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Protecting pets: Council calls for disaster plan for County animal shelters


Risk of flooding from Howard Hanson Dam spurs action to develop regional response


The threat of flood waters closing the King County Animal Shelter in Kent prompted the Metropolitan King County Council today to call for the County Executive to expand contingency plans for the protection of animals across the region in the event of any kind of disaster.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that all animals in our care are treated humanely and kept safe, especially in the event of a life-threatening emergency,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, prime sponsor of the motion. “Pet owners often are unwilling to leave their pets behind if evacuation is necessary, and that can result in injuries or loss of life. We have many resources that need to be coordinated to transport and shelter animals during an emergency, for the safety of our residents, their pets and livestock, and homeless and stray animals in our shelters.”

“Careful planning is always needed to enable a fast and full response to emergencies,” said Council Chair Dow Constantine. “This legislation will ensure that we have taken every necessary step to protect the animals in King County’s shelter system and can implement a clear plan if disaster strikes.”

Under a worst-case scenario, major County facilities downstream of the federal Howard Hanson Dam face the threat of flood waters as high as 10 feet should heavy rains make it necessary for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water to avoid overloading the dam, which was damaged in last winter’s flooding. The projected high water mark for the Kent Animal Shelter is three feet. King County Animal Care and Control (KCACC) is working on contingency plans to make sure the animals in the facility are safely evacuated if the shelter is closed in anticipation of flooding.

“One of the lessons learned from Katrina is that flood waters pose danger to and displace animals as well as people,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “The animals in King County’s shelter are in the Howard Hanson Dam flood zone and are dependent on our forward thinking and actions to keep them safe from flooding.”

“Flooding in the Green River Valley would not only impact people and property, but the animals under the care of the county,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson who also serves as Chair of the King County Flood Control District. “It imperative that the County develops a cooperative regional plan to ensure all animals threatened by a disaster are safe.”

The adopted motion calls on KCACC and the Executive to expand the contingency plan to respond to any type of natural or man-made disaster that would affect domestic animals in both private ownership and in King County’s custody. It requests KCACC to develop a regional response plan in cooperation with government agencies and private organizations. The motion calls for KCACC to work with all 34 contract cities, the city of Seattle, Snohomish County, Pierce County, and the Washington State Animal Response Team, along with the Humane Society of Seattle/King County, the American Red Cross, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, Vashon Island Pet Protectors and the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association.

The legislation also calls on the County to develop contacts with regional and national agencies that have responded to such disasters as Hurricane Katrina for their expertise on the preparation, rescue and reunion of pets with their families after disasters.

The motion requests the Executive deliver a proposal specifically addressing the flooding threat to the Council by October 1, 2009, and a broader emergency response proposal by November 1, 2009.

Read the motion
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