O’LEARY, P.E.I. – From dogs to horses, snakes, and a pet goat, it seems all creatures great and small are saved in a disaster by an all-volunteer Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART).
Ron McConnell and his wife, Lynne Davis, are CDART members who plan to start up a chapter on P.E.I., which will serve Atlantic Canada. They know all too well that a catastrophe can strike at any time, and it’s important to be prepared.
“The secrets of success is training, extra care and caution, so we are all on the same page when we respond to disasters,” said McConnell, the national information officer for CDART. He added, “There’s nothing more dangerous than a large injured animal.”
The couple, who moved to P.E.I. from B.C., hopes to enlist volunteers across the province, and start training in the spring. They held their first meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion in O’Leary on Saturday afternoon.
“We rescue as many animals as we can in the time frame we are given. We never work alone, and are always professional,” said McConnell. “We have a working relationship with the emergency service groups, and we never put anyone in danger.”
Having a pet first-aid kit, images and documentation for identification, as well as items to maintain animals for 72 hours or longer, are critical.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit, many owners had no copies of documentation or images to help locate their domestic animal, and as a result, millions of animals were stranded or lost. It was a very sad situation,” he said.
P.E.I. is not immune to disaster, and the team could be important in the event of storm surges, ice storms, and flooding.
Saving a life, no matter how small, is very rewarding.
“We had a lady come in just after I arrived in Princeton, B.C., and she was distraught,” remembered McConnell. “She had to leave her animals behind because of the forest fires, so our teams went in and gathered the calves, chickens, and other animals.
“We put them in the truck and took them to a shelter. The animals were kept there for over two weeks, before it was safe for them to return home. In that time, Cowboy, a baby goat became our mascot. Every morning a volunteer would take the two parent goats out for a walk, and Cowboy would freely bounce behind.
“The owner was ecstatic that we had saved her animals and started to volunteer at the shelter. When it all ended, she invited the rescuers to her place for a barbecue.
“It’s just so rewarding at the end of the day to save a life,” concluded McConnell, with a tear in his eye.
Volunteers are required to obtain a police check, complete basic Emergency Operations Centre training and CDART training in order to respond during a disaster. Advanced training courses are also available.
CDART has volunteer positions in operations, search and response, logistics, safety and planning. The volunteer team is looking for funds and donations, shelter locations, a cargo van to haul small animals, a cargo truck to haul equipment, suppliers for food, and equipment that includes fencing, large tents, cages, generator and chainsaws.
For more information, visit their facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/CDART/about/#.