To the editor:
Rescuing animals is mandatory under federal law, which requires local and state governments to include plans for pets in emergency procedures. Federal Emergency Management Agency funds go toward the welfare of animals in disaster zones.
Whidbey Animal Guild (WAG) receives this question routinely from the public every time a disaster occurs elsewhere: If people must be evacuated to shelters, where will the animals go?
As we know, there are people who won’t leave without their animals; people who do leave their animals behind; and people who just don’t know where to turn. Emergencies can simply overwhelm animal shelters, animal control personnel and local veterinarians if an extended system of support is not in place.
Plus, our animal-friendly island also has equines and livestock to consider. And as an island, we could be isolated for an extended time. Just look at Staten Island as a result of the most recent storms, and it is located right next to a major metropolitan center.
WAG is forming a collaborative, animal-based disaster coalition committee to get a full plan ready and approved by the end of 2013. We have a copy of the plan adopted by Whatcom County that we might want to use as a template. National organizations like the Humane Society have mobile rescue stations, but would they be able to come here and where would they set up?
As of early 2013, WAG will be formally contacting island rescues, shelter contractors, animal-based service organizations, kennel owners, horse boarding facilities, horse groups, first responders, experienced rescue professionals, veterinarians, and appropriate public officials as well. We have already contacted the WAIF board of directors and city officials in Oak Harbor. We would like to know with whom we might work in Island County.