The Department of Homeland Security requires county emergency management plans to demonstrate animal management capabilities in disasters. Specific capabilities include emergency animal sheltering, and animal identification and tracking mechanisms to minimize the time and economic resources expended in the animal-owner reunification process in disasters.
To fulfill ongoing Homeland Security grant planning and training requirements outlined in a competitive animal sheltering equipment grant awarded to Niagara County in 2011, the departments of health and emergency management will conduct a regional emergency animal sheltering exercise at the Cornell Cooperative Extension complex on Sept. 11.
The operational period will occur from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Merchants Building. During this exercise, the county will test the regional mutual aid agreement, shelter set-up, and identification and tracking capabilities with county animal response volunteers.
The Niagara County Department of Health is asking for public participation, and will offer free dog and cat microchipping to exercise attendees. The department acquired the microchips through the Department of Homeland security to build animal identification and tracking capabilities in disasters.
The microchip insertion includes a free lifetime enrollment in the National Animal Recovery Database. The American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery unit provided a free microchip scanner for checking pets before and after microchip insertion. Animal emergency volunteers will perform pre-insertion scanning. Dr. Kristen Ruest of The Village Vet of Lewiston, along with her staff, has volunteered to insert microchips. Ruest volunteers for a number of animal initiatives in Niagara County, including spaying and neutering programs for low-income pet owners.
Any pet owner who wishes to participate in the exercise and receive a free pet microchip must pre-register for a timeslot appointment (noon until 3 p.m.) by calling 716-439-7439 or 7431.
Upon arrival at the exercise event, all cats and dogs must be restrained with leashes or confined in animal carriers. Pets should be up to date with rabies vaccinations prior to attending this event. Community members interested in volunteering for participation on the Niagara County animal response team should contact the Niagara County Department of Health division of planning, preparedness and public information at 716-439-7439.
The Niagara County departments of health and emergency management, along with Niagara County residents, can work together to make communities more resilient by building animal emergency response capabilities before a disaster strikes.