Monday, August 31, 2009

from this morning's Herald

Rescuing four-legged friends
Group of about 50 volunteers helps care for pets during disasters
By PAT LEE Staff Reporter Mon. Aug 31 - 4:46 AM
Marcel Marcotte of the Disaster Animal Response Team, says it’s a real problem to get people to leave their homes if they can’t take their pets with them. (Ingrid Bulmer / Staff)
When an out-of-control forest fire threatened the Porters Lake area last summer, it wasn’t just evacuated residents who were given care and comfort.
The fledgling Disaster Animal Response Team of Nova Scotia was also on hand to ensure that pets were cared for as they waited with their owners to return home, a role the group hopes will become a regular part of the province’s emergency response plan.
"We’re not required by law to do this, but it’s a bunch of interested animal welfare people who want to get together to create a response group to ensure animals are included in disaster planning," said team member Marcel Marcotte.
Mr. Marcotte, who has helped out at floods, fires and hurricanes on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross, said it’s a real problem to get people to leave their homes if they can’t take their pets with them, something officials saw on a large scale after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
"I’ve been to British Columbia for the wildfires and hurricane Ivan in the states and saw it every time, every time," he said in a recent interview.
"People continually will put themselves at risk for their animals."
The group, which formed about a year ago, has about 50 volunteers.
Mr. Marcotte has experience in animal rescue, while others are familiar with the protocols of emergency response.
Barry Manuel, the group’s president, is the co-ordinator for the Emergency Management Office in Halifax Regional Municipality, while John Webb, vice-president of the Disaster Animal Response Team, is the director of emergency social services for the provincial Community Services Department.
The group is in discussions with the Red Cross about becoming part of its disaster response plan.
The response team’s role would be to provide shelter for pets during an emergency, reuniting rescued pets with their owners or ensuring that pets are fed and have necessary items like collars and leashes while waiting to return home.
Mr. Marcotte, who lives in Truro and works in Halifax with the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, said the group got its first real tryout in June 2008 during the Porters Lake-area fires when they helped with pets that ended up at Cole Harbour Place with their evacuated owners.
He said some people left home so quickly that they needed leashes for their dogs, along with food, water and bowls.
Volunteers also looked after pets when people were attending briefing meetings.
"It was a great opportunity to showcase what we do," he said.
Mr. Marcotte, who has two cats of his own, said he doesn’t see any difference in helping people or animals in times of crisis.
"Somebody has to speak for these beings because they seem to be left out whenever something bad is going on."
If you are interested in helping with this very worthy work, the Disaster Animal Response Team has a very informative web site
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt

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