The Animal Food Bank requesting provincial government create a natural disaster response plan that includes pets

Planning for pets in disasters

Victoria Femia

The BC Animal Food Bank is calling on the provincial government to sit down with them and create a plan that includes the needs of pets for when natural disasters strike.

Founder of the Animal Food Bank, Nicole Frey, created a petition to “include pets in formalized natural disaster response plans.”

The petition, created two weeks ago, had 1,400 signatures as of Monday, near its their goal of 1,500.

“The petition was started to raise awareness of the need for a formalized plan of action to incorporate the care and well being of pets in natural disaster response centres, so ESS centres,” says Frey.

She says without organizations like the Animal Food Bank there won’t be formalized support when people check into these centres with their pet or if they leave their pet behind.

The catastrophic wildfire season in the Thompson-Okanagan region and the unexpected floods in the Lower Mainland amplified the need for a plan that specifically outlines the needs of pets.

“There is no requirement for the ESS centre to provide pet food, and so the provision for the support for pets is not mandated by the government,” says Frey.

She noted that the hotel vouchers that are given out at the ESS centres don’t cover pet fees, which she says was an issue in the summer.

“(The centres) may or may not have pet food, they may or may not have crates, they may or may not have leashes, all of these things are critical,” says Frey.

The Animal Food Bank has encountered several instances related to the ESS centres not having the proper supplies during the fire season and over the course of the flood evacuations.

“I really want to be able to sit down with the provincial government and the organizations that we partner with to make sure, during natural disasters, to figure out how we can make sure pets are not forgotten,” says Frey.

“You see people are forced to evacuate with a moment's notice and the fortunate ones get to bring their pets with them, the unfortunate ones leave their pets behind.”

She credited an RCMP officer in Merritt, Const. David Feller, who has been taking in animals that were left behind during the floods.

“We’re sending food and water to him to be able to do that,” says Frey.

The floods had a huge impact on the Animal Food Bank this year, due to their supply being cut off from the Lower Mainland, after major BC highways were closed.

“The issues with the evacuations from Merritt is that they all came into a centre that we support,” says Frey.

“Once the ESS centre shuts down, the need for help from these people and their pets doesn’t go away, they’ve lost their home, their employment and we’re in it for the long haul, trying to make sure they still have that support.”

The Animal Food Bank is accepting donations in the form of gift cards and pet supplies which can be dropped off at any Pet Planet location.

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