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Pet Protection

posted January 29th, 2015 by
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Pet Protection

Pet Protection

 

G.I. Wishes, a local nonprofit, coordinates disaster response plan for area animals.

 

by Megan Miers

 

In the aftermath of natural disasters, such as the devastating tornadoes that hit Moore and El Reno in May 2013, human beings weren’t the only ones who found themselves without a home. Often in situations such as these, pets can become lost or separated from their families, or are left to fend for themselves during a storm because owners are unable to evacuate them safely or bring them to a community shelter.

 

One Tulsa organization is working to change that. G.I.Wishes, a nonprofit group that matches military veterans with adoptable pets, is in the process of building a disaster response plan and team that will assist in evacuating, seeking veterinary treatment and finding temporary housing for pets in the event of a storm or other disaster.

“In Tulsa, we don’t have any provisions for animal rescue in the event of a disaster,” says J.R. Becker, operations director for GI Wishes. Because of public health concerns, other disaster-relief organizations have shied away from animal rescue services, but the G.I. Wishes plan aims to fill that void.

G.I. Wishes’ in-development disaster response plan, which has the backing of federal, state and local agencies, as well as the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and several Tulsa-area rescue groups and veterinary clinics, is expected to be fully operational by January 2015.

They will operate in conjunction with the Tulsa Health Department and under the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps, a group of specially trained volunteers and health professionals. First responders with the G.I. Wishes disaster team do not self-deploy, Becker says. Instead, they wait to be notified after a disaster declaration is made by the mayor or governor’s office to ensure a coordinated and efficient response.

The disaster response team will serve animals primarily in Tulsa County but may extend into other nearby areas such as Rogers County should the need arise, Becker says. Dogs and cats will be the main focus of G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan—the organization does not currently have the capacity to aid larger animals such as horses. The network of first responders should be able to handle between 300 and 500 animals in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

The disaster response plan is just part of G.I. Wishes’ larger mission, which is to find loving homes for adoptable pets by matching them with military veterans. Since its inception in 2011, G.I. Wishes has adopted out about 30 pets, Becker says.

Public events, social media, information provided by area Veterans’ Affairs centers and veterans’ counselors have all helped spread the word about G.I. Wishes and its mission, according to Becker. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, he says.

Veterans seeking a companion animal through G.I. Wishes start by calling the organization and discussing what type of dog or cat they are looking for. Becker and other volunteers will then search area rescue groups for available pets that fit those descriptions.

Prospective owners then fill out an application and are asked to provide two personal references, as well as information for their family veterinarian. Factors such as the age and energy level of both the pet and the prospective owner are taken into consideration in order to ensure a good match.

If the veteran already has another pet at home, then G.I. Wishes will have him or her bring the pet to meet the new one at a neutral location to determine how well the animals get along with each other.

G.I. Wishes also has a separate application for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. In those instances, G.I. Wishes will contact the veteran’s therapist and physician to help determine whether or not he or she is ready to take on the responsibility of a pet.

Becker, a Vietnam veteran, longtime animal rescue volunteer and proud owner of three Shelties and two cats, says pets adopted out through G.I. Wishes have brought about many positive changes in their new owners, especially those who are dealing with depression or conditions such as PTSD.

“The change in these veterans is a complete 180—they’ve gotten out of their depression, and it’s like a self-reward,” he says. “Veterans from my generation were told to suck it up and deal with it, but we’ll never allow that to happen to the younger guys.”

He says pets often are the first to notice when their owners are upset or worried and can help calm them just by being there.

“Animals are soothing, and they can pick up on stress—they will nudge you or put a paw on you to let you know everything’s OK,” he says.

Once a pet has been adopted through G.I. Wishes, the organization will help with coverage of that pet’s basic veterinary care for the first year. G.I. Wishes also helps find foster homes for pets of veterans who are deployed or hospitalized and regularly updates owners until they are able to return home to their four-legged friends.

In cases in which a veteran passes away or is no longer able to care for the pet due to other circumstances, G.I. Wishes will take the pet back and foster it until a new family is found.

“We will keep that pet with us until it’s adopted out,” Becker says. “We are a no-kill organization.”

Disaster Safety Tips for Pets

Planning ahead will help you keep your pet safe in the event of a disaster. To ensure your pet’s safety, follow these tips from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States:

Make sure your pet is equipped with proper identification tags. Ask your pet’s vet about implanting a microchip for identification purposes.

Have a leash, collar and pet carrier ready for each pet. Familiarize your pet with evacuation procedures and pet carriers. Carriers should have room enough for two small bowls, a litter pan (cats) and for the pet to stand and turn around.

Label each carrier with your identification and contact information.

Assemble an animal evacuation kit containing essentials such as several days’ worth of dry and canned food; bottled water; medications; first aid supplies; proof of ownership; emergency contact numbers; and copies of your pet’s veterinary records.

In case you are away when a disaster occurs, place stickers on entrances to your home or property to notify neighbors and rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find evacuation supplies.

To facilitate evacuation of your pets, provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type and location of your animals, including their favorite hiding spots.

Have leashes and muzzles where rescue personnel can easily access them. Keep in mind pets can become unpredictable when frightened.

Designate a willing neighbor or nearby friend to tend to your animals in the event a disaster occurs when you are not home. This person should have a key to your home and be familiar with your pets, as well as know where evacuation supplies are kept.

How You Can Help

For more information on G.I. Wishes’ disaster response plan, how to adopt an animal through G.I. Wishes or how to donate or volunteer, visit www.GIWishes.org, call (918) 477-7606 or send an e-mail to [email protected] More information also can be found on G.I. Wishes’ Facebook page.

Paws and Claws Disaster Response Team

posted January 25th, 2014 by
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Out of the Central Oklahoma tornadoes came help for animals in future natural disasters

by Julie Alexander

Photography courtesy of Rausch Photography

In May of 2013, two Central Oklahoma towns were devastated when an outbreak of tornadoes struck the state. On May 19, an EF4 tornado hit Shawnee, and the following day, an EF5 tornado, estimated to be two miles wide, struck Moore.

Large swaths of both towns were obliterated, and more than 50 people were killed. Thousands of volunteers from the Red Cross, local churches and other agencies rushed to help the victims. Veteran animal rescuers Joe Beene and Carol Ames gathered together some supplies and a handful of volunteers and headed to Shawnee. Their goal was to help the four-legged victims of the storms.

“We saw a post on Facebook that they were seeking volunteers to go look for animals. So we and a couple of friends gathered a truck together and supplies and headed out there, and we ended up in the middle of nowhere,” Ames said. “We went to the Red Cross. They didn’t know about any coordinated effort, and we were basically sent from place to place. There was no coordination whatsoever. We were so heartbroken.”

The devastation was overwhelming. Finding an address where someone’s pet was missing was almost impossible, and they quickly discovered there was no coordinated effort to rescue animals. They did join a group of local residents and other people who were there to help, but after a brief search, the group realized searching was futile.

Despite traveling to both Shawnee and Moore that day, they were unable to rescue any animals. They returned to Kiefer disappointed they couldn’t help, but on the drive home the group had an idea. After several months of researching and educating themselves on disaster response, Beene and Ames started Paws and Claws Disaster Response Team.

Officially founded on October 2, 2013, the group’s mission is to “mitigate the loss of animal lives and facilitate the reunion of rescued animals with their families” according to their website, pawsandclawsdisasterresponse.org.

Relief efforts for human victims are well-coordinated and well-funded, but animal rescue groups who respond to disasters such as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires do not coordinate with each other, Ames said. Owners of missing pets are usually left to find them on their own.

They both vividly recall the video of the elderly Moore woman looking for her dog in the shattered remains of her home the day after the tornado. During an interview with a local television station, the dog appeared from under the rubble much to the joy of its owner. It’s heartwarming moments like these that Paws and Claws hope to facilitate.

Ames, who serves as president, is a volunteer for the Tulsa SPCA and has rescued and fostered animals for many years. Beene, who is the director of field operations, is using his background in business to coordinate fundraising efforts and complete the necessary paperwork to establish Paws and Claws as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

Their goal is to have the resources and equipment to respond to disasters quickly and effectively. “We would like to raise enough funds and donations of all sorts to be able to be very prepared,” Ames said. “To be able to have the equipment needed to be able to do a really good job when we get out on the scene and to be really thorough and save lives—that’s what it’s all about.”

In addition to money and supplies, Ames said volunteers are the key to their success. All volunteers will undergo special disaster training that is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The group is also working to establish relationships with groups such as the Red Cross, so when they are on the scene of a disaster, their efforts are coordinated and people looking for their pets have a resource to turn to for help. Local response organizations and government officials have been enthusiastic about the group’s plans, but there is still a lot Paws and Claws must do to be ready for the next emergency, Ames said.

“Initially, we will be getting a fifth wheel trailer that will be equipped with a triage basically. Something comparable to what you might find at a vet’s office,” Ames said. “Ultimately we would like a larger vehicle so that we can accommodate more animals in that emergency triage.”

Special equipment for volunteers will also be needed. Boots, gloves, even hard hats may be required when searching through rubble. When the group is fully funded, and they have all the necessary equipment, they will be on the site of disasters to search for lost pets. Found animals will be brought to the triage area to be assessed and treated if injured.

Ames said since pet owners may not have a home to return to, the group will provide temporary shelter for displaced pets. Lost animals will be scanned for microchips and returned to their owners as soon as possible. An online database of found animals will be created and animals will be held until the owners can be found.

“We want to have one central place and work with local media outlets and emergency responders to have an organized effort,” she said. Though Oklahoma has its fair share of disasters like tornadoes and flooding, Ames and Beene hope to make Paws and Claws a nationwide organization with equipment and volunteers across the country ready to help, much like the Red Cross. They also plan to respond to man-made disasters and even terrorism, according to Ames.

Though the group is only three months old, they have been busy drumming up support for their efforts locally. They held a fundraiser in November at the Riverwalk Crossing in Jenks to raise both money and awareness for their group. The event featured live music and art vendors, and several area rescue groups brought dogs available for adoption. They held a silent auction on their website just before Christmas, offering items such as gift certificates for doggy daycare, dog training, pet toys, Tulsa Oilers hockey packages and more.

As the organization grows, they will also reach out to area rescue groups to help with their efforts. Their goal is to return animals to their owners, but often in a disaster, an animal’s owner may never reclaim the pet. Since the organization does not have the capacity to keep animals long-term, area shelters and rescue groups will play a role in the effort too, Beene said.

“We plan to hold them for 24-72 hours, trying to find their owners,” he said. “Of course, some of them may be deceased. But then we will have to turn them over to the local shelter. We plan to work really close with the local rescue groups and shelters.”

Since the May tornadoes, they have not responded in an official capacity to disasters. Right now they are focusing on monetary donations to purchase a large truck or trailer for their triage. The group will eventually need crates for holding animals, leashes, dog beds, towels, blankets, food and other items.

Paws and Claws is also recruiting volunteers who are willing to be properly trained and can respond when disaster strikes. Currently, there are about 20 volunteers who meet and train regularly in Kiefer.

However, there was some good news for the group after the tornadoes. The day after their disappointing trip to rescue animals in Moore and Shawnee, another group of their friends drove to the area to help. They found and rescued three Labrador puppies in Shawnee. Ames hopes these three are the first of many four-legged victims they will help.

For more information about Paws and Claws, visit the website: www.pawsandclawsdisasterresponse.org . The group is also active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. People interested in volunteering or donating can do so through their website, or donations can be sent to P.O. Box 968, Glenpool, OK 74033. Donations are tax deductible.

Want to help? Here’s how.

posted May 22nd, 2013 by
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If you’re on any form of social media, then you have recently been bombarded with a variety of ways to help the survivors, furry ones included, of the recent tornado in Moore.

And if you are as scatterbrained as me, then you still are not really sure where to start or how to go back and find who posted what.

So, to the best of my ability, I am combining all of the ways to help the furry family members of Moore. If I have missed anyone, please feel free to leave the info in the comment sections below.

And a huge thank you to all of the Tulsa-area organizations who have stepped up to help!

Drop off locations in the Tulsa area:

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, along with the Tulsa SPCA, is in contact with Central Oklahoma Humane Society and other organizations taking in animals rescued from Moore and central Oklahoma. OAA will be collecting food and supplies at the following times and locations:

OAA office
1822 E. 15th Street, Suite B.
(918) 742-3700
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, May 22-24

Tulsa SPCA
2910 Mohawk Blvd
10 a.m. and 6 p.m., open on Saturdays

Pooches
5331 E. 41st
7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Dog Dish
6502 E. 51st St
(918) 742-9274
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

GuRuStu
628 E. 3rd St.
(918) 582-1881
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Posh Pup Pet Boutique
8263 S. Harvard
(918) 935-3990
8 a.m. to 3 p.m

Hammond Animal Hospital
2301 E. 71st St.
(918) 494-0151
7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Southern Agriculture
All 8 locations are accepting donations during normal business hours. 

26th & Harvard, Hours:  9-8 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun
71st & Sheridan, Hours:  8-8 Mon-Sat, 10-6 Sun
32nd & Mingo, Hours:  9-6 Mon-Sat, Closed Sun
78th & Hwy 75 South (Tulsa Hills), Hours:  9-7 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun
91st & Delaware, Hours:  9-6 Mon-Sat, Closed Sun
92nd St N & Hwy 169 (Owasso), Hours:  9-7 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun
90th & Elm (Broken Arrow), Hours:  9-7 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun
71st & Lynn Lane (Broken Arrow), Hours:  9-7 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun

Requested items include dog and cat food (dry and canned), cat litter, plastic or metal bowls, duct tape to label kennels, tab band collars, bleach, pet beds, blankets, towels, paper towels, hand sanitizer, people snacks for the caretakers (granola bars, non-perishable snack items).

Sloppy Dog Wash has partnered with Epic’s Pit Bull Rescue and is taking donation for the pets of Moore.

Donations will be accepted until Friday, May 24. Saturday, Epic’s Pit Bull Rescue will be taking the donations to Moore.

Requested items include bowls, cat food, dog food, bottled water, bleach, leashes, collars, crates, towels, blankets.

Drop off is available at both Sloppy Dog locations:
4316 S. Peoria Ave., Tulsa
732 W. New Orleans St. Suite 140, Broken Arrow
(918) 742-9274

Small Animal Hospital of Owasso is collecting donations such as usable dog crates, pet bowls, pet food, cat litter & boxes, blankets, leashes, and more to go to Moore and Shawnee. You may drop them off at the front desk and they will get your donation to the pets in need. They will also deliver financial donations.

12500 E. 86th St. N Ste. 105, Owasso
(918) 274-8387

The Humane Society of Tulsa is in direct contact with Moore Animal Welfare and the Response Team on site at the Temporary Emergency Animal Shelter located at Home Depot in Moore, OK. We have offered the assistance of MACO, our 33′ Mobile RV Unit, as well as Supplies, Staff Veterinarian and Volunteers.

All basic pet care supplies are being collected for displaced pets and for distribution to families with pets affected by the Tornadoes.

Humane Society of Tulsa Adoption Center
(918) 495-3647
6232 E. 60th Street

Online:

Animal Resource Center
http://fundly.com/moore-oklahoma-tornado-displaced-pet-relief-fund

Central Oklahoma Humane Society
http;//www.okhumane.org
Click on the donate tab and specify your donation is for tornado relief

Oklahoma City Animal Shelter
http://www.okc.gov/animalwelfare/

Moore Animal Services
http://www.cityofmoore.com/aniaml-welfare-faq

The Humane Society of Tulsa
http://www.tulsapets.com

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals
https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1438461
Please designate that the donation is for tornado relief

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]