Payne County Animal Response Team Trains for Emergencies

Edited by Ammie Bryant

As spring approaches in Oklahoma so does storm season and the awareness of the need for emergency preparedness in our homes and workplaces. One element of emergency preparedness that can be overlooked are the needs of animals and their owners. We wanted to learn more about a local organization that seeks to address these needs, so we asked Payne County Animal Response Team Volunteer Coordinator Susan Grammer a few questions.  

Q: What is PCART?

A: PCART is an acronym for the Payne County Animal Response Team. There are a number of counties in Oklahoma and in many other states with “CARTs” and these groups train to be able to work with firefighters and other emergency responders to address the needs of animals and animal owners in significant emergencies. There is a state organization, called OK-SART that works with all CARTs in Oklahoma.

In emergency situations, people do not want to leave their pets and service animals behind if they have to evacuate and sometimes cannot find shelter if they have pets with them.  In addition, many storms and fires result in loose and injured animals that cannot be reunited with their rightful owners because it is difficult for emergency services and animal welfare to track what happens to them.

PCART and other ARTs can respond to animal involved fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, infectious disease outbreaks, and livestock truck/trailer accidents.  

The primary goal is always the safety of owners and first responders, but with veterinary professionals on the team, animal health and safety can become a priority once an incident is stabilized.

Q: What is its mission or purpose?

A: The mission is to engage animal health care professionals and other interested parties in helping the community prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from emergencies, disasters, and subsequent animal health issues, by having a group of properly credentialed and trained volunteers available. Payne County Animal Response Team (PCART) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization staffed by an all-volunteer specialized team of animal professionals and Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corp credentialed volunteers.

Q: Who is involved with PCART?

A: PCART includes animal professionals as well as community members with broad types of skills. Some are animal shelter experts, some are veterinarians, vet techs, or vet students, and others who donate their skills in emergency management, grant writing, web design, organization and clerical skills, animal and livestock management, fundraising, housekeeping, and machine maintenance.  Basically we can use almost any skill-set somewhere!

All PCART volunteers are required to become volunteers for the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corp (OK-MRC) where they have access to numerous types of both online and classroom or field-based training courses. Most of these courses are free of charge.

Q: How can others get involved? 

A: Community members can be involved either as volunteers or by providing “resources.” Some resources are donated, some are provided at a reduced cost, and others are just an agreement that they may be available in an emergency.

Examples include individuals or organizations that can provide or help acquire personnel or equipment, tractors, truck(s) and/or trailer(s), or livestock trailers if needed.

At this time volunteers must be 18 or over, however in the future we hope to have tasks available for those who are a few years younger. Teens are welcome to attend meetings to learn they will be able to help with in the future.

Q: Can you tell us about PCART’s recently acquired American Kennel Club Reunite Pet Disaster Relief Trailer?

A: Soon after beginning to form PCART in 2013, team members began to seek donations for the AKC Reunite program.  After raising $12,000 from multiple Oklahoma organizations, AKC Reunite matched PCART’s funds and prepared the trailer. This trailer is stocked with supplies to set up an emergency shelter for close to 70 pets and has room to carry additional equipment to meet the needs of large animal responses.  

Q: What events do you have coming up?

A: March 2 – 4, PCART, Oklahoma Large Animal First Responders (OLAFR), OSU veterinary students and the Payne County Office of Emergency Management will participate in the 2018 Oklahoma Animal Disaster Response Exercise in Stillwater. This Exercise is being created by the Texas A & M Veterinary Emergency Team (TAMU-VET) which actively responded to multiple disasters across the country in 2017. TAMU-VET has created a scenario specific to potential incidents in Payne County, and the Exercise was made possible by grants to PCART and OLAFR. Activities will take place on the OSU Fire Service Training Professional Skills Center and Lake Carl Blackwell Recreation Center west of Stillwater.  

Also participating in this Exercise are: members of American Humane Society animal rescue program, OK State Animal Response Team, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry State veterinarian’s office, and other Oklahoma CARTs.  

Q: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about PCART?

A: Remember that if we have a disaster in the area many of our members may be personally affected and unable to respond. You can help!

If you cannot volunteer but would like to donate, there are still many types of equipment and some additional training that we need. Cash donations are very helpful, but we are also looking for items like radios, safety equipment, livestock supplies like fence panels, and also a “rescue glide” that allows volunteers to move a large animal like a horse or cow to safety.  In an emergency we will also need funds to purchase dog and cat food, medical supplies, and cleaning supplies.

Community members and others should feel free to contact the PCART Volunteer Coordinator, Susan Grammer, at [email protected]. Media can also contact Elisabeth Giedt, DVM, at [email protected].

More information can be found at: