Lyon County's animal population will be safer - and so will their owners - once the county's emergency-management animal rescue plan is in place.
"What they've found is when they do have a disaster and need to evacuate people, some won't evacuate because they want to be with their animals," said Animal Control Officer Rick Smith, who is also the county's emergency management coordinator for animal safety. "If you can get a response team to get animals moved, then people are more willing to evacuate."
Smith is part of a countywide emergency-planning committee helping to create an emergency-evacuation plan for the county's critters.
Avoiding human injury and possible death is part of the reason the plan is needed, Smith said, along with protecting animal life.
"There have been situations where people have gone back (for their animals) after being evacuated and suffered an injury or fatality, so there is definitely a need for it," he said.
All disasters will be covered under the plan, which is in its infancy stage.
"Whether it is a hazardous-waste spill, fire, flood or an overturned horse trailer on the highway, we'll have a plan," Smith said. "It doesn't have to be huge."
Smith is setting up a team that will consist of a coordinator and assistant coordinator for each town in Lyon County.
"We don't have a lot of resources, so we'll be depending on volunteers," he said.
Volunteers to coordinate are only part of the equation. Smith is also looking for help, particularly those with livestock trailers and vehicles to pull them, to evacuate animals and then care for them temporarily.
Smith said the first step is to create a database of volunteers able to evacuate and foster all animals in danger, "from hamsters to horses," he said.
The decision to create a plan was made after the Waterfall fire in Carson City in July 2004 and the Andrew fire south of Reno in August 2004.
Smith went to a Pennsylvania conference on emergency management earlier this year, joining teams from all over the world.
"They trained me on how to formulate an emergency management team, what resources to look for and the type of situation you might be placed in," Smith said. "That was a really good foundation for me."
Smith hopes to have the plan complete by the end of summer.
"We hope to have enough of a database that if we have an emergency, we'll at least have a coordinator and assistant coordinator in each townsite in the county and a list of volunteers to foster or even respond to emergencies with us," he said.
Lately Smith has been talking around the county with citizens groups and potential volunteers.
"We've talked to horse groups, equestrian centers, and have had people respond to us," he said. "We have a waiver that they can sign that will legally eliminate them from any liability of keeping someone else's animal there."
The plan will cover the entire county and Smith hopes to have a "good-neighbor" policy in place to coordinate with Storey, Douglas and Churchill counties as well as Carson City.
Though the plan is not yet complete, Smith said the animal services department can still assist with evacuations and residents can also help themselves as well as the county in an emergency.
Most residents have dogs and cats, and each presents its own problems, Smith said.
"Dogs are going to be protective of their property, and our officers are trained in those type of things," Smith said. "Ideally owners can get their own pets out or we can have the owners with us when we evacuate."
Smith recommends making sure there is a mobile kennel available for each pet and that it is easily accessible. Also, each pet should have identification of some kind such as a license or tag, and that the owner have photographs of the pet.
As for cats, Smith said they are more difficult to evacuate than dogs.
"Cats retain more of that instinct to run and hide," he said. "Inside cats aren't bad, but for outside cats, we can only put traps out."
Most owners of large animals, such as horses, have resources to transport them in an emergency, Smith said.
For a herd of animals such as sheep, goats or cattle, Smith said, the county can truck them out, or herd them to an area away from the emergency.
"We have to be flexible, get on horseback and move animals to another area and contain them if we can't do a removal," he said.
All possibilities will be covered under the plan, Smith said, and the more volunteers he gets, the quicker it will come to fruition.
"A disaster could take five years or it could happen tomorrow," he said. "If an emergency occurs, no matter where in the county, we'll have a database set up so we know who to call for shelter, transportation or other needs."
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.
To evacuate animals
• Have emergency numbers readily available. Call the sheriff's dispatch in your area or 911 to locate the incident command center in your community. A staging area will be set up where you can take your animals.
• Have a mobile kennel for each pet. Make sure it is kept in a convenient place. Make sure there is a running vehicle available.
• For large animals such as horses, keep a trailer and vehicle to pull it available and attached if possible.
• Make sure your animals have some kind of identification such as license, name and address on a tag, and make sure you have a recent photo of your pet, so if the pet is kept at a foster location, it can be easily reclaimed.
To help emergency
evacuate your pets:
• Go to the incident command center so emergency personnel can go back with you to your home to retrieve your pets, or let them know where pets and pet equipment can be found.
• Before you evacuate, put your animals in as small a containment area as possible.
• Have mobile kennels for each of your pets and have them easily accessible.
• If you can, take any medicines your pet needs. Food and water will be available at the staging area, and medicine can be obtained too, if necessary.
• For large animals such as horses, have your trailer and vehicle to pull it hooked up.
• For herds such as sheep, cattle, etc., make sure the emergency management team at the incident command center knows what types of animals you have, how many and where to find them. Volunteers may be able to truck them out or herd them to a safer area.
• Make sure your pets have some kind of identification such as license, name and address on a tag, and make sure you have a recent photo of your pet, so it can be easily reclaimed from foster care.
You Can Help:
To volunteer, call Rick Smith at Lyon County Animal
Services at (775) 577-5005.