Community Animal Response Teams Keep Animals Safe During Emergencies

Lindsay Reames
Assistant Director
Governmental Relations

Last Friday I attended a very informative meeting about CARTs- Community Animal Response Teams.

Research has shown that the No. 1 reason people refuse to evacuate their homes during an emergency is because they don’t want to leave pets behind. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd claimed the lives of millions of animals in North Carolina and thousands were separated from their owners. Many of the animals could have been saved by a coordinated response plan.

Out of this tragedy grew the CART concept. Virginia adopted the concept in 2006 to address the needs of animals during natural or man-made disasters.

VASART– the Virginia State Animal Response Team to—was formed to address the needs of animals during natural or man-made disasters. VASART was created through a private-public partnership to serve as a unifying network of organizations, businesses, federal and state government agencies and individuals that support the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery for emergencies affecting animals. Tony Banks, assistant director of Farm Bureau’s Commodities and Marketing Department, is co-chair of VASART.

The group is working to increase CARTs in the state. There are currently eight groups in Virginia, but that’s more than other states have. As part of the animal response teams, trained volunteers will help people find shelter for their pets. Campbell County may be the next locality to form a community response team.

The state and county groups are primarily focused on companion animals but are starting to put more emphasis on large livestock animals.

Here are some suggestions from VASART on what to do to prepare your pets for an emergency:

• Keep a pet emergency kit ready, which includes a few days worth of medicine, your pet’s medical and vaccination records, a leash, collar, identification, water, food, toys and bedding.

• Make sure that your animals have some form of permanent identification such as a microchip, brand or tattoo.

• Purchase a pet carrier and label it with emergency contact information.

• Store water and feed for emergencies.

• Create a contingency plan for animals including horses and livestock that addresses transportation, water and feed resources, and areas for confinement if needed.

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