A snapshot of areas throughout the country—and their readiness to mobilize on behalf of animals in case of emergency or disaster—now exists because of a groundbreaking ASPCA initiative.
National Capabilities for Animal Response in Emergencies (NCARE) is a cross-sectional survey designed to assess the level of preparedness throughout U.S. states and counties for managing animals in an emergency.
Key Findings of the Survey
The survey, which was conducted in 2016 and published in the September, 2017 Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, reveals these key findings:
- 65% of participating states (31/48) reported having a State Animal Response Team (SART)
- 48% (16/33) of counties with more than 1 million residents and 23% (131/565) of a random sample of counties with fewer than 1 million reported having a County Animal Response Team (CART)
- Only 50% of small counties reported having plans for cohabitational emergency shelters (where people and their pets can remain together) compared to 73% of states and 80% of large counties
Lessons Learned from Past Disasters
- In 1999 Hurricane Floyd and the ensuing widespread flooding killed 2.9 million pets and livestock, and thousands more companion animals were permanently separated from their owners.
- In two communities impacted by Floyd, more than 1,150 rescued small animals were housed by local universities, and 80% of these were never reunited with their owners.
- The Louisiana SPCA estimates that when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, 15,500 companion animals in the New Orleans needed to be rescued; the Department of Agriculture estimates that millions of chickens were killed in both Louisiana and Mississippi.
- An estimated 80-85% of rescued companion animals were never reunited with their owners after Hurricane Katrina.
What the Survey Included
The survey covered the following items: presence of a State or County Animal Response Team (SART/CART) or equivalent organization, organization and membership of the SART/CART and activities conducted by the SART/CART in the previous 12 months.
Also included in the survey was the jurisdiction’s animal teams, equipment owned by the SART/CART, presence and size of supply caches for managing small animals (dogs and cats) and large animals (horses and livestock), plans to allow people and their pets to shelter in one location and perceived training or planning needs for the jurisdiction.
Questions for state officials also covered details of other organizations involved in emergency response: veterinary reserve corps (or equivalent), livestock organizations, private animal shelters, and university extension programs.
Who Responded to the Survey
All states and all counties, plus cities with a population of more than 1 million were selected for survey. In each of 45 states there was also a random sample consisting of 25 percent of the counties (or county equivalent) with a population smaller than 1 million.
In most cases, the person responding was an emergency manager, emergency director or represented the state veterinarian’s office. The survey was conducted via email and telephone.
Digging Into the Survey Details
In survey comments, CARTs spontaneously reported responding to an emergency in the previous year and conducting public outreach events. Among counties without a CART, 215 spontaneously reported relying on other local entities for emergency response (sheriff, humane society, ranchers, etc.) and 69 counties spontaneously reported relying on state or regional teams.
- 74% of states reported having a cache of supplies for managing small animals (dogs and cats) in an emergency
- 77% of large counties reported having a cache of supplies for managing small animals in an emergency
- 41% of small counties reported having a cache of supplies for managing small animals in an emergency
The proportion of states with a cache of small animal supplies ranged from 33% in Region IX to 100% in Regions II, III, and VI. Among small counties, Region IX had the highest percentage with a small animal supply cache (94%) and Region VI had the lowest (22%).
Large-animal supply caches (for horses or livestock) were less common with 52% of states, 38% of large counties and 9% of smaller counties reporting they have caches for those needs.
When asked to estimate the number of animals that can be served by their caches, responses ranged from 1 to 1,000 for large animals and up to 5,000 for small animals.
Among jurisdictions who could provide an estimate for their small-animal caches, about a third (34%) of counties indicated the cache could support at least 100 animals, and a similar proportion of states (37%) indicated that the cache could serve at least 250 animals.
75% of states have a Veterinary Reserve Corps or similar organization, with the number of members ranging from 10 to over 2,000. Additionally, private nonprofit animal welfare organizations are engaged to provide support in emergency in 69% of states, while 89% of states indicated livestock organizations are engaged.
More than 75% of respondents reported additional needs for emergency preparedness, such as training, expertise and equipment.
Training needs were identified by 84% of states, 65% of large counties and 62% of smaller counties. A similar level of need was indicated for rescue equipment: 71% of states, 68% of large counties and 62% of smaller counties.
Subject matter expertise to assist with planning was listed as a need by approximately 45% of the jurisdictions regardless of type or size.