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

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

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

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.


Prepare beforehand:

1) Know your area and the potential disasters that could occur including both natural and man made disaster.

2) Have several escape routes mapped out in case of road closings.

3) Know where drop off shelters are in your area. These shelters may be kennels, schools, hospitals, universities, grooming shops, vet offices, farms, fair grounds, racetracks, equestrian centers or temporary tents.

4) If you cannot safely transport your animals, place notes on the front and back of your home to alert rescue where to find your animals in the home and how many animals you have, as well as where your pet emergency information is.

5) Carry a pet ID card in your wallet with your name and address, your pet’s name, and number of pets in your home in case you are rendered incapacitated, so a rescue team can recover your pets.

6). Ensure your pets have some form of identification.

In the event that you are not home when disaster strikes, you can contact SART and when it is safe to do so, SART will retrieve your animals and bring them to a shelter.
Found pets may be brought to a SART shelter and lost pet information can be reported as well.


All pets should have some form of identification to ensure you can be reunited with you animals. Suggestions include:


  • Companion animals: Collar and tags, microchip, and tattoo. If you do not have tags for your animal write the information on the collar in permanent marker.
  • Reptiles: Can be marked on the skin with permanent marker, write information on tape in permanent marker and place onto cage/aquarium.
  • Equine/ livestock: Microchip, tattoo, neck or leg bands, harness marking, ear tags, marking on hooves.
  • Birds: Leg bands. Mark cage with luggage tags, or write information on the bottom of the cage with permanent marker.
  • Pocket pets: Secure lids and doors; write information on cage in permanent marker.

    First Aid Kit:

    SART recommends that you have an emergency kit ready for your pet. This can be placed in a bright tote bag hung in a safe easily accessible part of the home, or kept in your car. The kit should include:

    1.A first aid kit with small bottle of water.
    2.Extra collar, leash, favorite toy, bedding.
    3.Manual can opener,
    4.Up to date shot records and rabies certificates.
    5.The animal’s Veterinarian (phone number, address).
    6.Instructions on medications, illnesses, and special needs.
    7.Write down any pertinent information on a piece of paper such any aggressive tendencies, identifying marks, information on tattoos and microchips.
    8.Include a picture of you and your pet together for identification purposes.
    9.On all paperwork include the animal’s name and one or two phone numbers where you can be reached as well as leave contact information of at least three friends or relatives.
    10.Ready made notes informing rescue where in the home your animals are, how many animals you have, and where to find your animal emergency kit. These can be placed on the front and back of the home.
    11.All paperwork should be kept in a water proof bag.

    Transporting: (companion animals)

    Have a crate for your pet set up and ready to go. Transferring an animal by crate is the safest way to move a pet. During stressful or frightening times an animal can easily escape a collar or be frightened enough to bite. Label the crate with your information and the animal’s information. Luggage tags work well or write the information on the crate in permanent marker.

    Birds should be transported in a secure cage wrapped in a blanket or towel if cold. Bring a misting water bottle to spay feathers periodically. Provide fresh fruit and vegetables. Do not put water in cage during transport.

    Pocket animals should be transferred in a secure small cage with water bottle and food dishes.


    An extra bag of food, enough for three to five days, should be rotated monthly to ensure freshness and should be stored in a dry environment. Canned food has a longer shelf life, but should be checked for expiration.


    Water can be kept in 2 liter soda bottles and put in a dark plastic bag. This should be rotated every three to six months. Provide enough water to last three to five days.

    Water chart companion animal

  • Water for dogs can be gauged by the weight of the dog, approximately one ounce per pound of body weight.
  • Cats require approximately 1 to 7 ounces a day
  • Horses/Livestock (See American Red Cross site)


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