Animal rescue training

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - What do you do with your pets when severe weather hits?  It's a dilemma many central Virginians have faced given the recent rash of storms.

We learned today not having a place to take pets is the number one reason many people don't evacuate during disasters.

Chesterfield county now has the first team in central Virginia specifically trained to help with this issue. It can deploy anywhere in our area.

What if, like many, the shelter you've picked to stay safe as mother nature rages won't let you take your pets? The dilemma only adds to an already stressful situation.

"If they are separated from their pets or if they can't get some place of safety with their pets it's just adding to the confusion," says Amy McCracken from the Richmond Animal League.

She's part of a new solution: the Chesterfield County animal response team, which completed its training with national animal welfare group "Noah's Wish" this weekend. Thirty volunteers learned how to turn almost any facility into an animal shelter during a disaster. So when the storm passes, victims can be with their pets and have a small return to normalcy.

"Sometimes these animals are the only things that they have left after that disaster."

The team also trained in triage for the times when a storm strikes without warning and injures many animals.

The team has 15 to 20 seconds to classify each of the animals. The system goes from green, which is walking wounded to red for the animals that need immediate assistance and black for the ones that have died.

Sunday they had the unusual experience of training with alpacas and parrots. Amazingly, "Noah's Wish" volunteers encountered both in recent disaster response, teaching them a lesson.

"People get all kinds of different pets, so big or small, we should be able to care for them all."

After problems with sheltering pets during Hurricane Katrina, congress mandated every community have some sort of disaster plan in place for domestic animals.

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