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Help During Disaster: State Animal Response Team’s (SART)

By: Sally Grottini

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According to the most recent survey of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 358 million pets reside in 63 percent of the homes in the United States, many of which are multiple pet households.

In the year 1998 North Carolina was devastated by Hurricane Floyd which took the lives of millions of livestock and companion animals, not to mention the thousands of animals that were forever separated from their rightful owners.

On August 29, 2005 the world witnessed the drowning of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina where 250,000 household pets were left stranded by the devastated state. Many pet owners refused to leave their animals behind and stayed home trying to weather what seemed to be the impossible storm. How many of those people lost their lives because of this may never fully be known.

On October 6, 2006, President George Bush signed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act into law in which the House of Representatives agreed by a unanimous vote. This assures that Americans will not be forced to leave their pets behind during a disaster and that state and local governments are required to have a plan in place for the evacuation of pets and service animals. This grants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the authority to aid local communities in developing an evacuation plan for animals and to fund emergency shelter facilities.

It was from the 1998 North Carolina disaster that a State Animal Response Team (SART) concept was formed. Had there been a SART drop off shelter in place, people and their animals may have been safely evacuated and reunited. Through this tragedy, and through the educational efforts of the state of North Carolina, other states have followed suit in launching State Animal Response Teams.

The mission of SART is to:

A. Facilitate a coordinated response to aid animals in disaster.
B. To decrease the threat of safety and health to humans and animals.
C. To minimize the breakdown of emergency evacuation efforts.
D. To decrease disease that can be spread through animals during a disaster.

SART is made up of groups of individual volunteers and falls under the jurisdiction of the Incident Command System, Homeland Security, and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and is activated by a 911 dispatcher. Volunteers consist of County Coordinators, Veterinarians, Firemen, EMS, farmers, and the general public in collaboration with businesses, community organizations, and Federal and State Government agencies.

Ideally, SART's objective is to have a human and animal shelter in one location where families can visit their pets on a daily basis and help with their care. This will help to ease the stress for both humans and animals. In the event that an animal and human shelter must be in different locations, it is still comforting to know that family pets are being taken care of by volunteers who are trained to do so.

State Animal Response Team's are always in need of volunteers. If you can open up your home, your barn, or your business, to house an animal before an impending disaster, or in the first seventy two critical hours after a disaster strikes, it would help with the overall process of evacuation and safety of humans and animals. To see how you can become involved in your state, to locate SART shelters in your area, or to find information on a SART team in your area, please visit http://www.sartusa.org

VOLUNTEERS: Getting involved

Volunteers can be active in sheltering, rescue, and transportation, or can be strictly resource people. If you are directly involved you will need to take the necessary required classes. These classes can be done under a group instruction and some can be done online at no cost to the volunteer. If you are a resource person, this means that you are opening your home, business or farm to house animals affected by disaster. Operators and owners of large trucks, moving equipment, and trailers are also needed.

Below are some recommendation for preparing for disaster by knowing your resources and ensuring your animals has proper identification, transportation, food and water.


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