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June 3, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich encourages pet, livestock owners to prepare for emergencies during National Preparedness Month for Animals
Pet emergency supply kit, evacuation plan essential for animal owners

SPRINGFIELD – In recognition of June as National Preparedness Month for Animals, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today encouraged pet and livestock owners to take steps to ensure the well-being of their animals during a disaster.  Just as a personal disaster supply kit and family emergency plan can help save human lives during an emergency, having a animal emergency supply kit and a plan for evacuating pets can keep beloved pets safe when disaster strikes.  

“For many of us, pets are an important part of the family, so we need to prepare for their health and safety during disasters just like we do for the rest of our families,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “At the state level, we’re working to ensure that plans are in place to manage pets that are evacuated during emergencies, but it’s also critical that animal owners take steps to ensure they are prepared to keep them safe when disasters occur.”

To increase awareness of National Preparedness Month for Animals, two radio spots on emergency preparedness for pets will be aired during June throughout Illinois as part of a statewide preparedness campaign sponsored by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) in partnership with the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA).  The 30- and 60-second spots, developed by Regional Institute for Community Policing (RICP), encourage pet owners to create a three-day pet disaster supply kit with such items as pet food, water, extra ID tags and collars, a first aid kit, the pet’s medical records, a photo of the pet and proof of ownership.

Detailed information about emergency preparedness for animals is available in a brochure entitled, Emergency Preparedness Planning for Pets and Livestock.  The brochure provides tips for animal owners on how to assemble a pet emergency supply kit, how to plan for emergencies, special considerations for horse and livestock owners before, during and after disasters, and how to get additional information about preparedness planning.  The brochure was developed by RICP in conjunction with the ITTF, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA), the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and the Illinois Veterinary Emergency Response Team.

“Animal problems are people problems,” said Dr. Patricia Rushing, RICP director.  “If disaster planning does not take into account the unique bond between people and animals they consider family, then planning falls tragically short.”

The RICP, through the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, received funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assist communities nationwide with developing response plans for all animals in their community in all possible disasters through the Animal Rescue and Restore initiative.  This national initiative was spurred by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when many pet owners lost their lives after they chose not to evacuate because they were told they couldn’t take their pets with them.  Thousands more animals were left homeless or died following the devastating storm.

An annex to local and state Emergency Operations Plans was also developed by RICP in cooperation with the ITTF to help emergency officials manage animal evacuation and emergency sheltering issues during disasters.  The planning template has already been provided to several communities in Illinois as well as state and local officials throughout the U.S.  Local officials interested in obtaining a copy of the animal annex should contact RICP at 877-864-7427.

“While not every emergency requires evacuation, it’s imperative that we are prepared to manage both people and their pets if the need arises,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).  “In fact, we faced this issue in 2003 following a train derailment and resulting chemical spill near Tamaroa, when more than 100 animals were evacuated along with nearly 1,000 people.  The state quickly arranged for the pets to be sheltered at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, and ensured their well-being until they could be reunited with their owners and return home safely.”

On June 4, IDOA will conduct a meeting at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds with local county animal control officials and county emergency managers to discuss pet evacuation and sheltering issues during large-scale emergencies.  A representative from Noah’s Wish, an animal welfare organization, will also participate in that meeting.

The IDOA coordinates many of the state’s animal emergency preparedness initiatives, including the Illinois Veterinary Emergency Response Team (IVERT), a coalition of more than 200 private veterinarians who have volunteered and received training so they can respond to an animal emergency, whether it be disease related or a natural disaster.  Training and recruitment for this team is ongoing and veterinarians interested in volunteering can contact 217-785-4740.

More information about animal preparedness, including the Emergency Preparedness Planning for Pets and Livestock brochure, is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov


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