Disaster Animal Response Team Initiative seeks volunteers


Are you interested in assisting a grassroots initiative to create the capacity to shelter our companion animals (dogs, cats, and birds) should the Island sustain a disaster or emergency that would require people to be evacuated from their homes?

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it became clear to the federal government group Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that our planning for disasters, natural or man-made, needs to provide for our service and companion animals to be evacuated with their owners. In these hurricanes, there were many people who would not leave their pets. Many people put themselves and first responders at risk when they had to be rescued. FEMA now recommends that communities rescue animals and their owners together.

Our goal is to have a separate space for companion animals next to or very near to the shelter for people. Owners, if they are able, will be able to care for their own animals.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard, interested people from the six towns and the Tribe, including emergency management, the M.V. Animal Shelter, boards of public health, the M.V. medical reserve corps, animal control, Red Cross, veterinarians, dog groomers, fire and emergency medical services, and interested citizens are and will be working to have the sheltering capacity and operations in place before the 2013 Northeast Hurricane season starts, officially on August 1.

We are consulting with state’s Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) animal sheltering work group and the State of MA Disaster Animal Response Team (SMART). We have been given a wealth of excellent information to guide us so that we do not have to “reinvent the wheel.”

We also will be including livestock and horses in our planning.

If you are interested in getting involved, we would welcome you. You can assist in a variety of ways, from public awareness to designing actual operations at a shelter to helping gather resources we will need. Help with designing social media for this initiative would be greatly appreciated.

If you are interested, please contact Rita Brown, Assistant Emergency Management Director, Edgartown: rabrown1950@comcast.net or 508-221-8347.