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Allergies and travel schedules have made it difficult for our family to have a pet, but that may be for the best. A few years ago, my youngest son brought home the classroom goldfish for the ten day Christmas Break. Merlin (we quickly renamed our guest) arrived looking a bit dull and tired in a plastic bag filled with water.

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Horrified, we ran out to the pet store and purchased several items the owner assured us were essential for goldfish health and happiness. By the end of Merlin’s ten day visit to our home, he was living in a fish tank with a filter, a plant, sparkly turquoise bottom filler and a replica of the Taj Mahal with its own stereo system. I tell this story to illustrate how I completely understand pet inspired devotion. That’s why it’s disturbing to imagine that a pet can be at serious risk during a disaster or harmed by ordinary household items.

emergency-pet-app-infoThe Red Cross has created an essential app to help families manage risk and harm to their pets. First, there are many household dangers to pets. We all know it’s bad when our dog eats our baby brother’s shoe, but what about the house plant in the corner. The app helps homeowners identify and manage these risks for dogs and cats. It also lets pet owners know what to do if their pets lick or eat something that’s toxic.

Pet owners whose families have suffered a disaster can use the app to find a place to go after a fire or flood by locating nearby pet friendly hotels. Often, concern about what to do with their pets prevents people from evacuating. This app helps alleviate those concerns. Jen Leary, founder of the local pet disaster rescue organization Red Paw Emergency Relief, downloaded the app and says the pet friendly hotel and vet locator portion of the Red Cross app is a “game changer” for her volunteers in the field. She had already used it within minutes of downloading to assist more than one family affected by disaster.lean-know-whats-normal-dog

But if you have a pet, you definitely need to consider downloading it. The 99 cents seems like a small price to pay for an app that has so many great, potentially lifesaving features. Plus the 99 cents goes to support all Red Cross services, including disaster relief. To do that, click here or search Red Cross on iTunes or Google Play. And help ensure you’re prepared to care for you pets like any other member of your family.

I’m not sure what the app could have done for Merlin, but it seems obvious that if you are the proud family member of a dog or cat, this is information you need to have. It may save the life of a dear friend.

Peticon

Today (January 16, 2014)  is a very exciting day for the American Red Cross. It launched its Pet First Aid App for iPhone and Android. It is particularly exciting for the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania because the content and information in the app was provided by Dr. Debbie Mandell, an emergency room veterinarian at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania here in Philadelphia. Dr. Mandell also serves as a pet advisor to the American Red Cross.

In order to launch the app, the Red Cross held what’s called a Satellite Media Tour at a studio in Philadelphia, featuring Dr. Mandell, a Red Cross national spokesperson, two pet first-aid CPR manikins, and Mana, the best behaved dog ever known to attend a media event. Basically, TV and radio stations across the country did interviews with them, one after the other.

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I got to work on this project because of my position with the Red Cross here in Philadelphia. We did site surveys at Penn Vet’s ER, but we couldn’t logistically work out a way to showcase pet emergency care; the unpredictability of a pet emergency room could make for great TV or awful TV. We couldn’t take the chance on the latter.

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Dr. Debbie Mandell (L) of Penn Vet and Laura Howe of the American Red Cross, and Mana the dog, during media interviews about Red Cross Pet First-Aid app.

So for about six hours this morning, Dr. Mandell, the spokesperson, and Mana sat in a studio saying the same things over and over about the Pet First-Aid app. They explained for what seemed like a thousand times, the app’s many features, did pet CRP demonstrations, and showed what items should be in every family’s pet first-aid kit.

One thing in particular stands out to me from the series of interviews this morning. Dr. Mandell really did a geat job emphasizing the dangers in your home that you may not be aware of. She mentioned certain plants and flowers are toxic to cats and dogs. I had no idea. The Red Cross Pet First-Aid app identifies those plants for you and what to do if your pet eats or licks any of those plants.

My two dogs died a few years ago, so I don’t have any pets, but I can still use the app. It is useful for me to help potential Red Cross clients with pets, who need a place to go after a fire or flood, find nearby pet friendly hotels. Often, concern about what to do with their pets prevents people from evacuating. This app helps alleviate those concerns. Jen Leary, who runs the local pet disaster rescue organization Red Paw, downloaded the app and says the pet friendly hotel and vet locator portion of the Red Cross app is a “game changer” for her volunteers in the field.

But if you have a pet, you definitely need to consider downloading it. The 99 cents seems like a small price to pay for an app that has so many great, potentially lifesaving features. Plus the 99 cents goes to support all Red Cross services, including disaster relief. To do that go to redcross.org/mobileapps or search Red Cross on iTunes or Google Play. And help ensure you’re prepared to care for you pets like any other member of your family.

Cat CPRlean-know-what's-normal-dog

We know the Red Cross SEPA Chapter helps people in disasters, emergencies, and crises and in severe thunderstorms, fires and property catastrophes throughout all seasons from the cold winter months to the hot summer days. Many times whole families are tragically displaced from their homes during a disaster and the Red Cross commonly seeks to find them shelter and assist them with a short term and long term plan for recovery. But what happens if the disaster victims have pets? What is their fate? Are they unfortunately left behind? Do recovery services extend to the pets of survivors? That’s what the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team has been working on for a year now. With the help of a dedicated Red Cross volunteer, Jen Leary (pictured), who championed the idea of supporting the pets of disaster victims, the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team was designed.

The Red Paw Emergency Relief Team works in conjunction with the American Red Cross SEPA Chapter and partners with them at an emergency disaster scene.  As soon as a Red Cross responder finds that there is an animal companion of a survivor at the scene of a disaster, Red Paw Emergency Team responders are alerted and spring into action to meet the needs of the beloved animal and to transport them to the appropriate facility. The Red Paw Team is an emergency response and animal welfare nonprofit that supports the Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties. Displaced pets are cared for and kept up to 30 days, until family members are able to take them back. Family members are not charged for this care, instead all basic pet care due to a disaster is free of charge. Red Paw is able to make this happen through the generous support of donations. To find out more about Red Paw, Click here.

Jabril Redmond, guest, volunteer blogger