Grafton Selectmen Approve Emergency Pet Shelter

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Clare Garabedian, Emergency Shelter Manager and Deputy Director of the Grafton Emergency Management Agency.
Clare Garabedian, Emergency Shelter Manager and Deputy Director of the Grafton Emergency Management Agency. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. — The Grafton Board of Selectmen voted on Tuesday to set up an emergency pet shelter in the Veteran’s Memorial Hall of the Municipal Center pending final approval from local veteran organizations.

If the location is approved, household pets such as cats, dogs, and birds will be caged and placed in the hallway just outside the gymnasium where owners would stay during a weather emergency. Service animals, such as dogs for the blind, would be allowed to stay with their owner in the main shelter. Farm animals like cows and horses would not be allowed.

“Many people died in Hurricane Katrina because there was no place for pets in shelters,” said Clare Garabedian, emergency shelter manager and deputy director of the Grafton Emergency Management Agency.  She said it is common for people to not seek shelter during emergencies because many treat their pets as if they were children.

Garbedian and fellow Deputy Director Nicholas J. Child, said a volunteer organization, the Central Massachusetts Disaster Animal Response Team (CMDART), will set up the cages and provide the clean-up after the shelter is closed. They said the pet owners would be responsible for vaccinations, food, medicine, leashes, and collars. They also said the pet’s name must be on the collar and, as a safety measure, a photograph will be taken to avoid any confusion of ownership.

Owners must also bring their pet’s medical records. If a pet is not up to date on their vaccinations, then a team from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts would help out at the owner’s expense.

The location was chosen because the pets would be near their owner and on a ground level, next to an exit.

Garbedian said there would be no additional cost to the town since it would only be open when people need shelter and the work would be done by volunteers.

Child said the pet shelter is not a requirement but a recommendation from the federal government as a “standard of care issue”.

The number of animals the hallway could hold would be determined by a representative of CMDART.

Selectman Brook Padgett recommended that Child and Garbedian check with the local veteran organizations in case there were any objections about the spot. If so, he said another hallway for the pets would be found.

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Comments (8)

Let's just hope that the pet shelter is far enough away from the incoming propane tanks. It would certainly be ironic to save the pets, only to have them vaporized in the inevitable massive propane explosion.

Here is a great summary from 2011 about what has changed concerning the evacuation and sheltering of pets during emergencies and disasters:

Here is a very brief summary of the information in the link... Since Hurricane Katrina, federal and state laws have been passed to include provisions for evacuation of animals, rescue and recovery, shelters and tracking in disaster plans. In 2006, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed, and since then, over 30 states have adopted either a law that deals with disaster planning and pets or have promulgated administrative plans on the subject . Many state laws require that animals be sheltered and evacuated during an emergency. Such plans establish procedures to coordinate federal, state and local government agencies, volunteer organizations, animal interest groups, and veterinary medical personnel for rapid response to natural disasters affecting the health, safety and welfare of people and animals. The main elements of most state-level plans include the care of companion animals, the implementation of state animal response teams, the sheltering of animals, and identification of recovered animals.

Not in the link, but I remember hearing a while back... the regulations/plans usually mandate the animal shelter be in close proximity to the human shelter because the pet's owner is the one who will be taking care of the pet.

I always thought that the town's emergency shelter was the municipal center. I'm very allergic to some bird feathers and some cats. An emergency animal shelter in a designated human emergency shelter, is really wrong!

The 60+ volunteers that belong to the CERT team, MRC, Shelter Staff and Emergency Management Committee work in the best interest of the residents of the Town of Grafton. Most of our work is behind the scenes, we don't have emergency vehicles or a payroll. Our goal is to respond, when needed and any an all emergencies whether it's a flood, tornado, ice storm, snow storm, hurricane or major power outage you can count on the volunteers of Grafton's Emergency Management Agency. The CERT Team works at events in Town like the road race and Christmas on the Common. The MRC provides medical services like flu clinics and blood pressure clinics. The Committee works on a variety of issues that include the proposed propane facility and other Town safety issues. If you would like to volunteer please contact me. I am very proud of the Grafton Emergencies Services and you should be too. They are there when youneed them.

Ray Mead
Emergency Management Director

First I'm a dog owner, have been for the past 30 years. My kids & grand kids all have dogs and they come over to play with ours. So I'm not against pets. I am a veteran.

Here is an example of the selectman "Shoot, ready, aim". Instead of asking the town health, building and senior center managers for input they approve this proposal. Anything else would be studied to death! Service animals are already exempt under state laws so we are only talking about a house pet
I am sure that the State, and Feds have reams of regulations and requirements on an "Animal Shelter". I can see it costing the town thousands for special heating, water supply with floor clean up drains, special flooring and who knows what more.
The seniors and veterans are entitled to more respect, than having animals urinate, and defecate in their facility. Seniors have to walk, hobble or wheel chair from their side of the building, to the far end of the municipal center because there are no funds for updating the bathrooms in the senior center for handicap accessibility, but we as taxpayers might have to spend thousands for a facility that might get used maybe once or every other year for an emergency.
If the Grafton Emergency Management Center can't find a place for a day or two for a house pet or derive a sensible plan they are in the wrong "business". No one is going to die because they won't leave their pet or make sensible arrangements with a friend or relative. loisma58: Scare tactics has no place in reasonable discussions. Folks, something is wrong with our priorities if we have time to approve policies without reasonable thought and research and are able to let someone sneak in 4 120 foot gas tanks into town unbeknownst to our selectman!

Alan C

We can't send pb&j's to school, but we can house animals next to the seniors? I'm really not understanding the concept - animals were fine before we got here, and they will be fine after we're gone. I've seen these emergency management people in action at the Christmas tree lighting on the common - really? They are the ones in charge of managing an emergency? Where does the liability lie when a dog eats a cat, bites a handler, owner doesn't have papers/license, med records, food - so you throw that 'child' back out into the storm?

So you prefer I die because I won't abandon my pet?

I'm pretty open to whatever YOU choose to do - I'm not one of the people in the world today that wants to tell everyone what to do, I hope you aren't either.
What if you forget the papers? What if you don't have a collar? Throw them out the door. 'Shelter' is a fairly loose word around here. Yes, human life is worth more than a pet's life... and yes, I'm ready for the people that say ' my pet is worth more than a lot of people'... I get it, but I don't - either you want to go - not up to me, it's your decision.