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Prepare pets in Kent, King County for flooding

The Wheedle and Gene Mueller, manager of Regional Animal Services of King County, go over disaster preparedness for pets at the Pet Adoption Center in Kent. - TRACEY COMPTON, Kent Reporter
The Wheedle and Gene Mueller, manager of Regional Animal Services of King County, go over disaster preparedness for pets at the Pet Adoption Center in Kent.
— image credit: TRACEY COMPTON, Kent Reporter

Area officials urge the community not to forget about emergency plans for pets as flooding season is here.

Representatives from the King County Flood Control District, Regional Animal Services of King County and the city of Seattle, visited the Pet Adoption Center in Kent last week to stress the importance of preparedness during disaster.

Steve Bleifuhs called out three reasons why having a plan for pets during a disaster is key. He is the river and floodplain manager for King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

The first is that flooding is the most common weather-related disaster in the area. Second, a plan allows others to rely on you. Last, not knowing what to do with pets is one of the reasons why people don't follow disaster and storm warnings.

Officials remarked that after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and train derailments in the Midwest, disaster victims did not have a plan for their pets. People often thought they could return for their animals, but the resolution to the emergency didn't happen as quickly as they expected.

"It's not that people abandon (their pets), it's that people think things are temporary and of course its always outside of our control what happens," said Gene Mueller, manager for Regional Animal Services of King County.

Mueller asked that people make a pack to move themselves and their pets out of harm's way during emergencies.

Part of doing that involves creating a supply kit for pets full of food, water and any medications for at least two weeks. Included in that kit should be collars with identification and sanitation items.

The presentation was part of the Take Winter By Storm campaign to help residents get prepared before bad weather hits. The hands-on demonstration also unveiled a new emergency, mobile animal shelter called the PETS or Pet Emergency Trailer Seattle vehicle, owned by the city of Seattle.

It can accommodate up to 40 animals or critters with crates and supplies in the event of an emergency. The trailer was purchased with funds from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. It's for regional use, but there is a chance that during a major disaster the vehicle will be limited to just Seattle.

"The other thing that we have come prepared for, and I know that King County is also prepared for, is we do have supplies that are located throughout the region," said Kara Main-Hester, manager for city of Seattle volunteer programs and fundraising.

Accompanied by The Wheedle, the Take Winter By Storm mascot, Main-Hester gave a brief overview of the supplies in the trailer.

There will be more crates, bowls and supplies in specific locations throughout the region at area human shelters, she said.

"Honestly, they're in garages throughout the region, along with some of the human sheltering supplies that we need," Main-Hester said. "So, they're actually packaged together so that when you open a human shelter you can open a pet shelter, too."

The issue first surfaced when there was concern about the Green River flooding and the need arose to create pet supplies offsite at depots away from the Kent animal shelter.

"So we're working very collaboratively to use all of our resources to synergize and help people with their pets," Mueller said.

For more preparedness tips, resources and information visit, www.takewinterbystorm.org.

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