DART to hold animal workshop

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FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force members and local rescue workers and US Coast Guard, search for residents in neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Katrina. A workshop on how to handle pets during an emergency is being held Saturday in Oak Bluffs.

The Martha’s Vineyard Disaster Animal Response Team, a.k.a. DART, will hold a pet workshop at the Oak Bluffs fire station on Saturday from 9 am to 11:30 am. DART is an Island-wide team prepared to help shelter household pets in the event of a disaster. The workshop will help pet owners and DART volunteers recognize the early signs of pets succumbing to disaster-induced stress.

A pet owner’s normal assumptions of how a pet will behave, based on that person’s history with the pet, “cannot be relied on” when the pet is subjected to disaster stress, DART co-coordinator Martina Lent told The Times. Lent said the aggression that can arise in pets in such circumstances is an indicator of fear and anxiety.

Veterinarian Betsy Buck will be on hand at the workshop to instruct in calming techniques and other helpful skills. A “drop-dead gorgeous” Rottweiler will also be at the workshop to model for a microchip-reading demonstration, Lent said.

The workshop will be primarily oriented to cats and dogs, Lent said. Information on rabbits and other animals will be interspersed throughout the workshop, however.

Services DART provides are federally mandated under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, Lent said. The act came about after Hurricane Katrina, when many homeowners refused to evacuate without their pets, or left them behind and suffered psychological trauma as a result, Lent said.

Along with pet owners and current volunteers, Lent encouraged those who might be interested in becoming a DART volunteer to attend the Saturday workshop.