Program educates residents on how to rescue animals

After a tornado or flood, videos, photos and stories of animal rescues pop up everywhere.

From Facebook feeds to television and print media, the heroic acts go to show how much people care about their four-legged friends.

Many of those who respond to save animals are everyday people who want to help out and make a difference where they can.

Jackson County Emergency Management/Homeland Security is looking to start a new animal emergency response initiative to train local residents in safe and effective methods of finding, removing and protecting animals from dangerous situations such as natural disasters.

Those animals could be dogs or cats that are family pets or could be much larger animals such as horses and cattle.

The need for such an initiative is the result of the 2006 federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards that requires counties to have a pet and animal disaster plan in place. The law was created after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“There were so many pets they had to deal with after that happened,” said Duane Davis, executive director of Jackson County Emergency Management/Homeland Security. “If you look at all the hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, there’s not only damage, but as you see people rescued, they are bringing their pets with them because pets are their family, and if their house is destroyed, what do they do with them?”

An estimated 60 percent of households have at least one pet, and many have two or more, Davis said.

By having an organized animal emergency response team, volunteers who have a love of animals can come together and provide some rescue efforts along with sheltering of displaced animals.

“Usually during a disaster, pet owners don’t have food or water or shelter available for their pets, so this will provide some of those services to those people while they are taking care of their situation,” Davis said.

The first of several classes to be offered this year in animal emergency response will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 504 N. Walnut St., Seymour.

The Introduction to Animal Emergency Response class is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Those attending are advised to wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to handle live animals.

Dawn Sorg with Nature’s Way Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation will lead the class and discuss topics including how to organize animal emergency response efforts, understanding incident command, understanding the nature of animals in post-disaster situations, registering animals into shelters to make sure they are reconnected with their owner and cleaning animals.

Other classes to be taught will focus on search and rescue, functioning with other first responders, housing animals and large animal rescue.

Those taking the classes will be asked to support the county’s efforts by joining the Jackson County Animal Response Team. Davis said he hopes to get veterinarians, animal lovers, emergency responders and local businesses interested and involved.

“It takes people to execute a plan,” Davis said. “We can have all the plans in the world, but I can’t get it done if I don’t have the volunteers, so we are hoping to find some individuals who are interested in joining us.”

Davis said he would like to find someone to champion the team and lead it with support from Jackson County Emergency Management/Homeland Security.

Although Davis can’t remember any incidents where an animal emergency response was needed, he knows that could change tomorrow.

“It doesn’t mean we won’t be activated, he said. “We can’t stop disasters from happening, and if we had to open a shelter, most shelters don’t take animals, so what do people do with them? Hopefully, this will answer that question and fill that need.”

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What: Introduction to Animal Emergency Response in Jackson County

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 504 N. Walnut St., Seymour

Information: Duane Davis, executive director of Jackson County Emergency Management/Homeland Security, at 812-358-6110