|Emergency preparedness for pets|
In Ontario, each of us is responsible for our own safety and survival during the first 72 hours of an emergency. The responsibility of caring for pets ultimately rests on the owner, including during an emergency. It’s important to develop and create a 72 hour Pet Emergency Survival Kit, much like we would for ourselves and our families.
Ontario SPCA and Ontario government learn from Hurricane Katrina
Heartbreaking and lifesaving lessons were learned during Hurricane Katrina. Lack of coordination, resources, trained responders, and an emergency evacuation plan involving animals led to thousands of owners being forced to abandon their pets or remain behind to face rising floodwaters.
In the storm’s aftermath, government officials, animal welfare organizations and emergency groups in Ontario and across North America recognized the traumatic outcome and began the comprehensive process of putting disaster plans into place to protect both people and pets.
Lifesaving collaboration formed
In 2006 the Ontario SPCA contributed to an amendment to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which allows governments to issue an evacuation order that may include animals.
Since then, the Ontario SPCA has become an integral member of the Provincial Animal Working Group on Animals in an Emergency (PAW). The Ontario SPCA works closely with Emergency Management Ontario (EMO), the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), and other provincial ministries and non-government organizations to protect animals during a disaster.
The Ontario SPCA’s leadership role
When disaster strikes, the Ontario SPCA is the first point of contact for EMO, and the provincial government’s official liaison to assist municipalities requiring a needs assessment involving animals. In addition to providing field support and coordination for animal-related emergency information and issues, the Ontario SPCA:
- Works with municipalities on planning, needs identification, resources and local issues,
- Ensures animal-related considerations are a part of strategic planning at the provincial level,
- Raises awareness of emergency preparedness among animal owners and animal care providers, and
- Coordinates and activates evacuations and emergency response teams in the event of a disaster.
PAW volunteers on standby
The development of skilled volunteer emergency response teams is critical to the province’s emergency management plan. To date, more than 200 animal related professionals, including veterinarians and veterinary technicians, plus Ontario Public Service staff and Municipal Law Enforcement Officers, have signed up to be emergency responders. During the next stage of volunteer recruitment, PAW will be seeking community members to be trained in emergency response planning, logistics, sheltering, operations and rescue.
Ontario SPCA Emergency Response Liaison and Chief Inspector
Q: What makes you passionate about emergency response?
After viewing video after video of Katrina victims, it was clear that animals are affected in disasters as well as human beings. Left to fend for themselves,so many stranded animals suffered. For survivors, concern over animals left behind added to their trauma. It deeply touched my heart. I work to ensure animals are included in provincial, municipal and individual emergency preparedness plans to prevent a similar tragedy.
Q: In what circumstances does the Ontario SPCA initiate an emergency response?
The evacuation of animals from puppy mills and animal hoarding situations frequently requires an emergency response. We also become involved when people and their animals need to be evacuated from life-threatening situations.
Q: When has the Ontario SPCA activated an emergency evacuation?
A prime example occurred on April 25, 2006 when the Ontario SPCA deployed staff to the First Nations Community of Kashechewan to rescue over 100 animals left behind after floodwaters forced the emergency evacuation of the community’s residents. This successful mission involved the Ontario SPCA, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Ministry of Natural Resources among other groups.
The Ontario SPCA also came to the community’s rescue one year earlier to bring desperately needed food to more than 80 hungry dogs and puppies left behind after a contaminated water crisis forced the evacuation of the community’s residents.
Q: Where can I learn more about planning ahead to protect my family and pets?