Many counties throughout the U.S. have what’s called a County Animal Response Team, or CART, and York County is no different.

“We educate citizens on how to be prepared for natural disasters as a household, including pets,” said Megan Arsenault, emergency planning and preparedness manager with York County Emergency Management Agency. “A lot of people don’t consider what they’d do during a disaster, let alone what one would mean for their dog.”

The team could be deployed to set up a shelter for people and their pets during a natural disaster or be called upon to help during a manmade disaster – large-scale cruelty or hoarding cases, for example.

Knock on wood, Arsenault said, the team hasn’t been called on many times to assist during either kind of disaster.

“A lot of our focus is on training and exercises to keep skills fresh, and public outreach,” she said.

The group, comprised of likeminded people, including those who work in animal control/welfare and residents who simply have an interest in helping animals, will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at 149 Jordan Springs Road in Alfred. Participants will learn safe animal handling skills and anyone interested in the team is welcome to attend.

Art Cleaves, director of York County Emergency Management Agency, said the law requires that shelters be compatible for the entire family, including pets.

The federal PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act was passed in 2006 that directs local agencies to take into account needs of individuals with companion and service animals. It was passed after Hurricane Katrina, partly because people refused to evacuate if they couldn’t take their pets with them.

Cleaves calls sheltering companion animals during a disaster “critical.”

“The mental welfare of individuals depends on the whole family,” he said, referring to pets.

If a disaster happens, York County Emergency Management has a stock of kennels, bedding, handling equipment, bowls, cleaning supplies and toys to be used to shelter animals.

In addition, the team learns how to set up temporary shelters for cats, dogs and other companion animals, including registering them on arrival, disease control, enrichment and the logistics of where they are put so they experience the least amount of stress possible.

“This can all be done very easily,” Arsenault said.

“If a disaster happens,” Cleaves added, “your animals will receive excellent care and treatment from the time they arrive to the time they leave the shelter.”

In August, the team participated in a large animal training event at an Alfred farm where they learned how to handle horses. Arsenault sometimes uses training materials from the ASPCA, where she has worked part time for four years on deployments to the organization’s temporary shelters throughout the country.

New England is in a unique position when it comes to animal welfare, Arsenault said.

“We’re at the forefront of it because of our spay/neuter efforts,” she said. “We have too few animals in our shelters, which is a good problem to have. Some of our shelters have opted to transport animals from other areas of the country. Others focus on being low-cost vet centers.”

Arsenault and Cleaves hope to increase public outreach at animal-related events in 2019.

“You can take your membership in CART as far as you want to go,” Cleaves said. “You learn about disasters or individual preparedness. You can learn about the world of first responders and what goes on behind the scenes.”

Members of the York County team have gone on to deploy with the ASPCA and other national organizations through their experience at CART.

“They were looking for a challenge and found a niche,” Arsenault said.

To learn about the team, email [email protected]

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