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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                   Winter 2013

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Hurricane Sandy and BARCS Evacuation - October 28-30, 2012
by Frederick (Rick) Lewis Jr., DVM


Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeastern United States October 29, 2012 and continued its slow moving broad destructive path through the first week of November. The devastating effects of this wide slow moving superstorm are still being felt across the Northeast, the Central Appalachians and well into New England. Initial estimates (the Washington Post 10/31/2012) suggest that the powerful storm has claimed at least 51 lives and caused up to $20 billion in damage.

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake kept the public updated on city operations. Travel and parking restrictions began 6 p.m. on October 29 and was lifted at noon on October 30. Mayor Rawlings-Blake stated that “the number one focus throughout this storm, and for the duration of our recovery effort, is public safety.” Some notes from Mayor Rawlings-Blake report ( on October 29 and 30) that Hurricane Sandy brought 6 ½ inches of rain, sustained winds of 40 mph, wind gusts of 67 mph, 230 trees down (more than ½ in the roads) and as of 10 a.m. October 30, BGE was reporting 220 downed wires and 14,000 customers without power in Baltimore City.

In preparation for Hurricane Sandy dozens of shelter workers, fellow rescue groups, volunteers, and private citizens joined in the emergency evacuation efforts of Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) which is located in a low-lying flood zone in Baltimore, MD. All 200 plus dogs and cats were safely transported from the shelter to their temporary housing location at the First Mariner Arena where they stayed for the duration of the storm, after which all the animals were safely transported back to the shelter.

Academy Animal Hospital played an important role in this evacuation. Rachel Frock called from BARCS on Sunday, October 28 to advise that the shelter might need to be evacuated Monday morning and asked if we could take“ the thirteen bite/quarantine dogs. I confirmed with my kennel staff and we prepared for their arrival. Rachel called late Sunday to confirm the evacuation order for Monday, October 29 at 8 a.m. issued by Jen Brause, BARCS Executive Director, based on recommendations from the Mayor’s office and the city Emergency Operations Center. The thirteen quarantine dogs were transported by Animal Control Officers of Baltimore City to Academy Animal Hospital at 10 a.m. Monday October 29, 2012. All 13 dogs were identified, logged in by name and animal control identification numbers. A transport ticket was signed by the lead animal control officer delivering the animals, and I cosigned as I received the animals at Academy. I chose to limit the handling and information recording to myself and to veterinary assistant Mary Kate Morris to minimize contact with the quarantined animals. The dogs were fed and runs were cleaned twice a day, or more often if needed. Run cards identified the animal and showed data on food, water, intake, bowel movements and urine output and notations if needed, for example, regarding vomiting or diarrhea, or if the dogs were receiving medications.. The cards were readily visible on the the run door. Data from the run cards were collected and transcribed to a master sheet (the “check all animals record.”)

The dogs were discharged to Animal Control Officer on October 31. A transport ticket was made as noted above, this time from Academy to Animal Control Officers for return to BARCS/Animal Control facility. The “chain of custody” is maintained and identified on records. Complete and accurate record keeping and an unbroken “chain of custody” are very important elements when handling cases for Animal Control.The hospital was staffed around the clock from Sunday October 28 through Wednesday October 31 twenty-four hours for security and care of the animals.

The following is an abbreviated statement from Jen Brause, BARCS Executive Director regarding the evacuation.

“We had been talking about emergency preparedness since we took over the shelter operations. We received funding to purchase some emergency supplies that were being stored onsite in a trailer that the City owned. These supplies included things like: crates, safety catch poles, nets, etc. The rest of the supplies [we used] are in house on a regular basis and were kept on an “emergency list” so that we could easily go around and gather the necessary supplies. These were things like: containers of food, paper trays, litter containers, bite gloves, etc.

The concern at the shelter is flooding. Water surrounds the shelter on 2 sides- one side about 50 feet away and the other side about 100 feet away. The garage flooded and the parking lot flooded during Tropical Storm Isabel. Also often during a normal rain, the drains in the kennels back up and water comes up through them.

The biggest concern has always been, where would we evacuate to? The city had never identified a location. Last year when we had a threat of evacuating, Pimlico stepped forward and offered their horse stables. These would be perfect for flooding concerns, but still would have exposed the animals to weather since they were not completely enclosed. However, it was better than flooding at the shelter. We did all the preparation for evacuation. Fortunately, with keeping in touch with the Safety and Risk Manager at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (who was constantly in touch with national weatherman) as well as the City’s office of emergency preparedness, we learned that the threat of flooding was very small if not nonexistent. The tide and winds would actually push the water away for the shelter. Therefore, we did not evacuate that year.

Shortly after that occurred, I connected with the GM of First Mariner Arena, Frank Remesh. I was touring his facility for other reasons and while there asked him about the possibility to evacuate there. He said yes, as long as there was not an act in town. There would be no room if there was. That became our number one location, with Pimlico being the second. The First Mariner Arena loading dock area was larger than we needed, was completely closed off, had drains, hoses, cement floor, and lighting. There are also conference rooms just down the hall that we could keep cats in separated from the dogs. They also had a generator and 24 hour security.

This year, about 5 days before the hurricane (Thursday), it became apparent that the storm would likely hit the east coast vs. going out to sea. It was also clear that it would remain a hurricane. The Mayor’s office of emergency prep agreed it was best to be conservative, so we told all staff and volunteers that we would make the call to evacuate by Sunday afternoon . We put a call out to our volunteers to come if they could and to let us know ahead of time if possible so we could assign duties.

Over the next few days, volunteers came forward to foster animals that they guaranteed they would take with them if it became necessary to evacuate their home. This helped us to decrease the shelter population. We also continued normal business of adoptions and intake.

Friday was spent with meetings amongst the managers and a review with staff of the plans. We also were able to get Hoffberger Moving Services (right next store to us) to donate a moving truck to [carry supplies] . They donated a second truck for the actual evacuation.

Over Saturday and Sunday, we gathered all the supplies on our emergency list and loaded the truck. We learned we were short about 45 crates. We put a call out on social media for crates and blankets and the public came forward! We also made sure every animal had a neck band with their ID number, name, and cage number on it, and that every cat had a labeled carrier and that the dog crates were size-appropriate.

Sunday we spent more time trying to find additional large transport vehicles to assist with the evacuation of about 200 animals (110 cats and 90 dogs). We were having trouble figuring out what to do with the 13 bite case/quarantine dogs in our care. We contacted Academy Animal Hospital’s Dr. Lewis and he agreed to house all 13 dogs.

Monday morning I arrived at the shelter to dozens of people I didn’t know but all willing to help! It was amazing. As it neared 7 am, more and more people showed up and the parking lot became grid locked! There were several moving trucks, SUV’s, a grooming truck, and a horse trailer that we didn’t expect!! We packed the conference room, the lobby, and people were lined up out the door! We held a meeting to give everyone a summary of what we were going to do and then we asked them to be patient as we assigned people tasks. We had more people then we needed, but were so grateful!

Some of us went to the arena to unload supplies, put the appropriate items in the dog and cat areas, set up the cat crates with litter, food, and water bowls, and covered all crates with a sheet.

The rest of the people stayed at the shelter and put cats into carriers and loaded the trucks with them. Dogs were put into their crates, covered, and transported in them. Dogs were all walked by the trained volunteers and staff before being loaded.
Once the dogs arrived at the arena, they were taken out of their crate, walked a little inside the loading area while food and water bowls were put into their crates, and then placed back in their crates. Cats were taken from their carriers and put into their crates. The Hoffberger moving service trucks and the other trucks went back and forth getting animals.

Animal Control transported the 13 bite case dogs to the hospital.

The two part time shelter veterinarians, Dr. Mammato and Dr. Sollini monitored the animals, and administered the medications for those that were on meds. A few cats became stressed and were treated as needed.

The entire transport and set up took only 2 ½ hours!

Once everyone was set up we sent all non-trained volunteers home. All trained volunteers continued to monitor the cats, change litter pans as needed, and walk the dogs in the arena. By 1 pm the storm was close and all but six staff members were sent home. Shortly after, there were restrictions placed on driving by the City. The six staff members remained with the animals overnight, as planned. They continued to monitor and walk animals and send hourly updates overnight.

On Tuesday we again communicated with volunteers via social media and with our staff via phones about the return to the shelter. We had dozens of people show up at the arena to assist, and we returned all animals to the shelter in just 2 ½ hours.”

Dr. Jack Casper, MDA/MEMA, was kept updated during the evacuation process in case any State assets may have been needed.

Dr. Patricia Klein,VMAT 2 Commander, was also kept in the informational loop in case any additional veterinary veterinary technical support may have been required.

It was a job well done by BARCS staff and volunteers and all who supported the BARCS evacuation as well as those who support animal health and welfare and public health in general on a daily basis.

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Important Links from this article

BARCS Animal Shelter

BARCS in Brief


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