FOR RELEASE AT WILL -- Feb. 21, 2007
Richmond, Va. - Virginia emergency managers, veterinarians and animal advocacy groups have developed a set of guidelines to provide assistance to pet owners and pet-friendly shelters during an evacuation. The organizations will build and maintain databases of pet-friendly shelters, services, supplies and trained volunteers to call upon during an emergency.
A memorandum of understanding, finalized in January, sets forth specific responsibilities for five organizations during an emergency declared by the governor. Representatives from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies will help to identify pet-friendly facilities and train volunteers to coordinate assistance to those shelters during disasters.
"During Hurricane Katrina thousands of people left their pets behind or did not evacuate in order to stay with their pets," said Dr. Richard Wilkes, state veterinarian. "For many people, the safety of their pets is just as important as their own."
In addition, the VVMA will take the lead role in establishing a State Animal Response Team, a tax-exempt corporation that will explore additional funding for training and equipment through grants and corporate sponsorships.
"Many pet owners don't want to leave their pets during an evacuation," said Michael Cline, state coordinator for emergency management. "This MOU is an important step in making sure that pet owners and their pets have a place to go during a crisis."
Representatives of the five groups will meet quarterly to evaluate the progress of implementation and to revise and develop new plans or goals as appropriate.