Note: Full disclosure, I was among the 25 who signed up for the CDART training. I believe I am now a volunteer.
Imagine going to a property that’s in the line of a fast-moving wildfire. You have little time to get a family’s dogs loaded up and moved to a safe location.And when you arrive, you realize: this is a puppy mill.
It happens, and volunteers with the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) can’t worry about laying charges or giving the owners a fierce lecture. Their job is to evacuate, safety and quickly, and get the dogs out of there.
The work can be maddening. The 25 volunteers who attended CDART’s introduction to emergency pet services seminar Sunday were told repeatedly they have to set aside their judgment. Then they were told about the man who showed up at the registration desk clutching his flat screen TV but left his dog tied up in the yard of his property where flood waters were quickly rising.
Difficult not to get outraged at someone who puts a TV set before his dog. But that’s what animal response volunteers have to do, Deborah Silk from CDART told the volunteers who came from several different agencies.
The group gathered at the City’s old public works yard for a day-long session on the basics of emergency animal rescue. Monthly meetings will follow to provide more information and upgrade training.
Silk warned them what they might have to face in the line of duty: puppy mills, animal hoarders and the guy who puts his TV set above his dog.
Volunteers have to focus on helping the animals, which means helping their owners. Anything else has to wait for another time.
They also learned that their volunteer efforts could land them in a reception centre, dealing with paperwork more than puppies. But it’s all for the good of the cause, she said.
Silk had some good advice for all animal owners, such as making an emergency plan for the household including pets and/or livestock, and having a grab-and-go kit for themselves and their animals that would contain necessities in case they themselves were evacuated.
She suggested setting up a simple piece of plastic tube attached to an animal-pen gate or even a household mailbox to save those four-legged family members.
Inside that tube, keep updated information on the number of animals in the pen or house, along with any idiosyncrasies they have that might make it easier for rescuers to get them out if there’s an emergency. Oh, and mark ICE on it (In Case of Emergency) so they know it’s for them.
For example, Silver the horse doesn’t like people wearing baseball caps, but responds like one of Pavlov’s dogs to the sound of oats being shaken in a can.
CDART is building a group of volunteers in Kamloops to be at the ready when disaster strikes.
Participants in Sunday’s day-long session included representatives from the SPCA, Kamloops and District Humane Society, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops Veterinary Hospital and Noah’s Wish.
Silk, who has worked with Noah’s Wish and is now with CDART, recalled a wildfire in 1994 that burned so hot, wildlife was seeking respite from the scorching ground by standing on the road. She and other volunteers set out tubs of water for them — with a towel over the ledge so any smaller creatures falling in could get back out. Predators and prey were seen drinking, side by side, she said.
While evacuating the animals and dealing with the owners can be difficult, there are also rewards. One of the best payoffs comes with the calm after the storm, when animals and owners are reunited, she said.
The volunteers will meet monthly to continue their training and learn such things as the difference between an alpaca and a llama, along with procedures and policies and other serious things.