Pet Safe Coalition’s Willow Eyford goes through the organizations protocols during a Disaster Training for Volunteers workshop at Barlow Creek Hall on Mar. 24, with help from her young nephew, Siggy.                                 Melanie Law photo

Pet Safe Coalition’s Willow Eyford goes through the organizations protocols during a Disaster Training for Volunteers workshop at Barlow Creek Hall on Mar. 24, with help from her young nephew, Siggy. Melanie Law photo

Pet Safe Coalition held training on disaster response

Local coordinators guided attendees through a workshop on keeping animals safe in emergencies

Animals in the Cariboo should be well taken care of in the case of another disaster like the wildfires, thanks to Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada.

The organization hosted a Disaster Training for Volunteers workshop over the weekend (Mar. 24-25) at Barlow Creek Hall, bringing together almost 20 people seeking further training to help displaced animals in emergencies.

Willow Eyford, a director for Pet Safe Coalition, helped lead the event, educating attendees on the organization’s policies and procedures for setting up an emergency shelter, feeding, animal handling and animal first aid and triage.

“The ultimate goal is to train us out of a job,” she says.

“We want people to be prepared themselves. We are here if they need us, but we don’t want people to rely on us as their disaster plan – we want people to have their own plans.”

The two-day workshop included seminars and hands-on experience, working with the society as well as local veterinarians.

Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada is a non-profit organization devoted to keeping animals safe during disasters. In 2017, co-ordinators and volunteers spent most of the summer (more than 8,000 recorded hours) taking in and caring for animals displaced by the wildfires at Alex Fraser Park.

According to the organization’s website, the group helped 1,001 animals through the emergency shelter from July to September 2017.

Eyford says last year’s wildfires were the largest-scale disaster Pet Safe has responded to, although she and her colleague Debbie Knabke worked as part of an international organization and responded to much larger disasters.

Eyford herself helped displaced animals during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, as well as a fire in Lillooet and some of the Nazko wildfire events in past years.

“We want to have more trained volunteers who can assist us, if we have a fire season like last summer,” she says.

“When a disaster strikes, the time to prepare is over. Our catchphrase is Have a Pet, Have a Plan.

“We want people to save themselves. Have a plan A, have a plan B, talk to your neighbours.

“There is so much preparation you can do ahead of time; find out what animals are in the community; which animals can be housed together; which animals can eat this hay or that? It’s impossible to prepare for everything, but you need to know what resources exist in your community to hold that animal,” she explains.

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