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Photo of Secretary Kuperus, Rosemarie Chisolm-Cohen and Scott Kisch - Click to enlarge
Regional Animal Disaster Trailers Based on Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina Response
For Immediate Release: December 5, 2006
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 292-8896

(TRENTON) – Five easily transportable trailers, filled with everything needed to quickly set up temporary animal shelters and veterinary clinics during disasters will soon be strategically placed around the state. 

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus today handed the keys to the first trailer to Ocean County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Rosemarie Chisolm-Cohen.  The trailers fulfill a state strategy of having animal disaster resources placed around the state that can be mobilized quickly in emergencies. 

“The events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi last year, where thousands of displaced animals needed assistance, highlighted the necessity for emergency planning, trained volunteers and equipment and supplies to respond to the needs of animals,” said Secretary Kuperus.  “These trailers will enable our State and County Animal Response Teams (SART/CART) to train and exercise and be ready to respond.  Then, when a disaster occurs, they can quickly get to the scene of an emergency to house or care for the impacted animals, allowing their owners to seek appropriate shelter without worrying about their pets.”

In addition to Ocean, the Offices of Emergency Management in Burlington, Camden, Hudson and Sussex Counties will receive trailers, enabling each county’s County Animal Response Team (CART) to respond and provide care for animals in disasters or emergencies.   If the need arises, these animal disaster response trailers can be moved throughout the state to provide assistance.

To receive a trailer, the counties had to meet specific qualifications of having an active CART, having an updated animal emergency response plan, and be willing to provide mutual aid to other counties.

The emergency shelter and veterinary care trailers were outfitted to meet different needs that arise during a disaster.  Some of the items included in the trailers are: dog and cat cages, an alternate power source and lighting, communications equipment, buckets, cleaning supplies, portable corrals, leashes, animal first aid kits, livestock  halters and leads, registration/office supplies and safety equipment.  In addition to those items, the veterinary trailers each have tents that enable the CART to set up a clinic for emergency veterinary care.

The stocked trailers were paid for with a United States Department of Homeland Security grant given to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture through the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The total cost of each fully outfitted veterinary trailer was $22,000 and the cost for each shelter trailer and contents was $12,000.

"Katrina and other disasters continue to demonstrate that the welfare of pets and livestock must be considered along with the well-being of citizens,” said Richard L. Cañas, Director of New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.  “Through its public-private Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG), New Jersey has planned long and hard to care for pets and livestock in emergency situations.  The acquisition and distribution of these trailers for pets and livestock represent another milestone in the state's overall preparedness.”

The AEWG is charged with helping animals affected by emergencies, such as floods, forest fires or terrorist attacks.  The AEWG develops and coordinates plans to protect animals during emergency situations.  The group operates under the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health and the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management.

“Through our rescue efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, we learned that animal owners will not evacuate--even in the face of serious danger--until their pets are taken care of,” said Major John Hunt of the New Jersey State Police.  Major Hunt commanded Operation L.E.A.D. (Louisiana Emergency Assistance Deployment) in which hundreds of New Jersey law enforcement officers and emergency workers rescued people and pets, recovered deceased victims and provided police services in the wake of the disaster.  “Animals are like family members to some people, and unless you are ready to take homeowners out in handcuffs, rescue workers need to be prepared to evacuate pets along with their owners.”

Ocean County’s CART, also known as HELP (Help in Emergencies for Livestock and Pets), was founded in 1992 by a horse owner who had to evacuate her farm in a matter of minutes due to a forest fire.  Rosemarie Chisolm-Cohen, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, said the HELP/CART is a huge volunteer resource with a strong policy of never forcing people to evacuate and leave their animals behind in a disaster.

“This trailer and its contents will enormously enrich Ocean County's efforts to provide for the safety of livestock and pets, should we experience an emergency or disaster,” said Chisolm-Cohen.  “In Ocean County we will never tell people to leave their animals behind in an evacuation because we know that people would be reluctant to evacuate when asked to, and possibly even refuse to leave altogether.  With the addition of this equipment and supplies we will be capable of helping more people with their animals in troublesome times.   Additionally this has been a big boost to the spirits of the incredible volunteers who work with us regarding animal needs in times of disasters and other emergencies.”

The trailer project was a cooperative effort between the Department of Agriculture, New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

“The Department of Agriculture is looking into continued grant money to purchase and stock additional emergency sheltering  and veterinary care trailers, including evacuation trailers,” said Secretary Kuperus.  We will work with the animal first responders of the CARTs so they can train and exercise and be ready to respond to the citizens of New Jersey and their animals in disasters.”

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture urges those with animals to plan ahead and be prepared.  Visit to learn ways to protect your animals.  For those interested in volunteering to help animals during disasters, please contact your county Office of Emergency Management to join the CART.