Emergency response training available for local pet lovers
by Marie Nesmith
Oct 09, 2011 | 1251 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Through volunteer emergency response training, Ray DeLuca aims to prepare those wanting to rescue companion animals if and when a large-scale disaster strikes. Led by DeLuca, a companion animal emergency planning specialist for the University of Georgia, the free session will be held Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, 5450 State Route 20 in Cartersville.

"Usually in an emergency, we get all kind of volunteers that always respond," DeLuca said. "And, although volunteers are always wanted, sometimes they can't be used at the time. And this training is to make people clear on what kind of training they should have prior to trying to respond to animal emergencies. This way they won't just come in and say, 'Well, I'm here to help with the dogs and I'm going to do this.'

"They might not know how to handle the dogs. They might not know how to do paperwork. They might not know how to do something else. But there may be some other areas that they are good at. But if we don't know who these people are and what their best points are, then they could go in there and waste their time when they could be used doing something else. So I try to train the people that they should take different training prior to volunteering to do certain things."

If a disaster arises, DeLuca said it is essential to have a plan and volunteers in place as well as informing surrounding pet owners of their options.

"If there's nothing there and an emergency pops up, you have people that won't leave their homes," he said. "They have no place to put the animals. Katrina, [many] people died just because they wouldn't leave home without their animals. So if people aren't aware of that situation, you need to make them aware of facilities that are available to them, hotels that are available, gymnasiums where they can go.

"So then it becomes a pet-friendly shelter operation, where people can go and be housed with their pets. But you might need somebody to help take care of [the pets] because the owners aren't available, they've gone out of town, maybe they got injured during the storm, things like that. So everybody has to play a part."

While staff members and volunteers from various organizations like Bartow County Animal Control and the Etowah Valley Humane Society are expected to be in attendance, the training is available to anyone in the community.

"In the event of a disaster, you've got people that are leaving in a hurry trying to get away from where they were, to get out of the place. A lot of them end up leaving their animals behind," said Debbie Elrod, director of Bartow County Animal Control. "And then you've got people like us that have to go in and clean up the aftermath. It would be a place where when we set up, these animals would be picked up from various locations and brought in. We would keep intake records on where they come from, they would all be given a number. [This] would be a facility set up to where people could come and look for their pets. When you have a disaster, everybody knows from what all went on down in Mississippi, Louisiana -- animals were just scattered everywhere and ended up here and there and everywhere.

"It will be [a plan so] if somebody finds an animal, there'll be a place where people can bring them and turn them into us. It's just teaching everybody hands on as to what you need to do, where you need to take it, where to go look if you've lost something so hopefully we'll be able to get [the pets] back to where they go. And, of course, if there's an injured animal, there'll be an emergency facility set up to deal with all of that too."

Looking forward to the upcoming training, Elrod believes it will help her organization and community volunteers be better prepared to handle a large-scale disaster.

"It's a situation where we hope we never have to be faced with but in the event we are -- even if it's on a low scale -- it would be something that we would be prepared for," she said. "If it was something that was just overwhelming, where our current facility and the Humane Society ... weren't able to handle it together, we would know what to do and how to go about setting up outside emergency shelters and have volunteers on hand that would know how to handle things."

For more information about the upcoming training, contact Bartow County Animal Control at 770-387-5153.