Mobile pet shelter helps Boone County meet federal regulations

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BOONE COUNTY - Mid-Missouri now has a new mobile, pet trailer to help care for pets after disasters. 

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) donated the American Kennel Club Pet Disaster Relief trailer to Boone County. The trailer is mobile and during disasters, it can be used to set up "co-location" sites. Co-location shelters, ideally, house people along with their pets. 

The trailer can house about 65 animals. 

There are non-perishable items inside the trailer as well, which include: 

  • Administrative supplies
  • Maintenance Equipment
  • Crates
  • Cat litter
  • Microchips and scanners
  • Bowls, collars and leashes 
  • Cleaning Supplies for the pets
  • Generator, fans, hoses and lighting

Food and medicine are not stored in the trailer. 

Eddie Dziuk, executive director for OFA, said getting food to shelters would be dealt with at the actual time of an emergency.

He said in cases where pets need medical attention, Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) would get called in along with the Missouri Voluntary Veterinary Corps.

The trailer is the first of its kind in Missouri, and only nine exist in the U.S. Other states that currently have the trailer include Oklahoma, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.

It also helps Boone County further comply with federal regulations. The federal government passed the PETS Act in 2006 in response to Hurricane Katrina, which caused widespread devastation to states along the central Gulf Coast. The act ensures state and local emergency preparedness operational plans target the needs of people with pets following a major disaster or emergency. It also authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to supply rescue, care and shelter for pets and their owners.

Dziuk said a lot of thought goes into emergency planning, and he used statistics from Katrina to explain why the trailer is needed. 

"What we've learned is that many individuals, in those split seconds when they have to make a decision with an evacuation notice, they need to decide what things are they going to take with them," Dzuick said. "

A survey Fritz Institute conducted on Katrina said 32 percent of the people surveyed stayed at their home by choice. Of those people, 44 percent said they stayed because of their pets.

Back in 2011, an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, Missouri killing more than 150 people.

The tornado displaced about 1,300 pets that animal control staff picked up and took to emergency pet shelters. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Joplin Humane Society operated emergency pet shelters, which returned about 530 pets to their owners.

Dziuk said humane societies face a dilemma of not having enough space when it comes to sheltering animals during disasters. 

"If an event of significance happens and there are hundreds of pets that are displaced a humane society, any kind of local shelter simply is not going to have the abilities and the supplies to take this large influx of new animals in," Dziuk said. 

Clolin LaVaute, Central Missouri Humane Society's shelter relation coordinator, said he thinks the trailer is a good tool to have. 

"You never know what's going to happen," LaVaute said. "You take a look at what happened with Joplin, the tornado a few years back, and if something like that were to happen in Columbia, having a trailer like this in those situations can be extremely helpful."

The trailer is currently at the Boone County Fire District Headquarters. Its permanent home will be at the new 911 Joint Communications Center, the Office of Emergency Management and the Emergency Operations Center.

The total cost for the trailer and to stock it was about $20,000.