Course prepares people to come to a pet’s rescue

Published: April 2, 2006 | 3900th good news item since 2003

During last year’s vicious hurricane season, Andy Bass darted across the nation, rescuing four-legged victims from floods and debris in Texas, Louisiana and Key West.

As a trained animal rescue volunteer, the 43-year-old Pompano Beach resident helped care for hundreds of displaced dogs and cats after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

“The more we get hit by these storms,” Bass said, “the more we’re getting prepared.”

That’s why Bass will be training about 180 South Florida residents next month during Fort Lauderdale’s first Emergency Animal Rescue Service workshop, a daylong training session on May 13 that will teach volunteers how to rescue, shelter and care for displaced animals before the next natural disaster strikes.

“There is definitely a higher awareness of the need to prepare for disasters,” said Alexis Raymond, spokeswoman for the California-based United Animal Nations, which formed the rescue service.

Bass said the organization needs animal-loving volunteers ready to face tough situations as he and other volunteers did last year. “After watching everything that went on last year, especially in New Orleans, we all have to pull together,” he said. “You have to be ready for anything.”

Founded in 1987, the rescue service is a network of 2,500 trained volunteers, including Bass, who respond to disasters in the United States and Canada within 24 hours. The service deployed 435 volunteers last year to care for about 2,100 displaced animals after Hurricane Katrina.

The United Animal Nations recently joined forces with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to train volunteers in Fort Lauderdale and 14 other cities, including New Orleans, Birmingham, Ala. and Fort Worth, Texas.

Delray Beach resident Jamie Wolf said she signed up for the Fort Lauderdale workshop after organizing her own impromptu animal rescue following Hurricane Katrina.

When Wolf saw Louisiana’s destruction, she and a friend drove to the Gulf Coast in a 30-foot truck and took home 24 displaced dogs. Bass eventually adopted one of the canines, a black-and-white Pekingese named Fooey. Wolf , 35, said she’s willing to travel anywhere on behalf of four-legged victims. “I just want to go and take care of them,” she said.

Although Fort Lauderdale’s May 13 training session is sold out, Bass is also organizing a free community event event for May 12, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. at Central Bark Doggy Day Care Center at 3699 N. Dixie Highway in Oakland Park. Pets are welcome.

At the workshop, Bass will teach volunteers what he’s learned during his 10-year stint in the rescue service. Last year, his experiences included caring for 220 dogs at a makeshift shelter in Lufkin, Texas during Hurricane Rita.

And when Wilma struck South Florida, he patrolled local animal shelters ensuring staffs had adequate help and supplies. He later traveled to Key West where he helped transport 80 frightened cats to safety when five-foot high waters flooded the shelter.

Bass is also working with local shelter officials, including the Broward Humane Society, to develop better evacuation plans for shelters and more facilities to keep animals when storms approach.

“Cities are wising up in finding more locations for people and their pets,” he said.

Bass hopes the training course will encourage more animal lovers to offer their assistance when another hurricane hits. It will teach volunteers how to operate a full-service animal shelter, including giving flea treatments, animal decontamination and bathing techniques. “We want to get our community trained,” he said.

Published in Animals
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