With hurricane season just a little more than a month away, state and local governments are already preparing for the possible aftermath of a storm. In actuality, a disaster could strike at anytime and displace thousands of people – and with them, their pets. North Carolina learned a valuable lesson in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd flooded Eastern North Carolina and stranded thousands of livestock and companion animals. An emergency shelter was set up at the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University to care for hundreds of dogs and cats that were left behind when owners evacuated. The state of Louisiana experienced a similar, but more tragic example of this in 2005 when humans refused to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina because they could not take their pets with them. A very valuable lesson has been learned from these, and other, disasters.
The PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act was passed by Congress in 2006 to mandate that governments allow for the needs of households with pets. In 2006, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the first CAMET – Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailer – that could be used to set up an emergency companion animal shelter. There are now 24 CAMETs in North Carolina. In addition to being used in co-sheltering situations (where people and pets are both sheltered at the same location), the CAMETs have been used in local animal welfare situations when large numbers of animals have been removed from a home or shelter.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, our Emergency Programs Division held two training sessions this year to familiarize organizations with the trailers. The training covered the logistics of using a CAMET, the staffing requirements to run an emergency shelter, legal issues surrounding housing animals, and hands-on demonstrations of what is in a CAMET. Animal control officers, veterinarians, emergency technicians, government workers, animal rescue groups and more were at the training session held April 21 in Asheville.
In the video below, Dr. Mandy Tolson, eastern region Emergency Programs veterinarian, explains more about the training.