Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team regional coordinator Heather Ferguson explains procedure for loading horses and animals into a trailer during emergency evacuations at a weekend training session in Lavington. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

CDART trains North Okanagan volunteers

Regional group looking to form to help animals in cases of emergencies and disasters

During the wildfires of the summer of 2017, Lavington’s Vanessa Robert offered herself as a walk-in volunteer to help with animals at the emergency hub in Kamloops.

Robert, owner of The Crate Escape Dog Adventure, had trucks and saw the need for help for the animals and their owners affected or displaced by the fires.

“I did a lot of animal rescue, hauling of hay, but I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing,” said Robert. “I would get sent out by somebody who had gotten a text. It was really unorganized.”

Robert realized how fortunate the North Okanagan has been when it comes to wildfires, but if the time came for the region to be prepared, she wanted some form of organization to help people and help the animals. She wanted a group that would be great to have, but hope to never have to use it.

Paying it forward, Robert hounded the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) organization to come to the North Okanagan and provide training. The hounding paid off as group members were out at Robert’s Lavington ranch offering two days of training to about 10 people from the North Okanagan, Kamloops and the Shuswap.

CDART is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to animal welfare in times of a disaster or emergency, by providing sheltering, fostering or rescue of domesticated animals.

“We cover natural disasters, the large ones, like wildfires, but it can also be smaller disasters like an apartment fire, or evacuation because of a bomb scare, meth lab or a train derailment with some chemicals,” said Cheryl Rogers, CDART’s national coordinator. “We’re here this weekend training people so they can respond locally on behalf of animals and disasters.”

With training completed, those who took part – including Robert – will have the basic knowledge to set up a temporary animal shelter, provide supplies and support to people who have been evacuated with their animals and to get permission from local emergency authorities to go into a region and evacuate animals that were left behind.

They’ll also be able to go into evacuated areas (with permission) and water, feed and clean animals that owners don’t want removed, and they will find and set up foster homes for the animals, provide pet first aid if needed and, regrettably, take care of any deceased animals and support their owners.

Rogers said starting a regional team will be a benefit.

“It will be a small but mighty group,” she said. “They would be deployed by local authorities (CDART never self-deploys, said Rogers), contact their local contacts and get their team out.”

Two years of asking CDART to come up and provide training was well worth it, said Robert.

“It’s been awesome to get the information and have such an awesome group of people willing to step up and move forward into a leadership role with CDART so when all the walk-in volunteers come forward, there’s at least a group of people who knows what’s going on,” she said. “They can delegate and organize and make it a functional and successful (animal) sheltering situation.”


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