11/20/2012 05:08 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

Helping Up a Storm: Saving Pets After Sandy

Right now in the Northeast, in many of Petplan's neighboring communities, families are still reeling from the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy. As heartbreaking as it is to watch our neighbors struggle after losing their homes and possessions, it is equally tragic to consider those who also lost beloved pets to the storm.

While it will likely be months before we know how many pets were lost or displaced by Sandy, animals are being rescued from harm's way and cared for by local groups across the region. People are working together to give lost and found pets a chance at finding their families on social media. And national animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States are stepping in to provide large-scale disaster response.

Fortunately, the Pets Evacuation, Transportation Standards Act (PETS), which became law in 2006, helped ensure that household pets and service animals were allowed in emergency shelters with their owners -- saving many from the heartbreak suffered during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when people were forced to evacuate without their pets.

The animals who were separated from their families are getting help due largely to the efforts of the following groups:

North Shore Animal League America
In Port Washington, NY, more than 650 animals now fill the North Shore Animal League of America's shelter -- with another 200 animals at the Emergency Pet Shelter at Mitchel Field. The medical team is providing treatment and comfort to animals that need special care, and the group is working around the clock to find every pet a place to go home to. Many of North Shore Animal League America's staff and volunteers have been affected by Sandy, but their dedication to caring for animals in need is as powerful as ever.

On their website, you can read rescue stories, learn more about the Animal League's disaster response and make a donation to help ensure that these critical services continue. Because Petplan has been a long-term partner of the Animal League, we have donated $5,000 to help, and pledged to match your donations to their Sandy relief efforts, up to an additional $5,000. Our hope is to be able to direct at least $15,000 to helping people and their much-loved pets recover from the storm.

The Humane Society of the United States
The HSUS is on the ground in New Jersey and New York to provide critical assistance for animals in areas most affected by the storm. They are working with local officials in three of the hardest-hit counties to conduct search and rescue operations for stranded pets, care for pets in emergency shelters in Nassau County, N.Y., and Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey and, as the need continues to grow, they are setting up two more emergency shelters in Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey to take in rescued animals and assist families with their pets as they recover.

The HSUS has also deployed field responders and volunteers from neighboring states, and is working with partner agencies to provide the most comprehensive support possible to these devastated communities. Several search and rescue teams are going out into abandoned communities, responding to calls and searching for pets. To help, you can donate $10 to the HSUS Disaster Relief Fund by texting ANIMALS to 20222 (message and data rates apply).

The ASPCA has been in Sandy-affected areas since the storm rescuing animals, reuniting them with their families, distributing critical supplies and providing critical veterinary care. For the thousands of families without power, running water or even homes, the ASPCA's pet supply trucks are a literal life-saver. To date, they have distributed thousands of pounds of pet food and cat litter to areas of extreme need, and are fielding more requests every day.

The ASPCA's grants department is fielding requests of a different sort: pleas for help from shelters and other animal welfare groups affected by Sandy. To respond to the urgent need, they are expediting the process so these groups get the help they need immediately. If you would like to support the ASPCA's work, you can make a gift here. Every cent will go to ASPCA disaster relief efforts.

If you can't make a donation, or if you have already made one and still want to do more, here are three simple ways to help:

1. Visit the Animal Rescue Site, where every click means money for animals in need.

2. Organize a food or supply drive to help animal victims of Sandy.

3. If you're in the area, consider fostering a displaced animal or volunteering at a rescue or shelter.

Together, we can give hope and comfort to not only the helpless pets affected by the storm, but to the thousands of people for whom a soft nuzzle and a furry paw can be the best medicine to begin mending a broken heart.