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State Animal Response Team Prepares for Next Disaster

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Hundreds of dogs and cats lost their lives in the flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd. Many that survived were left injured, ill or homeless.(WRAL-TV5 News)
RALEIGH — Ashurricane seasonbegins, state leaders are hoping to learn from the past.Hurricane Floydtaught North Carolina a hard lesson about safety -- animal safety included.

More than two million chickens, 753,000 turkeys and 28,000 hogs were lost in the flooding after Hurricane Floyd. Hundreds of dogs and cats also lost their lives. Many that survived were left injured, ill or homeless -- and many people were left wondering what to do.

"We recognized through Floyd that if we were a team, we'd do a much better job united, responding to an emergency," says veterinarian Dr. Tom McGinn.

Now, a team has formed, a team that includes state and federal agencies, animal shelters and nonprofit groups. And the State Animal Response Team is meeting once a month to develop a plan of action for the next animal disaster.

Team member Dr. Kelli Ferris cared for about 400 abandoned dogs and cats at a makeshift shelter at theN.C. State Vet School, after Hurricane Floyd. Now she is in charge of helping counties develop their own plans to care for animals in an emergency.

"By being evacuated and removed to Raleigh, it reduces the number that will actually be reclaimed by owners," Ferris says. "In that respect, it's certainly better to keep those animals closer to home. They're more likely to go back to the original home at that point."

The group is also working to help livestock producers be better prepared.

"If a producer is prepared, they can implement a lot of things or work with neighbors on a lot to either prevent mortality or dispose of mortality quickly," says Ed Jones, of theN.C. Extension Service.

State leaders say volunteers will be vital to the Animal Response Team during a disaster, just as they were in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.