Clallam planning response for animals in emergencies

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County emergency managers and volunteers are hashing out an animal disaster plan to ensure that pets and livestock don’t get overlooked in the event of an emergency.

The three commissioners discussed a draft version of the “Animals in Disaster Response and Recovery Plan” at their work session Tuesday.

“It’s been a big project,” said Priscilla Stockner, volunteer animals-in-disasters coordinator.

“We’re three or four volunteers who have spent the good part of a year and a half developing what you see here.”

46-page draft

The 46-page draft calls for a coordinated response for the evacuation, care and sheltering of animals in emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, winter storms and wildfires.

Central to the effort will be the assembly of a “local animal response group” that consists of Clallam County emergency management, health and human services, animal control, Washington State University Extension, state Department of Agriculture, private veterinarians, the Clallam County Humane Society and others.

The idea is to set up decentralized locations around the county — churches, fields or berms on farmlands — where pets and livestock could be taken and cared for in the wake of a disaster.

“The cool thing about animal sheltering is that it’s a little different than people: You don’t need have to have a kitchen and a shower,” Clallam County Emergency Management Program Coordinator Jamye Wisecup told commissioners.

“You can have a field.”

Commissioners reviewed the draft along with a laminated map depicting vulnerable bridges in the county.

“We should not be just courthouse-centric on the animal shelter and rescue,” Wisecup said after the briefing.

“Our next step is to get the local animal-response group put together. These are sort of the captains of the ship.”

After the group is assembled and trained, officials will identify supply-drop areas and temporary shelter sites.

The final plan will be submitted for state approval in January. It will become an appendix to the Clallam County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and used in a full-scale disaster exercise planned for March 2016, Wisecup said.

Animal disaster preparedness is needed because human shelters don’t allow pets or livestock, and many people refuse to leave their animals unsupervised, according to the draft.

Commissioner Jim McEntire recalled seeing images of animals being loaded onto helicopters during the recent floods in Colorado.

“People don’t want to leave their animals,” McEntire said, adding that the draft is a “great start of a comprehensive thing.”

Public health

Animal disaster preparedness also can alleviate public health and safety risks caused by animals running loose and animal carcasses, according to the draft.

Commissioner Mike Doherty suggested bringing the Clallam County public health officer and prosecuting attorney on board to “chime in” about carcass disposal and liability.

Although wildlife is not included in the disaster plan, Doherty suggested involving tribal biologists who track eagles and other wildlife and county residents who are trained to help seabirds during oil spills.

“We certainly would want their input,” Stockner said.

Stockner said she developed a similar animal disaster plan as director of animal control in Palm Beach County, Fla.

A part-time veterinarian, Stockner returned to Snohomish County and worked on another animal disaster plan there.

“If you recall in Katrina, not only did we not have supplies, we had no places [for animals],” Stockner said, referring to the 2005 hurricane that decimated New Orleans and other communities on the Gulf coast.

“And we had chaos,” Stockner said. “And people with warm hearts and many with deep pockets wanted to come and help.

“It was literally a disaster, as you’re well aware, up until probably through the first eight months after the hurricane.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 25. 2013 5:42PM
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