Towns and cities from throughout the state are working together to better respond to weather-related power outages, especially after last year’s surprise snowstorm and tropical storm Irene. One topic of concern is what to do with pets if there is an emergency evacuation. According to state law, you must include your pet in all evacuation plans.
Sometimes evacuations last just a few days, but you’re not always able to return before then. If you end up staying at a hotel, call ahead to see if they will let you come with your pets. Two important things to remember are to take your vaccination records and if your animal needs medicine or a special food, to take that as well.
“Evacuation, including for pets, is a function of the emergency management profession,” said Dr. Arnold Goldman in an email to Hersam Acorn Newspapers. Goldman is on the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Committee, the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Connecticut State Animal Response Team. “Individual municipalities and their publicly employed emergency management directors (EMDs) will decide within their respective governments where and when to open mass care shelters, and further, whether there is a need to also shelter animals at that time.”
Recently, the Connecticut State Animal Response Team led a workshop in Monroe to let people know what help is out there for pet owners. CTSART is a public-private group that works with state and local municipalities to assist in emergencies.
“Sheltering is really the issue we have in Monroe,” said David York, emergency management director in Monroe. “We came pretty close to exhausting ourselves last year.”
Along with York, Barbara Yeager, director of Senior and Social Services for Monroe, coordinated a shelter at the Monroe Senior Center. Although pets were allowed in the shelter, many residents were not aware that they could bring their pets. Those who did bring their pets brought everything from a dog to an iguana.
Since owners are typically reluctant to leave their pets, they may refuse to evacuate their homes even when their own lives may be in peril. This decision could potentially adversely impact not only the pet owners but also their animals and the first responders who may be called upon if the emergency conditions worsen.
When bad weather hits the region, because there is a large number of emergencies taking place at the same time, local towns are pretty much left on their own for at least a couple of days, York said.
Although CTSART may eventually set up an animal shelter in town, this wouldn’t take place for three to five days after the weather event occurred. Its services are more likely to be needed in shoreline communities — Bridgeport, Milford and Fairfield — because of the threat of flooding. CTSART actually has emergency supplies stationed in Milford, overseen by Animal Control Officer Rick George, in case an emergency happens.
As a cat and dog owner, Monroe resident Bill Holsworth said he found the information provided by York and CTSART helpful. “Last year I didn’t know anything about where to take them,” he said. “For eight days, we didn’t have power. Finally it reached the point where we had to go to my son’s house. We took the animals with us. Next time that we have a disaster, at least I will know more about what to do.”
If they are brought to a shelter operated by SART, pets should be transported in their own carriers. However, upon arrival they will be transferred to crates provided by CTSART.
In a similar way that cots are lined up close together in shelters for people, animal shelters line the crates up next to each other, although they are separated by a partition so the animals can’t see each other. Depending upon the number of animals, crates may be piled on top of each other.
Volunteer Lisa Winkel said families are responsible for caring for their pets. A schedule for visiting times will be given to pet owners upon their arrival. CTSART prefers that the pet owners stay at the shelter while their pets are housed there. Families are asked to provide a one- to two-week supply of food, prescription medications, bottled water, and the pet’s favorite toys. Information about the animal’s age and personality and vaccination records must also be available.
Robin Walluck contributed to this story