Cleveland, Tenn., explores disaster aid for pets

Cleveland, Tenn., explores disaster aid for pets

August 10th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Rebel lies in his cage at Puppy Love Kennel. Rebel's home was destroyed by a tornado, and the kennel is offering to house displaced animals. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- When disasters such as the April 27 tornadoes strike, animals need shelter -- and even rescue, too.

Taking care of farm livestock and family pets was a topic recently for the Cleveland Animal Shelter board and on Monday for the Cleveland City Council.

"We participate in and support a [Disaster Animal Response Team] through our Homeland Security District," Bradley County Emergency Management Agency spokesman Matthew Casson said Tuesday when contacted about the service.

There are two response team trailers in the district, one at the Tri-State Exhibition Center.

On board the trailers is equipment to corral large animals and store and shelter small ones plus supplies to care for them all.

Casson said Hamilton County received many pet evacuees from Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Bradley County helped set up a shelter to care for the animals, he said.

Both the Emergency Management Agency and the Cleveland Animal Shelter reported only small numbers of pet refugees from the April 27 storms. Most family pets were kept at local, private shelters if their human families were displaced.

"We did have DART volunteers come out and help corral large animals from some of our farming operations because of fences blown down," Casson said.

Nancy Pearl, a local resident, told the animal shelter board last week that local government should consider a vehicle that would house more than 50 animals in an emergency evacuation. Grants are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said. Federal funds could cover 75 percent of the estimated $17,500 cost.

"My small kennel was overwhelmed both inside and out," she told the shelter board. "I know many of the area vet practices also took in animals."

Mayor Tom Rowland suggested taking the proposal to the County Emergency Management Agency for application to FEMA.