of over 121 thousand animals and reached 679 million people in impressions. (ASPCA Annual Report). The local chapter of the ASPCA here in Houston is the HSPCA.

After the debacle of Rita, many people refused to evacuate during hurricane Ike, a much deadlier storm. Ike, the third most destructive storm to ever hit the United States, caused an estimate twenty-seven to fifty-two billion dollars in damage, had winds of over 125 miles per hour and created storm surges seventeen feet high. Rainfall ranged from twelve feet to nineteen feet, over 8,000 fires were reported and EMS responded to almost 10,000 emergencies.

The Houston SPCA rescued more than 1,800 “Storm Pets” displaced by Ike and reunited more than 500 pets with their owners.

The ASPCA has created numerous avenues for users to access valuable information regarding disasters for communicaties, professional groups and any pet owner. In 2007, the ASPCA formally created the Disaster Readiness section on its ASPCAPro Web site. This area includes a “onestop- shop” for any individual or organization concerned with planning in the time of disaster.

On the ASPCA and HSPCA websites are detailed check lists of everything needed to prepare pets for disaster. Each site has detailed steps on how to handle and emergency and evacuation and check-lists details the important materials an owner needs in order to care for any of their animals. The ASPCA even lists information for the evacuation for birds, reptiles and small animals. The HSPCA also has additional information on how to care for farm animals and horses during disasters. All information on both sites is available in English and Spanish.

Both the ASPCA and HSPCA have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube Channels:

ASPCA – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

HSPCA – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter

On the ASPCA homepage – you can access all of their social media via the Online Community page which provides links to the above pages as well as their Flickr page, and MySpace profile. Each of these sites promotes the main message of helping animals and seeking donations, but they all also have posts in regards to disaster preparedness for animals.

Each site, post, message and link works together to engage the audience, but also to push for pet owners to be prepared in case of emergency. The ASPCA as a large nationwide organization, not only works to inform the nation about disaster preparedness, but also provide tools and resources for local chapters to do the same. Both the local and national chapters work together to create a synergy that works to ensure that the message is disseminated to those who need it most.

I think the ASPCA is a great example of doing Web 2.0 right. The ASPCA should continue the use of the established public relations practices, as well as the established integrated marketing communication through strategic public relations practices. There is a need for the ASPCA to become “viral” by involving themselves by further enriching their social networking sites, as well as working with local and national media and affiliates to reach areas of the nation hit or likely to be hit by a disaster.

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