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CalAnimals launches new program to help keep people, pets together amidst disasters

The Humane Society of the United States is providing funding to support disaster preparedness project

Napa fire horses

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California Animal Welfare Association, the state association representing and supporting more than 260 animal shelters and animal control agencies, is pleased to announce the launch of a three-year project to improve disaster preparedness. With funding generously provided by the Humane Society of the United States, CalAnimals will hire an experienced disaster program manager to lead the development of resources and improved coordination to support the effective evacuation, care and reunification of animals with their families during disasters.

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to drive significant improvement in disaster preparedness to support the safety of pets and livestock,” says Jill Tucker, CEO of CalAnimals. “Animal services agencies play an important role as first responders in disasters, and ensuring that processes, resources, relationships and trained personnel are in place will make a lifesaving difference. We are profoundly grateful to the HSUS for making this project possible.”

When people are ordered to evacuate for their safety, a common occurrence in wildfire-prone California, they are often unwilling to do so if they are unable to secure safe transport or housing for their pets. This results in greater risk for residents, their pets and the first responders trying to help.

“This position will greatly improve California’s response to disasters, keeping more pets safe throughout ongoing incidents like wildfires, major storms and flooding,” said Jenny Berg, California state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are happy to support this role as it will not only help streamline California’s response to major disasters, but it will also serve as an example to states across the country experiencing similar effects because of climate change.”

California’s shelters and animal control agencies are eager to work collaboratively with California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Veterinary Emergency Response Team and California Department of Food and Agriculture to create an effective and sustainable response infrastructure. As first responders, shelters are typically responsible for coordinating local activities, including the evacuation and care of animals. The state agencies are tasked with assisting when local resources have been exhausted. The more rural the community, the higher the fire danger and the leaner the resources.

The disaster program manager will represent California’s animal shelters at the state level, develop training standards, support the implementation of disaster management best practices, facilitate inter-agency coordination and directly assist during active incidents.

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