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Jefferson, Lewis emergency training session focuses on animals

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COPENHAGEN — Local emergency preparedness planning has gone to the dogs. And cats. And cows. And horses. And even ferrets.

Emergency officials, agricultural representatives and animal lovers from Jefferson and Lewis counties met Thursday at the Copenhagen fire hall to discuss how pets and livestock would be handled in the event of an emergency.

“We’re not talking about just a day or two,” said Allan Chrysler of TREX Planning Associates Inc., Ava. “This could be long -term.”

Mr. Chrysler said his firm has been commissioned by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to assist in the development of County Animal Response Teams in the two counties.

CART members are to help rescue and care for animals in disaster situations by providing specialized assistance and coordination among agencies, farms, businesses and individual citizens.

The impetus for forming such teams came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Chrysler said.

“Pets went all over,” he said. “That’s when it came to light.”

During the three-hour workshop, participants reviewed animal response plans being developed in Jefferson and Lewis counties and discussed possible improvements and issues that should be addressed to ensure adequate participation and coordination if an emergency situation were to arise.

“You have a lot of resources and quite a bit of knowledge,” Mr. Chrysler told participants.

The consultant also led attendees through a simulated incident in which the region gets pelted with an early-November storm that brings a half-inch to an inch of freezing rain, large-scale power outages, including Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown and Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, numerous accidents and a barn collapse.

Particularly with such a widespread scenario, local officials would not be able to rely on state and national resources immediately, leaving them to ensure that residents and their animals are cared for, Mr. Chrysler said.

“You need to be self-sufficient for three or four days,” he said. “Heat is going to be the biggest issue.”

With the American Red Cross focusing on shelters for people, local officials need to establish locations where pets can be housed during an emergency, Mr. Chrysler said.

In the event of a barn collapse, officials would need to not only secure transportation and temporary shelter for the cows but establish how to feed and milk them, participants noted.

Mr. Chrysler encouraged CART officials in both counties to establish a contact list to cover all conceivable needs during an emergency situation and make that available to several people, just in case the primary list-keeper is not available for some reason. “Get that stuff memorialized,” he said.

Providing pet owners with information on preparing for emergencies also would be helpful, Mr. Chrysler said.

While membership in either county’s CART program requires some basic emergency training, he suggested that anyone interested in the effort become a member to provide an extra layer of liability protection.

Todd L. Cummings, Jefferson County’s dog control office supervisor, leads his county’s CART program, while the Lewis County director is Deanna L. Fuller, a veterinarian at Countryside Veterinary Clinic, Lowville.

The two programs operate in conjunction with their counties’ emergency services departments.

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