Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Relief Organizations Partner to Care for Animals During Time of Disaster

Red Cross Partners with Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Burlington, VT – March 1, 2011) While we might all understand how the upheaval caused by disasters impacts the basic human needs of disaster victims, two local organizations have given a great deal of thought as to how such events impact the needs of animals. After considerable work, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross and Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART) have announced a partnership that focuses on how to best meet the needs of animals during times of disaster. The two groups have entered into an agreement, establishing a framework of cooperation between the organizations to provide emergency response resources for animal owners and their animals.

With over ninety years of disaster relief experience in the region, the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross knows a thing or two about disaster response. What they have learned is that times of disaster are no time to go it alone. This applies not only to those helped by the Red Cross, but for the organization itself. The human element has been the focus of the Red Cross, who provides shelter, food, clothing and more during times of disaster. What the Red Cross is unable to do is shelter and feed animals.

“The compassion and dedication Red Cross volunteers bring to their work to alleviate human suffering during times of disaster is matched by the passion of those who never forget the suffering of animals at such times,” said Tim Stetson, Chief Response Officer for the Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross. “Partnering with VDART was a natural fit for both organizations,” he added.

VDART, like the Red Cross, is a non-profit organization. Their mission is to provide for a coordinated effort in preparing for, preventing, responding to, and recovering from any emergencies affecting animals. In fulfilling this mission, VDART supports the development of a system of Regional Operating DARTs. Currently there are three DARTS, with more in the planning stages to permit optimal coverage of the State. VDART provides assistance to regional DARTs during their formation, along with training, operational and logistical support.

VDART works with partners at many levels, including its work with the State of Vermont in which it assists with responsibilities for implementing the State’s Animal Disaster Emergency Plan. Since VDART is not a direct response agency itself, the work of VDART during a disaster is through its system of regional response team affiliates across Vermont and could range from providing referrals for animal care to the operation of shelters for companion animals that are established in close proximity to the human shelters.

VDART’s sheltering capabilities are aided by resources such as the Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailer, or CAMET, that VDART purchased through grant funds provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The trailers provide immediate shelter when disaster strikes and contain items such as crates, a generator, first aid kits, a pressure washer, power cords, animal ID bands, dog bowls and more. Once unloaded, the trailer also serves as a local command center. The State of Vermont has a second CAMET that may come to VDART for assignment.

Due to health and safety concerns, the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley American Red Cross does not allow animals, other than service animals, inside its disaster or evacuation shelters. The Red Cross does, however, recognize the importance of pets to their owners and appreciates the sense of responsibility and interdependence that pet owners feel toward their pets. “By partnering with VDART for the protection and care of people’s pets, the Red Cross knows that we are also serving the needs of the people we are sheltering,” Stetson said. “The peace of mind gained from knowing that a pet is cared for can be as important for many as the cot we provide or the meals we serve.”

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two organizations covers not just a working relationship between VDART and the Red Cross, but also the affiliated regional Disaster Animal Response Teams (Regional DARTs) and the Red Cross. The coordination of services during times of disaster and may include:

 Communication between the organizations before and during disasters;
 The inclusion of VDART personnel at Red Cross shelters;
 Referrals for services between the organizations;
 Animal sheltering;
 The promotion of community awareness of preparedness; and
 Future work on the development of emergency response plans.

This first of its kind agreement in this region has a four year term, but both organizations believe that this will be a relationship that has a much longer future.