When a natural disaster strikes, who will save pets?

EUGENE, Ore. - Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 5 years ago, and pets were among the casualties.

Some veterinarians in Lane County are trying to make sure pets in Lane County will be OK if - and when - disaster strikes here.

They think they can do it with the help of a brand new trailer.

The trailer is the foundation for the new "Animals in Disaster" program.  It will be a rolling shelter at disaster scenes, making sure animals and their owners won't be separated.

"So we would set up a shelter near the Red Cross shelter, so that people would have a safe place to care for their animals while they're being evacuated," Dr. Kathy Snell of the Pet Medical Center said.

You think it can't happen here? Lane County was hit twice by floods in 1996.

Dr. Mary Whitlock is a veterinarian in Junction City and remembers it well. 

"Those of us that remember 1996, it was kind of tenuous there," Whitlock said, "and there were livestock concerns at that time."

That's the other main piece of the program.  Volunteers will form a search and rescue team for livestock and horses in distress.

When you open up the back of the trailer and look inside, however, you can tell there's a problem: Officials need supplies and medical equipment for the trailer, and that's going to take more fundraising.

Along with Lane County Animal Services, Greenhill Humane Society is another of the local stakeholders in the disaster plan. 

"We don't want people to be in a situation like Katrina where there are many homeless animals that need to be rescued," Community Outreach Manager Denise Brittain said.

Whitlock said 25 volunteers have signed up to help, but they need 75 to 100 volunteers ready to go by late fall.
 
"Already we're much further ahead in Lane County regarding animal response than we ever have been," Whitlock said.
     
Snell and Whitlock say they are about halfway to the $10,000 fundraising goal to equip the trailer and train more volunteers.

They say you can make a contribution to your local veterinary hospital in Lane County or to the Lane County Animal Services office in Eugene.