Harvey Pet Rescue Ethics

I was watching a Fox News live feature about heroic efforts in Houston to rescue animal companions. I am an animal lover, and my wife is an animal worshiper, so this aspect of natural disasters is close to our hearts.

We were told that one sheriff has been going door to door for days searching for endangered non-humans in the flooded areas. Awwwww. Fox caught up with him as he was leaving one domicile with the owner, who had with him the rescued pet: his 9-year-old son’s…

hermit crab.

His name is Crabby.

Wait, what???

We’re arguing about such dire conditions in Houston that looters are running amuck, and hearing about overwhelmed rescuers and rising death rates, and this sheriff is spending hours rescuing hermit crabs?? The tragedy is down to that then? We’re at the endangered hermit crab stage of triage, are we?


1.That sheriff, who suddenly realized, when the microphone was thrust in his face, that he looked ridiculous, babbled about how he was at the end of his pet quest and would be moving on soon to the important work of dealing with this horrible blah blah blah. Sorry, Sheriff, too late. If law enforcement has nothing better to do than rescue the likes of Crabby, then the flooding has been seriously over-hyped.

2. The Fox News Anchor Blonde on duty tried to cover by talking about how Crabby perhaps was only a crab to us, but to the little boy who loved him, he was still worth rescuing. No, he wasn’t. If the sheriff knew that that the owner was taking him to his flooded house to rescue a damn crab, then the sheriff should be set adrift. If he didn’t, then the father of Crab Boy should be arrested for interfering with rescue operations.

3. What is the ethical hierarchy for rescuing pets in a disaster? Is it in order of intelligence? Size? Value? Utility? Longevity? Cuteness? Tastiness? Is “Cats and Dogs first” the pet equivalent of “Women and children first” on the Titanic? Do kittens and puppies have higher priority than their parents? Or should all juvenile animals have the first call to rescue, including baby rabbits, stoats, turtles and black mambas?

Perhaps the order should be primates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, birds (before or after reptiles?), fish, invertebrates, insects, arachnids, and then all the icky stuff left. But should aquatic mammals be high on the list, or considered capable of fending for themselves? Pinnipeds, for example, like elephant seals: do they really have to be rescued before, say, Galapagos Tortoises, who just do not do well in floods? Otters would seem to be relatively safe, I’d think. They are cute, though. Should the sheriff be rescuing Warty the  Wart Hog when a cute family of otters huddles in a shoe box somewhere?

4. The Hindu approach would be that there should not be any hierarchy: Crabby might be the current vessel for Joan Rivers; in fact, I hope he is. Maybe the sheriff is a Hindu. That’s almost an excuse for him doing this. Almost.

The Ethics Alarms verdict: wherever the line is designating when paid public employees and volunteer rescuers shouldn’t be spending their time saving a pet, it is miles before we get to Crabby. Showing trivial “rescues” like that one probably cost Harvey relief fundraising efforts a few million dollars. If they are really down to saving hermit crabs, everything seems under control.

Send that money to PBS, I’d say, if Houston is spending it on hermit crabs.


15 thoughts on “Harvey Pet Rescue Ethics

  1. Really Jack you going to be this crabby about it! That said the sheriff should be dealing with more serious issues. Said looting and search. I am sure there were more important stories. But I am worried about them rescuing those poor lost alligators from the alligator farm. Before they find lunch!

    • Cris, don’t you realize that birds are pretty low on the evolutionary scale? About the same as reptiles. Parrots and crows are interesting though as you can teach a parrot to curse which a dog can’t do and crows seem to be clever. Anyway, the birdies could easily be let loose by their owners as they don’t like water much.

  2. Real funny post, I chuckled good. As for the punishment, they need to take Crabby, make the sheriff cook a crab dinner and have the boy eat it. Though this could be crossing into the realm of “cruel and unusual”.

  3. If you love Crabby, let him float. If he loves you, he’ll swim back to you through your toilet drain. If he doesn’t, it was never meant to be.

  4. Jack,

    You earlier noted that Hurricane Harvey was “out [sic] first major hurricane in 12 years ”

    By what standard? I’m not asking to be combative, I’m just not sure I understand the criteria. Hurricane Matthew (Category 5) made landfall in the U.S. in 2016. Hurricane Earl (Category 4) battered the U.S. coast (though technically never made landfall) in 2010. Hurricane Ike (Category 4) made landfall in 2008 (and pelted Houston with rains that were only just surpassed), and Hurricane Gustav (another 4) also made landfall in 2008.

    Please advise when you have a moment. Thanks.

  5. For people who lost everything, and with the level of contaminates in the water you can bet your ass these people and their children did, rescuing a member of the family is important.

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