Animal Services Rallies Community Partners to Support Animals in Emergencies

Learn about our recent meeting and preparations to support animals in emergencies, and how you can help.

Lessons Learned From The Eagle Creek Fire

Do you remember the Eagle Creek Fire- how fast it spread, and its impact? Most of all, we remember how our community came together to respond to the emergency. Everyone wanted to help! Firefighters, law enforcement, government agencies, CERT groups, non-profits, religious groups, and others coordinated to evacuate threatened communities, shelter those affected, support first-responders, and assist with re-entry and recovery operations. There were hundreds of animals in the mix- pets and livestock. The logistical challenges of their evacuation, sheltering, and care were labor-intensive and involved many different community partners.

Animal Issues Are People Issues in Emergencies

We know from emergencies like Hurricane Katrina that people are committed to their animals, and they won't evacuate if there's not a safe place for them to go, or a way to get out. This is why our response for animals in emergencies is vitally important- for the people, and their animals.

Improving the Response for Animals in Emergencies

Animal Services, a division of the Department of Community Services, is working with Multnomah County Emergency Management (MCEM) to operationalize our Emergency Support Function 17 Annex (ESF-17) to support animals in an emergency. A major component of the process is building up a network of stakeholders, defining the community partners and resources available to provide support for animals and their people. 

Stakeholder Meeting on September 24

On September 24, Animal Services and MCEM hosted a workshop for animal welfare and emergency management community stakeholders. Over thirty-five partners from neighboring counties, the City of Portland, animal non-profits, veterinary organizations, pet supply stores, and emergency management personnel came to the table. They learned about the structure of emergency response for animals in our community, identified and coordinated resources, defined capabilities and assets to contribute, and networked with other key groups involved in emergency response.

Presentations included an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Overview, Emergency Support Functions (ESFs), and the role of ESF-17 to protect animals during an emergency.They also learned about the capabilities of MCAS. 

Attendees shared experiences and observations of the Eagle Creek Fire response including what worked, and what needs to be improved. Participants broke into small groups to discuss their organizations’ capabilities, resources, and ways they could contribute.

Next Steps to Improve Preparedness

The next step is to formalize the relationships and capabilities of participating groups, create shared agreements and define roles in various responsibilities such as animal evacuation, sheltering, vet care, search and rescue.

Additionally, Animal Services will begin to build a resource index for emergency response from information shared about available specialty personnel and teams, equipment, and animal care supplies. This resource will benefit not only Emergency Management and Animal Services, but all participating groups to help identify needs and address gaps in services or supplies.

Widening the Circle- An Invitation

Finally, Animal Services is widening the circle, inviting all agencies, groups, and members of the public with a capacity and willingness to help to join the collaborative process to plan for future emergency responses. The animals and people of our community are the ultimate beneficiaries of our increased preparation, partnerships, and resiliency.


Do you have questions about this process, or would like to get involved? Contact multcopets@multco.us, or call 503-988-6232.