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.