When disaster strikes, San Diego Humane Society is there. As the deadly Camp Fire ravaged Butte County last fall, members of SDHS’s Emergency Response Team were on their way. They spent 10 days on the front lines caring for hundreds of displaced animals.
A fundamental part of our mission at SDHS is lending a helping hand in emergencies, not just as first responders in San Diego County, but as an organization that state and even national agencies can consistently turn to. We’ve streamlined our emergency operations and now have a battery of FEMA-trained staff and volunteers who can deploy at a moment’s notice to wherever animals are in danger. These masters of disaster response are known as our Emergency Response Team, and they’ve traveled far and wide, caring for animals affected by hurricanes, floods, fighting rings, puppy mills and hoarding.
The ERT travels in an enormous, transformed RV seized in a hoarding case (remember #92yorkies?) into a mobile command center outfitted with high-tech communication equipment. It looks like something out of a spy movie (read more on page 14). In a better world we would have no need of it, but it can help us bring about a compassionate world for animals and their people.
It’s fire season here in San Diego, and our emergency responders are ready. We’ve teamed up with the American Red Cross and Wings of Rescue, which flies pets out of overcrowded shelters in disaster areas to free up space for incoming animals. The animals they fly out are always the ones who’ve been in the shelter a long time, not the displaced ones who simply need to be reunited with their people. This is an important distinction that, historically, has been easy to lose track of. Can you imagine the heartbreak of having to evacuate your home, finally getting to safety, only to find out your dog has been sent across the country?
We worked with Wings of Rescue a lot last year after Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle. They flew animals into Gillespie Field and we brought them to SDHS, which served as a hub to get animals up to shelters in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Often, they even stay with us for medical and behavioral care until we can find great homes for them here in San Diego. We even had SeaWorld drive one of their massive trucks out to Gillespie and help with animal transport. It takes a village.
Whatever the season brings, SDHS is ready. And we want you to be, too. Read on for more on our fantastic ERT and tips on how you can keep your pets safe.
Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA
President and CEO
San Diego Humane Society