According to the Humane Society of the United States, pets are found in nearly 65 percent of all homes in America. In Maine, this number is closer to 85 percent. About two thirds of those pet owners would refuse to evacuate in an emergency without their pets. The Knox Community Animal Response Team or “Knox CART,” a volunteer team, is trained to set up a pet shelter at people shelters in the event of a disaster. The Knox County Emergency Management Agency is a sponsor for the team.

Team members receive U.S. Citizens Corps “Community Emergency Response Team” training and other specialty training, including best practices from the Humane Society of the United States, United Animal Nation and other animal welfare organizations.

The team complements existing emergency facilities and services while also providing emergency planning and information to area residents. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, federal officials learned many Gulf Coast residents refused to evacuate without their pets, and those who did found “people shelters” unprepared or unwilling to accept pets. This prompted Congress to pass the “Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act”, or PETS Act for short. This act requires state and local emergency management officials to incorporate household pets and service animals into disaster preparedness plans and programs.

The Knox County team reminds pet owners to phone 211 in a disaster to locate the nearest pet friendly shelter. It is important for pet owners to bring medicine, any special food, and any veterinary records with them to the shelter.

Volunteers meet the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. and participate in various training, exercises, including setting up a pet shelter. To learn how to help, contact the Knox County Emergency Management Agency at 594-5155.