Sumter Humane Society gets 1 of 3 emergency units in state
By BETH ALSTON
AMERICUS — When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there, on the ground, offering a helping hand, a cup of coffee or soup, a warm blanket. But what happens to the animals displaced by tornado, flood or some other natural disaster? Most wander aimlessly, searching for their human family, or perish from exposure, starvation or injury.
That situation will change now that the Sumter Humane Society has acquired an AKC Pet Disaster Relief Mobile Unit, one of only three in the entire state of Georgia. Here’s how it came about, and it didn’t cost the taxpayers of Sumter County one cent.
Local dog owner, Bruce Hall, whose Labrador Retriever, Gizmo, is the current National Field Champion, serves on the board of the National Labrador Retriever Club, which is parented by the American Kennel Club.
“They give away tens of thousands of dollars a year for medical research, and about a year or two ago, they started giving one or two of these emergency trailers away through club donations,” Hall said, adding that each of the trailers costs approximately $22,000. The emergency trailers, which can be hauled by a vehicle, are designed to help create a safe, temporary home base for pets after a disaster.
While Hall attended a recent board meeting in Montana, he mentioned that the Sumter Humane Society could use such a unit, and the board approved it. The unit arrived in Americus on April 11, fully loaded with everything needed to treat animals: a generator, lights, a pressure washer, a shop vacuum, 65 portable kennels and tags, micro-chips and a scanner, a camera and printer, cat litter boxes and litter, “everything except water and food,” said Ruth Olson, shelter director, Sumter Humane Society (SHS).
The purchase of the trailer was made possible by more than $22,000 in donations and grants from The Labrador Retriever Club, the Dog Judges Association of America, the Sumter Humane Society and AKC Reunite.
Rob Brown, SHS president, commented, “The theory is that when a tornado or other natural disaster strikes, we can take this trailer and set it up and care for the animals.” Olson added that FEMA now requires that pets must also have a facility for use in the aftermath of a disaster. “It also might be needed in a neighboring area,” Olson said, “not just Sumter County.”
For now, the SHS is looking for volunteers who can be trained and available to deploy with the unit when needed. “I can’t believe me have it!” Olson said, beaming.
“It’s like EMS for dogs and cats,” Hall said.
The AKC Pet Disaster Relief trailer will be publicly unveiled on Saturday, April 23, during Arts in the Rees Park, and will be on display throughout the event so the public can view it.