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Disaster Preparedness – What Will Become of the Animals?

When disaster strikes in the State of Maryland, what will become of the critters? That is a question that Jacob Casper, D.V.M., is working very hard to answer. Dr. Casper is the director of Maryland State Animal Response Team, Inc.

The Maryland State Animal Response Team is a unifying network of organizations, businesses, government agencies and individuals throughout the state who work together to “provide prevention, preparedness, emergency response and animal recovery” in the event of disasters, large and small. Because disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, chemical spills and other events, tend to be localized in nature, the main thrust of the State Animal Response Team (SART) has been to encourage the establishment of County Animal Response Teams. This will capitalize on the knowledge of local resources by people who live in any one area affected by disasters large or small.

This approach was originally developed by the State of North Carolina in response to the devastation imposed there by Hurricane Floyd in 1998. When North Carolina officials began to share the concept with other states, Dr. Casper, who works for the Maryland State Department of Agriculture saw the possibilities. “I took the lead and ran with it,” he said.

Casper began making the rounds to entities like the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and others. The idea was adopted and the Maryland SART received its 501(c)3 non-profit status in 2006. The organization is entirely volunteer-based, and their efforts have been funded in part by corporate and individual sponsors.

Since the establishment of the Maryland SART, several committees have been formed to help share the concept with counties throughout the State of Maryland. So far, three counties have established their own County Animal Response Teams (CARTs), which include local emergency managers, animal care and control agencies, law enforcement officials, veterinary professionals and others concerned with the health and welfare of animals in their community. Early in 2008, a large push by Maryland SART hopes to encourage the establishment of many more CARTs.

Once the network is fully functional, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency will be able to call upon SART to unearth a plethora of valuable local resources, which will ensure that the pets and livestock of those impacted are properly handled in the event of a disaster. For now, the fledgling organization is concentrating on educating the public about disaster preparedness, recruiting volunteers and finding areas throughout the state suitable to house or contain large animals, such as horses and cattle, in need of relocation.

Volunteers are needed in many areas, says Dr. Casper. People who are capable of running temporary shelters, people with medical knowledge, people to answer phones, and so forth. Volunteers will need to take certain courses, which are offered free online by the Emergency Management Institute of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“There are lots of things you can do [to cope with disasters],” states Dr. Casper. “It just takes planning.”

To learn more about the Maryland State Animal Response Team, log onto their website at www.mdsart.org



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