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SPCA working to make pets more prepared for emergencies

Last Updated Jun 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm MDT

PHOTO. Tara Clarke, executive director of the FMSPCA at the emergency pet preparedness presentation hosted at the shelter on May 4, 2017. Melanie Walsh. AFTERNOON NEWS ANCHOR.

During last years wildfire and evacuation the FMSPCA assisted the Municipality with pet rescue.

In total 12,000 pets were extracted, sheltered and then eventually evacuated to Edmonton to be reunited with their owners.

Now the SPCA is working on making the regions pet owners prepared for any emergency.

On May 4, 2017 they held an emergency pet preparedness seminar where they reviewed their rescue efforts and discussed what can be done moving forward.

“Advocating for pets to be included in both personal and community based emergency response plans is essential as pet owners may be reluctant to evacuate if their companions can not be accommodated, said Tara Clarke, executive director of the FMSPCA.

Part of the efforts done by the FMSPCA to support the community in emergency preparedness education and to ensure they have the supplies and resources required in case of a emergency is informing owners on pet emergency kits.

The kit should include a pet first aid kit, a leash, an emergency check-list,  a decal for pet owners homes that indicates the pets in the household for first responders and a wallet sized emergency card with the pet information.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo also has lot of information about pet safety on their website including the following 72-hour pet kit checklist.


The importance of emergency pet preparedness 

In the initial 10 weeks of re-entry the FMSPCA provided more than 4,000 returning pets with food and care supplies and has taken in over 300 pets for re-homing.

“As much as the pet rescue efforts are in the first days of any disaster we learned that 90 per cent of support needed comes after that rescue. This must be considered as the community moves through the recovery process,” said Clarke.

After the wildfire the FMSPCA began circulating community impact surveys to address imminent needs and determine the supports that would be required during re-entry.

Some of what they learned from the data didn’t add up from the recovering community.

“An animal welfare agency would expect certain impacts post disaster, one of which being a significant increase in animal re-homing needs. In anticipation of this we instituted free owner surrendering fees. It was also assumed that in community adoption rates would decrease. This however did not hold true for our community,” said Clarke, “Adoptions increased as residents sought the mental and physical wellness that pet companionship can provide. Although our animal intake rate did increase by 29 per cent, adoption rates have also seen an increase of 18 per cent since the wildfires.” 

Clarke notes that a major reason for owner surrenders or pets needing to be re-homed after the fire follow trends that impact their human counterparts including changes in family situations and relationships breakdowns, having to relocate out of the community or a change in finical circumstances.

She also adds that 22 per cent of pet owning households experienced challenges in finding pet friendly accommodations and 29 per cent of pet owner surrenders were due to an inability to secure pet friendly accommodation post wildfire.

Almost 90 per cent of participates of the survey felt that pet companionship provided direct benefits to their well-being during and after the wildfire.

Common themes included helping with anxiety, depression, stress release, emotional support, stability and overcoming fear.

Many parents also commented that pets had a positive impact on their children.

About 18% of participants from the survey ended up adding a pet to their family post wildfire.

Become part of a study to create provincial wide emergency pet evacuation protocols 

The keynote speaker at the FMSPCA emergency pet preparedness seminar was Kimberly Williams, a professor from Mount Royal University who is conducting a study of emergency preparedness for pets.

Williams is a pet owner herself and after spending time in New Orleans and learning about the 50,000 forcibly-abandoned pets and the largest volunteer-led emergency animal rescue effort in American history during Hurricane Katrina she was inspired to conduct the study.

Her hopes is that through her research she can aid in implementing provincial standard practices for emergency pet evacuation.

If you would like to participate in Williams research you can contact here through her website http://fortmacpets.weebly.com/. 

pets of mcmurray

Additional Support through the FMSPCA

Ongoing efforts of the SPCA include their current project that they are conducting this week –  their large scale spay and neuter clinics throughout the rural communities of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

They will also be hosting their second annual masquerade gala on October 28 at the Shell Place Grand Ballroom. Tickets are available here. 

Last year this event supported the much needed purchase of X-Ray equipment for their in-shelter veterinary clinic.

Additional Support through the YMCA of Wood Buffalo

As part of their wellness program the YMCA of Wood Buffalo held a memorial service last weekend to commemorate all of the pets and animals that passed away in relation to the wildfire.

They will also be offering a pet loss and grief support group to the community.

If any residents wish to get involved in the group they can contact Debbie Martin at 587-537-5021 or by email at dmartin@northernalberta.ymca.ca