Stephanie Cambrey of Langford with her three dogs

Greater Victoria pet group aims to keep all members of families together

Volunteers help reunite disaster victims with their pets

When disaster strikes, what happens to the four-legged members of the family?

To help answer that questions, the South Island Pets Team initially formed in May 2012 to educate the public about emergency preparedness for pets. Emergency Social Services members, one each from the 13 core municipalities in Greater Victoria, got together as a group and put out an informational brochure full of checklists and contact numbers for pet owners. The project complete, they quickly realized they wanted to do more, officially formed the South Island Pets Team, and began working with Emergency Social Services.

As it stands, if people need to be evacuated from their homes, ESS will set up reception areas in public spaces like recreation centres or schools. But there’s a catch that many families might not be aware of.

“Currently laws don’t allow your animals to be housed with you in the reception centre,” said Stephanie Cambrey, one of the members of the South Island Pets Team. “You cannot have a pet in the reception centre with you. Our goal is to be able to set up as close as we possibly can, whether we’re in the room next door or tents outside, to allow the owner to walk out the door and see their pet.”

Acting essentially as an animal emergency service, the team works under the mandate of the ESS. If there’s a natural disaster or an emergency evacuation, ESS is called in to provide care and shelter for the people, and if they happen to have pets, ESS calls in the Pets Team.

“We’re not a rescue,” said Cambrey, emphasizing that they work just like ESS. “We’ll take the animals for 72 hours.”

Unlike ESS however, the government has no funding allocated for emergency pet services, and so the South Island Pets Team relies entirely on donations and fundraising.

“A lot of our equipment has been donated by the great public of Victoria,” said Cambrey, and their next goal is to fundraise for a mobile unit.

“We want to have a utility trailer that all our equipment can be stored in. Our equipment is in a warehouse now, and a little difficult to get to in the middle of the night.”

A mobile utility trailer would give the South Island Pets Team their own, fully stocked “grab and go” kit for whatever situation that arose, especially helpful when they could be going in completely blind. To that end, the South Island Pets Team is holding a silent auction on September 20th, in the hopes of raising $5000.

Several prominent businesses have already donated gift cards and prizes and the donations are still coming in.

“We’ve had some great local artists donate pieces of their work,” said Cambrey. “I’m thrilled at what we’ve received so far.”

Cambrey has already seen the difference the South Island Pets Team has made.

“I’ve met some fantastic people that tell me they’ve got cats or dogs and they live in an earthquake zone, and before us they’d never even thought about it before. It’s heart warming to know that we are making a difference.”

For more information, visit southislandpetsteam.ca.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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