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September 21, 2010

Emergency reponders in Maine learn animal control

By Betty Adams
The Kennebec Journal

MOUNT VERNON, Maine — In a small wooded cabin on the manicured grounds of Camp Laurel, disaster response folks learned how to best capture and control small animals during an emergency.

Karen Chase, of Rome, a dog owner herself, was there to get an American Red Cross certification in pet first aid.

"It's one more thing I can add to help the community," said Chase, who is affiliated with the Rome emergency management group and fire department and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization.

She was one of 20 people instructed Sunday by Bobbi Jo Dobbs of the Cumberland County Emergency Response Team and Robert Gross of the Kennebec County Emergency Response Team.

Dobbs urged the volunteers to use common sense when dealing with animals and to apply what they learn from handling their own pets.

"If you're trying to catch your cat, a pillow case works well," she said. She also recounted a story in which one woman was able to trap her panicked cat in a paper bag.

Some of the advice was directed at volunteers who work with fire departments and can aid distraught pet owners and their pets in emergency situations; other advice applied to members of Community Animal Response Teams who would be working in shelters that are pet-friendly.

Dobbs cradled a large, swathed stuffed animal under one arm she spoke.

On Saturday, another class learned how to use old fire hoses as straps to move large animals in a disaster, practicing on two horses and two ponies in the camp's equestrian arena.

Instruction included how to approach the animals.

"Animal behavior knowledge becomes important when you're dealing with animals in stressful situations," said Scott Parker, director of the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency.

Some 140 people from 15 counties participated in the Community Emergency Response Team Jamboree weekend at Camp Laurel.

Lynette Miller, of Maine Emergency Management Agency, said the attendees could sign up for the 20-hour basic emergency management course or a number of special courses, such as large animal rescue, amateur radio communications, traffic control, etc.

The weekend training, which cost an estimated $10,000, was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kennebec County EMA director Richard Beausoleil, said each team meets monthly for training.

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