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    Emotional Dog, Owner Reunions After Oklahoma Tornadoes

    By by Meghan Evans, meteorologist
    May 28, 2013, 6:36:15 PM EDT

    "This pup was literally singing when he saw his family," Michelle Karolicki, relocation program manager of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, said about a reunion that took place on Thursday.

    In the midst of the devastating Oklahoma tornado aftermath, heart-tugging reunions of dogs and their owners have been taking place thanks to the Oklahoma Humane Society and the City of Moore Care and Animal Control.

    The reunion that took place on Thursday evening was one of many. According to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society Facebook Page, more than 100 dogs and cats have entered the Central Oklahoma Humane Society program since the devastating tornadoes touched down on Monday, May 20, 2013.

    The Central Oklahoma Humane Society set up a blog on their website, where owners can check for their pets that are missing after the tornado outbreak.

    Social media has been the main means of communication during this disaster, according to Sára Varsa, director of operations for the Animal Cruelty Rescue and Response Team of the Humane Society of the United States. Besides Facebook, Central Oklahoma Humane Society has been using other social platforms such as Instagram.

    "Social media is a huge vehicle for owner reclamation and how people can find their pets," Varsa said.

    HSUS has been involved in search and rescue of animals in many weather disasters, starting with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    During Hurricane Katrina, officials discovered that fears of leaving pets behind is one of the reasons that people ignore hurricane evacuation mandates. Since then, more shelters are available for people to bring their pets during hurricanes.

    "That has been a game changer," Varsa said.

    Other disasters where the HSUS was involved with rescue since then include Hurricane Isaac and the Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado.

    Tornadoes are more difficult to take precautions for pets than hurricanes because the prediction is different, Varsa said.

    Average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while hurricane warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of the expected onset of tropical storm-force winds.

    It is important to have disaster plans that integrate pets. Since every disaster varies in preparation time, having a plan is crucial.

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