Emergency Response Truck Caters to Pets

American Humane Association's Red Star rescue truck is equipped with food supplies.

By Lauren Wanko

During a disaster, a 50-foot emergency response truck could be the difference between life and death for some four-legged companions.

“It would act as a quick response vehicle so that we would be able to respond in the field as well as help to care for animals in the event there is a natural or man-made disaster,” said American Humane Association National Director of Humane Intervention Justin Scally.

The American Humane Association’s Red Star rescue truck. Banfield Pet Hospital is one of the sponsors. It will serve the country’s Northeast region. It’s equipped with animal capture and water rescue equipment, food, water, medical supplies plus sleeping arrangements for up to four animal responders. The team can serve about 100 pets in this unit.

“This vehicle can be used as a triage unit to help animals out should they have any type of medial needs,” Scally said.

Especially since Superstorm Sandy hit, animal responders hope pet owners are even more aware this hurricane season.

“What has been found through studies is the majority of pet owners would not leave if they were told they had to leave their pets behind and we don’t want them to leave their pets behind. We want them to evacuate with their pets,” said Scally.

Which is why it’s important to be prepared now, insist experts, before disaster strikes. That means making a pet emergency preparedness kit.

“It’s just something people don’t think about. It’s easy to miss that,” said Dr. David Birse of Banfield Pet Hospital.

The kit should have a week supply of dry food and water, sanitation wipes, a kennel for smaller pets, toys, any medications and a copy of the animal’s health records along with the vet’s number and other important contact information. Birse says during Superstorm Sandy, many of the animals at their vet hospital arrived undernourished, dehydrated or displaced. That’s where a microchip comes in.

“Microchips are the only permanent form of identification for your pet. It’s the only way you could be reunited with your pet should you part ways in a disaster,” Birse said.

The microchip, which cost about $20 to $30, is about the size of a grain of rice. It’s inserted with an applicator between the shoulder blades.

“It’s really well tolerated by most animals,” Birse said.

If your pet is lost, vet professionals and animal responders use a scanner. They wave it over the area the chip is located and then it beeps, an ID number appears and that’s connected to your phone numbers.

One of Jillian Harshman’s puppies is already microchipped. She wants to be prepared if a storm hits the shore again.

“We just want to make sure the animals are safe. If they get lost maybe our back fence goes down and we don’t know it, our neighbors, if we don’t know them can contact us at any time,” Harshman said.

The rescue truck will continue the emergency preparedness tour throughout the northeast region over the next week.