Connecticut towns are preparing for the next big storm, and not just for themselves, but for their pets. Bethel and many of the surrounding towns are developing animal sheltering plans in the event of another emergency.
The Connecticut State Animal Response Team (CTSART) Region 5 members met with Emergency Management Directors and Animal Control Officers of seventeen CT Region 5 towns last Saturday in Woodbury, CT, for an Animal Sheltering Presentation and Special Training Session offered to them by CTSART.
Karlyn Sturmer, Newtown CTSART member said "what I observed after the Nor' Easter last fall is that we didn't even have a Red Cross shelter set up for humans. All there was, was one Red Cross volunteer sitting at the high school. They shut it down and moved it to Queen St., so that was a good way to see what needed to be done. Not to criticize." Carolee Mason, Newtown Animal Control Officer said, "we have a good town but I think through this training we will be better prepared. Our town is very supportive of this training."
Other individuals felt that their towns were very prepared. Teresa Fogel, Bethel CTSART member said "Bethel was very prepared. Bob Yost has done a lot of work with Officer Shanley and we have a plan in place."
Bob Yost is a Bethel CERT and CTSART member and also a Danbury Animal Welfare Society volunteer. He was named one of the "2012 American Red Cross Heroes of Western Connecticut" for his work in animal rescue. Steven Shanley is an Animal Control Officer in Bethel. Bethel CTSART member Ken Weith added, "Bethel is advanced for it's time." CTSART member Jerry Blank of Ridgefield said, "Ridgefield has been doing it for 5 to 6 years, preparing for emergency shelters."
The meeting was organized by CTSART Region 5 Team Leader Dr. Donna Cobelli and CTSART Deputy Tracy Brindle, both of Ridgefield. Dr. Cobelli was awarded "Veterinarian of the Year" in 2011, by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association.
Brindle said they "worked together to restructure the Region 5 policies and procedures since the October 2011 storm. "From January to May 2012, they've been "going town to town trying to set this up," Cobelli said, "and everyone was very receptive. We are really starting to make headway."
Region 5 CT towns whose emergency management officials and/or CTSART members attended the meeting were: Bethel, Bethlehem, Danbury, Harwinton, Kent, Morris, Naugatuck, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Washington, Watertown, Wolcott, Woodbury.
Six smaller meetings had been arranged with various CT Region 5 groups that included emergency management officials. CTSART distributed "starter sets" of animal sheltering supplies to any towns that made a request. These contained five extra-large collapsible dog crates and ancillary equipment such as leashes, bowls and forms.
There was a lively interaction between all who attended the main meeting this past Saturday. Everyone was anxious to meet their town officials and begin the training session. Judy Umstead, Animal Control Officer of both Woodbury and Bethlehem CT said, "Every single meeting you come to, you learn more and more and also meet the people of your town." Blenda Ellingson, Naugatuck Animal Control Officer, added "Put a face to a name."
Dr. Cobelli lead the meeting with a slide presentation and reviewed details of setting up a basic "small volume shelter" to house about 10 animals, to start. Cobelli suggested, "Use your resources from your town, and we have additional supplies in trailers. Torrington has trailers big enough to haul horses."
The information included having a shelter location selected ahead of time, knowing which emergency management officials will be in charge for their own towns, and which CTSART volunteers to contact. "Pre-warning is huge," Cobelli said, "We need to be in the loop earlier, so everyone can be notified earlier." She indicated that organizing members of the sheltering staff and assigning specific tasks is made easier by planning ahead. "Know an animal control officer by name. Somebody has to be in charge in each town. The idea of having an animal control officer in charge is necessary."
During the training session everyone learned about initial registration procedures for residents and their animals, emphasizing the importance of procedures for safety and security of the animals. This is to insure no mistakes are made when owners come to care for their animals or take them home. Medical issues were also discussed.
"Rabies vaccinations is the one I care about most," Dr. Cobelli said.
Owners are required to provide the necessary proof that their pets are up to date on vaccinations and also indicate if they require special medications or care. Medications need to be provided by owner, with instructions. During registration, an ID bracelet with a unique name and number is placed on the owner and is matched to the ID collar placed on their pet with that same name and number. This identification is needed each time the owner enters the shelter.
The members of each town worked as a group in setting up a crate. Cobelli stated, "I like open crates. If an animal is going to be in a crate a number of hours, an open crate is preferred. Clean up and ventilation are big issues in selecting which kennel to use."
Dr. Cobelli, then demonstrated how to place an animal in a crate and monitor them. Evan Jones, a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member from Woodbury CT, brought along his dog Daisy who participated in the demonstration. Daisy was a little hesitant to go into the crate at first. Dr. Cobelli indicated this can sometimes be the case in a real situation. She said the owner would then place the animal in the crate along with the assistance of a CTSART shelter staff member.
Cobelli said that gentle care is always used, and making the animals comfortable and relaxed is the aim, besides safety. "The owner will know his dog," Cobelli said. Tammy Mitman, Harwinton CTSART member added "The dog knows the owner more likely."
Residents feed and walk their own animals and also bring their own food. A person must be 18 years old to provide some care for their own animal in a shelter situation and owners always must show the wristband ID. This can also be checked with a photo ID on file, which is a photo of the owner and pet together, taken by a CTSART member when they registered their pet. That is also when the ID name and number were added too. All animals are always on a leash. "Leashes are key," Cobelli said. She also stated "Protect exits, keep it safe, use town employees and trained volunteers, post the rules."
Many officials mentioned storms by name and recalled details about their personal experience, such as getting supplies or shelter locations. Paul Estefan, Danbury Director of Emergency Management said, "we've had pets at the War Memorial shelter in Irene in August 2011 and storm Alfred in the end of October 2011. Dr. Cobelli gave me a few of the crates and we used them, a good thing to have. I met her at the Ridgefield high school where they had the CTSART trailer at 9pm at night." Craig Simone, Danbury Animal Control Officer, talked about how well his town is prepared. He said, "we are very well organized and we have enough space to accommodate pets. I've seen it." Joan Flynn, New Fairfield Director of Emergency Management and CTSART member said, "I had no concerns. These starter kits are a fantastic idea because it makes us prepared."
Some issues concerned the shelter operation and staffing. Susan Chapman, New Fairfield Selectman, added her comment, "I am here because I ended up running the shelter last June, during the tornado-ish June, and I am here to get some training."
Many plans are now in place to avoid issues the towns dealt with during past emergencies. Dr. Cobelli felt that getting seventeen Region 5 towns to meet was "a good turn out." Cobelli's advice was "go to a human shelter to find out where an animal shelter is," noting that "a Red Cross shelter will not let it be an animal shelter. They have the authority to set up the shelter how they want."
She also pointed out "the most important thing is that everyone needs to think about being prepared themselves. We are here to help, we are the support if there are no other options. The reason why disaster preparedness is so important is because it helps people leave when they need to, it's so important." Cobelli went on to say "it's not just an animal issue, it's really for the sake of humans."
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CTSART Region 5 map: http://www.ctsart.org/regions/
Note: Paula Antolini is an Independent Photographer and Graphic Designer. She is also a Bethel CERT and CTSART member and photographer for CTSART Region 5, and also a DAWS (Danbury Animal Welfare Society) volunteer and photographer, donating her services. She submits stories and photos to Patch and has a Patch Blog: