Monday, February 26, 2007

Animal emergency contigency plan being created

People with pets or livestock in Lehigh and Northampton counties will want to know three women who make up the counties' Animal Response Team, Laurie Bianco, Tory Schadler and Rosemary Scardion. They are putting together a disaster plan for tens of thousands of Lehigh Valley farm and domestic animals, including poultry, cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, dogs and cats.

Their charge is to prevent the kind of devastation that occurred most recently during Hurricane Katrina, when animals were left behind to run wild or die because there was no rescue plan for them.

The three-woman team has started to put together a database of information on where animals can be temporarily housed and who has the vehicles and know-how to rescue large or small animals in the event of large-scale catastrophe.

Animals are the No. 1 reason people refuse to evacuate their homes during an emergency, resulting in many deaths, said Bianco, who in addition to being a co-leader of CART has been an equine and canine rescuer for many years.

''People died because they didn't want to leave their pets. We need to be more proactive. Animals have to be provided for across Pennsylvania.''

The state's 67 counties were given guidelines by the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team, formed in 2004 following 1999's Hurricane Floyd, which claimed the lives of millions of animals.

After Floyd, states were informed that they have to provide an animal rescue plan or face loss of federal funding under the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Management Disaster Relief and Preparedness program.

Lehigh and Northampton county emergency preparedness coordinators decided to combine their efforts. But only minimal progress was made until the nation took note once again — at the number of animals that perished after Hurricane Katrina.

Now there is an all-out push in the Lehigh Valley to get at least 40 volunteers on board by summer and have the participation of animal groups such as 4-H clubs, veterinarians, groomers, pet stores, farmers and animal shelters.

Bianco is confident they will get community support.

''I'm the organizer, Tory owns K-9 Kampus kennel [in Fogelsville] and is a 30-year firefighter and Rosemary is in the public eye [as a real-estate agent],'' Bianco said. ''We're a very good team.''

Another component is to develop an awareness campaign to educate pet owners on the importance of keeping up-to-date pet records and to micro-chip animals so they are easier to track if they are displaced. They plan to encourage pet owners to keep a ''pet emergency kit'' ready, which should include a few days worth of medication, medical and vaccination records, a leash, collar, identification, water, food, toys, bedding and a labeled pet carrier.

''This is a nationwide push,'' Bianco said.

For more information:

610-442-0128 or

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