SHAME on Louisiana!

More Restrictions On Rescuers Next Time Around
SOURCE: Article by Claire Davis, for Best Friends
Sent by: Shannon Moore,

April 30, 2006 / Planning For The Next Disaster in Louisiana...
State announces more restrictions on rescuers the next time around,
including credentialing and ban on out-of-state vets.
by Claire Davis

When disaster next strikes the animals of Louisiana the state is going to require that all rescuers be certified in advance by the state, and out-of-state veterinarians are not going to be allowed to assist.

These decisions were announced at a meeting Saturday night between a small group of dedicated rescuers and Dr. Renee Poirrier, DVM, the head of Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association’s State Animal Response Team (SART).

The group came together in a plush downtown hotel to discuss what they can do to get pets – and their people – out of danger the next time a hurricane strikes.

Poirrier’s main focus during the session was to urge local shelters and rescues, as well as national groups, to develop memorandums of understanding with Louisiana parishes.

Having disaster plan approved ahead of time can greatly improve the ability to respond, she said, noting that Noah’s Wish had done just that in Slidell last year, and that it worked out quite well.

But Poirrier said the most important element of disaster preparedness is individual responsibility. The first thing is to tell (residents) they have to have a plan,” she said. “For the most part, we’re going to expect people to take care of themselves.”

She said that although the state is planning shelters for the next disaster, including shelters for pets, they are not going to announce these plans to the public. The state fears that announcing shelters in advance would encourage people to rely on the state, instead of making their own preparations to stay with relatives or friends, or in pet-friendly hotels.

State shelters should only be a last resort for those people most in need, Poirrier said. She estimated about 7,000 people will need such help, including people who are disabled or don’t have transportation.

Russ Mead, an attorney with Best Friends Animal Society, challenged Poirrier on that figure – suggesting that it is too low – and also took issue with several other elements of her presentation.

Mead asked whether or not the new plan would allow out-of-state veterinarians will be permitted to practice in Louisiana in the next emergency.

Poirrier’s response was quick and to the point: “Out-of-state vets will never be allowed in again,” she said. She said laws require that practicing veterinarians have a Louisiana license. “The board’s charge is to see that the people of Louisiana are well-served by their veterinarian.”

Mead challenged the wisdom of that decision, noting that in the days and weeks after Katrina, Best Friends could have offered $10,000 a week and still wouldn’t have found any in-state veterinarians able to help the group.

Several members of the audience seconded Mead’s comments: “How many more thousands of animals would have died if (outside groups and vets) hadn’t been let in?” asked one woman.

Poirrier said the only solution was for veterinarians to get a Louisiana license in advance – a proposal Mead said was impractical for organizations like Best Friends which operates in a number of states. Similar dissatisfaction was voiced by the audience when Poirrier indicated that Louisiana is now working on a new process that will require all animal rescuers to be certified before they enter a disaster zone. Volunteers who did not get certification from the state would be asked to leave.

Required training includes taking the ICS 100 and 200 courses, as well as the NIMS 700 and 800 courses, she said. Amanda St. John, of Muttshack animal rescue, told the audience that the courses are readily available on-line. “You need to just go ahead and do it,” Poirrier said. “It’s not going to kill you.”

Mead questioned Poirrier on whether someone who had taken only two of the courses, but had 20 years of experience in the field, would be allowed to rescue. “They will throw you out,” was the response. At one point, Best Friends earned a small ovation from the crowd as several in the audience proclaimed the organization’s assistance in the disaster to have been invaluable.

That outburst came after Mead proclaimed that “I can build a temporary shelter in 48 hours.” At that point, Poirrier said the state would be glad to pair with Best Friends on shelters beyond the I-10 safety ring in Lafayette and Shreveport. Further discussions on that proposal were planned.

In the end, Poirrier again urged the groups to quickly develop memos of understanding with local parishes. It is the next, most logical step in being better prepared, she said. “I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t,” she concluded.


SOURCE: Shannon Moore,

To volunteer in Louisiana disaster/emergency, take by end of 2006
Minimum courses required at this time:
IS 100, IS 200, IS700, IS800
For field rescue, courses such as DART Training, Code 3, or other “rescue”
training will be required.

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