The Charlie Randall Pet Foundation is Working to Prepare Your Pets for Disaster
Would you leave your pets behind if you had to evacuate your home? We’re working hard to make sure you don’t have to make that decision…
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, a significant number of citizens put themselves in danger whenthey refused to evacuate their flooded and destroyed homes because they didn’t want to abandon their pets. Many others were forced to leave without their pets, adding to the anguish for these hurricane victims, and creating a horrific situation for the pets that were left behind. Over a third of the Katrina human casualties stayed behind to be with their pets. More than 70,000 pets were left to defend for themselves, and 12,000 of those pets did not survive. Our goal is to ensure that this does not happen on Fidalgo Island.
Skagit County encompasses a total of 1200 square miles, with 96% of the county being located on the mainland. Fidalgo Island is connected to the mainland, and to the rest of the county, via 2 bridges. In the event of an earthquake, tsunami or other natural disaster, it is highly likely that Fidalgo Island will be cutoff from the mainland for a period of time that may last for several weeks. State seismic experts predict that, in the case of a significant earthquake or tsunami, both bridges would be severely damaged or destroyed, and much of the island’s infrastructure would suffer significant damage. Even if there is no visible damage to the bridges, government officials expect that the bridges would be closed as a precautionary measure, cutting off Fidalgo Island from the mainland. State and County Government agencies have stated that, in the case of a natural disaster, Fidalgo Island residents should be prepared to fend for themselves for a period of at least two weeks without assistance from the mainland.
In 2006, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, requiring state and local governments to incorporate pets and service animals into disaster planning. The Skagit County Department of Emergency Management has developed and published a Small Animal Disaster Plan that encourages local communities to prepare community specific plans for responding to a natural disaster, and outlines plans and support at a county level. The county has stressed that, given the likelihood of Fidalgo Island being cutoff from the mainland as a result of a natural disaster, the need for a local disaster plan and local disaster resources is imperative.
The American Red Cross has encouraged its local chapters to work with local community leaders to develop a local plan for Pet Sheltering in the case of a natural disaster, and to be actively involved with the local community in pet disaster planning. However, the American Red Cross stresses that the mission of the American Red Cross in a natural disaster is to provide relief and shelter for as many people as possible, and that they cannot take the lead, or assume responsibility, in providing disaster services for pets. In addition, the Red Cross does not admit pets into Red Cross shelters.
Working with the American Red Cross and the City of Anacortes, and in collaboration with several local and regional entities, the Charlie Randall Pet Foundation has developed a Household Pet Disaster Plan for Fidalgo Island. This plan includes the detailed plans and resources for establishing temporary pet evacuation shelters on Fidalgo Island. These evacuation shelters will provide food, water, medical treatment and temporary shelter for household pets. The Pet Emergency Response Vehicle has been outfitted with triage equipment, supplies and kennels for the emergency sheltering and transport of household pets, and the Foundation is currently recruiting volunteers to perform specific tasks and functions during a natural disaster. These volunteers are being trained, and practice drills are scheduled. Several potential pet evacuation shelter locations have been identified on the island, and the Foundation is developing a stockpile of equipment, supplies and food to be used in the case of a natural disaster.
Pet disaster preparedness education will also be provided to local pet owners. This education will teach local pet owners how to prepare for a natural disaster, how to prepare a pet disaster survival kit, basic pet first aid, what to do to ensure their pet survives a natural disaster, etc.