Historically, emergency shelters have not accepted pets due to health and safety regulations, the exception being service animals.
The American Red Cross (ARC) has recently been faced with residents lining up at shelters with their pets when the shelter has not been designated as a “pet friendly” shelter. The first incident occurred during the December 2013 ice storm. A more recent event involved a gas leak and subsequent fire in St. Albans. Residents that had evacuated showed up at the ARC shelter with their pets.
As the primary agency responsible for the emergency sheltering of people, the ARC finds themselves in a position of needing to prepare to meet the needs of pet owners by supporting the sheltering of animals in areas not currently covered by the Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART). The ARC is working to train existing human-shelter personnel who are interested in gaining the skills necessary to support animal sheltering. Also in the works, the ARC is adding pet sheltering equipment to their existing fleet of 14 shelter trailers. These trailers can be deployed across the state to areas in need to set up temporary emergency pet shelters. The ARC is also seeking funding to support the work to help animals in disasters. VDART is working hard to increase capacity across the state to respond to animals in disasters, but is in need of willing volunteers to help.