Our Emergency Services team consists of 18 full-time staff members, but we rely on hundreds and even thousands of trained volunteers and also cooperative relations with other groups and local, state, and federal agencies. We do not respond just to natural disasters, but to human-caused disasters as well, such as hoarding cases, puppy mills, and animal fighting operations.
Like our advocacy work, our hands-on work increasingly knows no boundaries. After a volcano buried a community in Chile in more than a foot of ash, causing the evacuation of everyone in the community, we sent some members of our Emergency Services team far south of the equator to help. Scotlund Haisley, our senior director of Emergency Services, has this report.
© Jorge Cadenas/La Tercera
A dog amid volcanic ash in Chile.
Our Emergency Services team knows that devotion to animals is a universal value, and the people of Chile have this sensibility as well. A steady stream of distraught evacuees have pressed pet’s pictures and their addresses into the palms of our team members’ hands, begging them to help rescue their pets from the abandoned city of Chaiten.
Because of continued health risks to humans, the local police and military are not allowing us access to the city. We are working to streamline rescue efforts by gathering addresses from evacuated pet owners and creating maps that pinpoint the location of their pets. These maps will make rescue efforts as efficient as possible once we gain entry into the affected area, which is known as the “hot zone.”
Thankfully, we have been working with dedicated local animal welfare groups to establish a base of operations and temporary shelters to accommodate animals removed from the affected areas. Military personnel have already removed more than 100 dogs from the region, and continue to transport more to safety each day.
Our team is also leading training sessions in advanced disaster animal care and sheltering. The goal is to train the residents, military and police in animal handling, sheltering and long-term care, with an emphasis on returning rescued animals to their owners and also providing safe and humane housing.
The team will remain in the area to provide additional assistance until May 22.
P.S. Our team members expect to return from Chile to be present for our National Conference on Animals in Disaster in Sacramento June 3-6. There’s still time to register for the event.