A newly formed animal coalition is now taking their efforts to protect and help animals a step further, by forming a disaster relief team.
The team would respond to animals needs in the event of a natural or man made disaster.
Organizers say that many times in a disaster situation, animals become displaced and may never be reunited with their families.
That is why the Southwest Iowa Animal Coalition has started training to become a Disaster Animal Relief Team or DART.
On Saturday February 8, 2014 volunteers from Montgomery County Animal Shelter of Red Oak, Western Iowa Feral Cat Program (Wifcap) of Walnut, Our Savior Lutheran Church Pet Pantry of Council Bluffs and Lusco Farms Rescue of Malvern were the first in their coalition to take initial training towards joining the Pottawattamie County DART Team.
The other coalition members; Harrison County Animal Shelter (Logan) and People for Paws (Shenandoah) are also scheduled for training to become part of DART. Pottawattamie County Animal Shelter volunteers have already completed the necessary training to become DART volunteers.
The local DART teams would take the place of national relief teams that would be dispatched who may not know the area as well. “We need to take care of our neighbors. It’s not that we won’t accept help but if we can help ourselves we should”, explains Scott Shehan of Lusco Farms.
"Our dynamics of rural and metropolitan areas also bring a unique situation to our area. These groups will not only need to assist in rescuing domestic animals but also livestock and acreage pets."
According to Shehan, every volunteer must take over 40 hours of class room training and then local Emergency Management groups will challenge the volunteer’s knowledge of the material during table top exercises and mock drills later this year.
“If we want to do this, we MUST be willing to follow the direction and orders given by whoever is in command, whether we agree or not. Remember we are part of a TEAM and the actions of any one person will affect the credibility of the SWIAC,” Kathy Humann of Wifcap said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Southwest Iowa Animal Coalition can do so by contacting any of the groups involved. To learn more about the Pottawattamie County DART Team please visit the Pottawattamie County website.