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Wind shattered
An F-5 tornado leaves almost a dozen dead, a town leveled and 400 animals lost from their owners


With the help of the Kansas Animal Health Department, the rescue teams set up a temporary staging area at the Dodge City Fairgrounds to administer treatment and house the animals not yet claimed. The plan is to photograph all unidentified animals and post the pictures on the department's Web site, allowing owners to search for any missing pets, explains Debra Duncan of the department's small-animal division.

Typically not involved in disaster efforts, Duncan says it is rare for the department to be involved in this type of animal care and rescue. "It is simply that the devastation is so huge, and we have the ability to help," she says.

A second staging area, where all unclaimed animals eventually will be housed, was erected in Greensburg at the transportation department building once residents were allowed back.

President Bush visited the city and declared a federal disaster area.

Helping hands: Volunteer Willow Wright (left), with Kathy Wingert, wife of a local DVM, said years of living through Texas and Oklahoma tornados did not prepare her for the wreckage in Greensburg. "There could be nothing worse but a war zone," says Wright, owner of All Critters Rescue.
Despite collaborative and effective efforts to assist animals, the magnitude of the storm's impact remains unknown, Dorman says. "At this point, we don't know how many animals were lost and actually died. The whole city is just rubble."

But animal injuries remain fairly mild, Skaer says. "There was some dehydration in cats and some injuries, but mostly they're just scared to death. They just need supporting care and TLC, really," she says.

Once the city starts to get pieced back together, Skaer says she plans to try to improve rescue resources for residents with animals in times of disaster. Working with Red Cross and other shelter facilities to try and incorporate options for animals is a primary focus.

Homeward bound: Chelsea, a Schnauzer-pug mix, was found sitting among the ruined remains of the child's bedroom where she slept at night in her home. Pratt County Humane Society Executive Director Lance Noakes cared for the dog until her family retrieved her.
"I think as a country, we need to concentrate on housing and evacuation procedures that involve animals. We need to consider animals when initiating emergency management efforts," Skaer says.

Future safety

Identifying animals is the biggest challenge when leading rescue efforts following disaster, Dorman says. She encourages veterinarians to remind their clients about the importance of tags, collars and microchipping so pets can be identified and reunited with their owners.

"Always have extra food and water for pets," she further cautions. "And when a tornado warning is out, heed them. Take them seriously. If you prepare and take cover and nothing happens, you are out nothing."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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