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Man setting up Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team on P.E.I.

Ron McConnell and his horse Rio appear in this undated photo in British Columbia. McConnell and his wife, members of the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART), moved to P.E.I. from B.C. six months ago and plan to start up a CDART chapter on the Island that will serve Atlantic Canada.
Ron McConnell and his horse Rio appear in this undated photo in British Columbia. McConnell and his wife, members of the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART), moved to P.E.I. from B.C. six months ago and plan to start up a CDART chapter on the Island that will serve Atlantic Canada.

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —P.E.I. could have a group of specially trained volunteers designed to rescue animals in place sometime this summer.

Ron McConnell and his wife, members of the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART), moved to the Island from British Columbia six months ago.

They had visited P.E.I. before and immediately fell in love with the province. So, they decided to move here and, in doing so, got busy with trying to set an Atlantic chapter of CDART.

Ron McConnell is on CDART’s national board of directors.

“We’re hoping to have it up and running through the summer,’’ McConnell told The Guardian. “We’re at least hoping to have a good corp of volunteers organized. Some of our training staff from out west have said they would be willing to come down possibly in September to do a bunch of animal specific training.’’

At the moment, the McConnells are purchasing a hobby farm just outside Summerside.

McConnell is looking at P.E.I. as CDART’s central dispatch area, which would be responsible for covering the Atlantic region.

“From here, I’m five hours from just about anywhere. Back in B.C., we’re divided into all these different regions because of the huge travel times back and forth from one region to another.’’

He added the region can be subject to many of the same disaster-type scenarios western Canada gets, such as ice storms, flooding and snow.

“It can happen and it can happen here (in P.E.I.). It’s just a different type of disaster than we’re used to in B.C. where we’re used to floods and wildfires. It’s a different response but it’s still the same thing – people don’t want to leave their homes without their animals.’’

McConnell said his wife took part in recovery and mortality efforts in Fort McMurray, Alta., last year and CDART members were still finding cats, dogs, lizards and fish alive almost three weeks after the wildfires started.

Tanya Mullally, P.E.I.’s emergency management co-ordinator (EMO), if people need to evacuate their home, the decision on when and what they do may be influenced by their ability to take their pets.

“It is therefore critical for emergency managers to consider and plan for animals at the same time we are planning for people,’’ Mullally said, adding that EMO recently brought CDART in to meet with key response stakeholders in emergencies to look at ways to work more collaboratively together.

McConnell said the time has come for Atlantic Canada to have its own CDART team.

“I think it’s a service that has been missing too long,’’ he said.

For more information, McConnell can be reached at cdartatlantic@gmail.com.

dave.stewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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