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DART helps animals in times of disaster

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By SUSAN SCOTTDART VolunteerLove animals? Want to help during a disaster? Well, you can combine those two elements by becoming a trained member of the Wilson County DART, the Disaster Animal Response Team.  What is a Disaster Animal Response Team (DART)? Tennessee Disaster Animal Response Teams, deployed by Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, are a statewide program under the authority of the State Veterinarian, Department of Agriculture. The DART program was created in the 1990s but has been expanded since the Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina disasters. These two events showed deficiencies in emergency response to situations involving animals.In fact, the creation Wilson County’s Disaster Animal Response Team, in 2006, was a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. Julie Kupniewski, DART field leader, had just returned from her second visit to New Orleans. She found that even six months after Katrina, things in New Orleans were a mess and clean-up efforts were progressing very slowly.Wanting to avoid that situation in Wilson County, Kupniewski approached Melissa Riley, who was, at that time, WEMA’s disaster planner, with her concerns about Wilson County’s preparedness in the case of a disaster that might include animals. Riley made several phone calls, sent out some emails, and in short order, a dozen animal lovers had become the core of Wilson County’s DART, a team that is active today.Who can be members of a Disaster Animal Response Team? A DART is made up of credentialed persons who can enter critical areas in an emergency situation involving animals.  These individuals can range from veterinarians and vet technicians to interested animal lovers with some type of experience with animals (livestock, exotic, pets, and/or companion animals).What are DART members trained to do? The Wilson County DART team provides assistance during local emergencies, such as overturned trailers hauling livestock, animals who are trapped, providing animal shelters after a tornado, as well as providing assistance in large-scale disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks against both man-made and agricultural targets.Are there any requirements to join the Wilson County DART? Yes and No. If you want to be a full DART member, you are required to take the FEMA DART certification course consisting of three Independent Study FEMA classes on line: IS-100.a, IS-200.a, and IS-700.a. (The classes are agonizingly boring, but doable.) If you don’t want to become a credentialed member of the WCDART but would still like to help, volunteers will be needed in a disaster situation to assist with feeding, walking, and basic needs care for rescued animals. If you are interested in joining the WCDART to help in this way, please contact us via Twitter, Facebook, our website (wilsondart.com), or email (wilsondart@gmail.com), and we will put you on a disaster call list.If you would like to donate to the Wilson County Disaster Animal Response Team, the following items are currently needed: hand sanitizers, Klingwrap, Betadine, peroxide, surgical drapes and flat storage boxes. Of course, financial donations are also appreciated. Please contact us by emailing WCDART Field Leader Julie Kupniewski (jkup@bellsouth.net), WCDART Team Leader Melissa Riley (melissa.n.riley@gmail.com) or WCDART Coordinator Ruth Correll (acorrell@utk.edu).You may also contact us via the DART website or email. If you have items to donate, we will arrange to meet you to receive your donation. Thanks for your support of your Wilson County DART.
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