by Robin Russell, volunteer writer
There wasn’t much good that came out of Hurricane Katrina, but one lesson learned was that people don’t want to leave their pets behind in a disaster. That prompted the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS), which requires that state and local emergency preparedness plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency. The PETS Act put into place the formation of disaster response teams all over the country, and the Dumb Friends League was a natural fit for Colorado because of our many experienced animal handling staff and volunteers, as well as other resources. Our DRT has memorandums of understanding with Douglas and Elbert counties.
The team is made up of 40 League employees and volunteers who report to Elaine Wood, animal care manager. Their role is to serve as first responders for companion animals in a disaster. In that role, they set up a temporary animal shelter that may stand alone or be co-located next to a shelter for humans. They will take in any cat, dog or small pet from a person who has been forced to leave home, as well as any lost animals. An on-call veterinarian is available, if needed. Since its inception in mid-2016, our DRT has been activated twice. Last October, explosive devices and dangerous chemicals were found inside a home in Castle Rock, leading to 30 homes being evacuated for a night. The team was asked to set up a shelter at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, and they received several pets before residents were allowed to return home. Later that month, a team was sent to prepare for animal evacuees from a fire near Chatfield Reservoir, but the fire was contained before any pets were received.
Interested in becoming a Disaster Response Team member? There are some special credentials required, including taking both Dumb Friends League and FEMA classes. The next League disaster training class is scheduled for August 12. Team members must also commit to being on-call one week per month and attending training and practice drills twice a year. If you think you have the “right stuff,” contact Megan Newhouse, volunteer manager.
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