CENTREVILLE — In the case of a natural or civil disaster in Queen Anne’s County, animal owners and lovers can breathe a little easier now that the county has an American Kennel Club pet disaster relief trailer to help pets in the event of an evacuation. The trailer was presented during the county fair at the 4-H Park in Centreville on Monday, Aug. 10.
Queen Anne’s County and the Talbot Kennel Club, as well as the American Shetland Sheepdog Association Foundation, the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America and the Pharaoh Hound Club of America, pooled funds to purchase the AKC Pet Disaster Relief trailer for the county to use in the case of an emergency. The trailer, which will be housed on Safety Drive, contains crates for 65 animals, a full-sized generator, lights, power washers, fans, food bowls, micro-chippers and more.
“The trailer is going to provide a lot of our county residents with the ability ... to set up a safe and secure shelter for our county animals that are displaced during a disaster,” said Queen Anne’s County Animal Control Manager Dawn James.
To check an animal into the trailer, it will have to go through a comprehensive lifetime registration process. To register, owners must provide a photograph of the animal as well as proof of vaccinations, and the pet needs to be micro-chipped.
James said Animal Control has new tags that go on an animal’s collar that can be scanned with a cellphone. Once scanned, the pet’s owner will receive a text message stating the animal has been found and is with Animal Control. Registration can be completed in person, online or by mail.
“Inevitably, some people will be separated with their pets, and when those pets are recovered someplace, found wandering the streets or swimming the streams, the registration will then ... make it a lot easier to match them up with the owners, reassure the owners that their pet is safe someplace and been take care of, and take a huge psychological burden off of them,” said Bob Mueller, president of Animal Welfare League.
Commissioner Steve Wilson said one thing that causes people to hesitate during evacuation situations is their animals and not wanting to leave them if they are unable to take them.
“There’s a lot of people that would not leave, myself included, if you had to leave your pets behind,” said Joyce Quinn, a Queen Anne’s County dog trainer and Talbot Kennel Club member. “All of us are not just pet owners, our lives revolve around animals.”
Mary Lou Olszewski, an AKC Reunite Task Force member, said Cecil, Hartford and Calvert counties have disaster relief trailers now and are in the process of trying to get them in Baltimore, Caroline, Talbot and Kent counties.
Olszewski said Cecil County, which was the first to get one in the state of Maryland, used the trailer when the power went out at a senior center that was evacuated. She said the pet relief trailer was started after Hurricane Katrina when legislation was made about caring for pets and providing services.
“I doubly endorse the idea that I hope this thing stays rusted and unused because the last thing I want is some kind of a disaster that requires us to use it,” Wilson said.
In the event of an emergency, the trailer would most likely be deployed at Centreville Middle School because that is also a human evacuation site, officials said. Materials from the trailer can be used at co-location shelters where people evacuate with their pets, or at stand-alone emergency animal shelters for displaced animals.
The purchase of the trailer was made through more than $22,000 in donations and grants. Wendy Jordan, secretary of the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America, said their club did a matching donation program to help raise some of the funds.
“Through training and coordination with emergency services, we are going to be able to provide a plan to successfully deploy the trailer when the need arises,” Olszewski said. “Hopefully we won’t get to that point; we’ll just be prepared to do it.”