Rancho Santa Fe–The Helen Woodward Animal Center has a new addition to its services.
The center unveiled their state-of-the-art, 37-feet-long Rescue RV completely retrofitted with veterinary equipment and prepared to deploy to the rescue of animals in a natural disaster in any part of the U.S.
The RV will be operated by the Helen Woodward Animal Center Emergency Response Unit and Rescue Team.
The center received funding totaling $250,000 to purchase and retrofit the response RV, as well as train a rotating team of nine center staff in emergency response. The generous donors were the Linda C. Scott Fund for Animal Welfare and the San Diego Foundation’s matching grant support of $125,000, matched by the Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust.
“It has always been Helen Woodward Animal Center’s goal to not only assist animals in need locally but all around the country and even the world,” said Helen Woodward Animal Center President and CEO Mike Arms. “This new emergency response equipment gives us the ability to assist when help is most needed.”
The RV sleeps four people, and includes 12 animal kennels and a medical exam table. The unit is stocked with life-saving veterinary medications and supplies to aid injured animals and even transport displaced orphan pets back to San Diego to find forever homes. Most crucially, the new rescue RV allows the rescue team to be self-sufficient amid a disaster situation, equipped with a refrigerator, laundry facility, bathroom and bathing equipment for the animals.
The funding also supported the purchase of personal safety equipment including dry-suits, helmets, boots and more and will send a team of nine center staff, including a adoptions veterinarian and personnel, and other medical staff to a specialized training in Del Mar in April. The week-long course is conducted by Code 3 Associates, a nonprofit providing professional training to individuals and agencies involved in animal related emergency response. There, the team will learn water and boat operating safety, animal handling and behavior, fire awareness, search and rescue and more.
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Helen Woodward Animal Center has taken an active role in aiding devastated shelters during emergency situations around the country. Again, in 2012, when parts of the East Coast were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the center partnered with Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Rescue to fly 60 orphan pets to Rancho Santa Fe. The orphan dogs and cats, who had been housed in an east coast shelter before the storm, had nowhere to go when the shelter was left underwater. The rescue provided them safety and ultimately found them their forever homes.
The center adoptions and medical staff were also on the ground after Hurricane Harvey left the Houston area underwater. There, center adoption team members were able to assist Operation Pets Alive, providing medical care and rescue to approximately 80 orphan pets housed in shelters that were flooded during the hurricane. The rescue efforts succeeded in getting the orphan pets out of the devastated shelters and to the center thanks to a life-saving flight donated by Southwest Airlines.
The goal of these rescue missions is to alleviate the burden on animal welfare professionals and shelters in areas affected by disasters when help is needed most. The center’s team will respond by rescuing and treating injured pets and transporting orphan animals in need back to San Diego to safety.