CDART forming new East Kootenay Chapter

Emergency team works to help animals in event of disaster

  • Mar. 17, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Barry Coulter

The regional program that helps out people affected by a disaster — East Kootenay Emergency Social Services — has a new member of the team, this one dedicated to helping our animal companions.

CDART — the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team — is in the process of establishing an East Kootenay Branch to aid disaster victims in the area. Their mission is to provide emergency services during wildfires, floods, severe storms, environmental disasters, or anything that requires the evacuation of residents from their homes.

“During the Rock Creek/Oliver wildfires last year, many people did not have the resources available to evacuate pets and livestock,” said Ron McConnell of Wasa, one of the organizers. “Some had to simply open their barnyard gates and let the animals go, hoping they would survive on their own — many didn’t.”

Largely as a result of this situation, CDART set up a chapter in the Lower Okanagan.

“The East Kootenay is next.”

The East Kootenay chapter will be the fourth in B.C., along with Oliver-Central Okanagan, Shuswap and Southwest B.C. Mobile support is made available to other areas that need help. CDART is an all-volunteer organization, with no government funding, although when called out by Emergency Social Services (ESS), all volunteers are covered under WorkSafeBC and Provincial liability insurance.

The organization was founded in 2003, and since then has taken part in  emergency responses on an international scale, notably in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in Louisiana in 2005. “All species of animals were rescued  — dogs, cats, reptiles, guinea pigs, birds, tropical fish, horses, donkeys …” McConnell said.

THE CDART team will be comprised of trained volunteers, who in the event of such an emergency will work with other emergency responders to rescue domestic animals like horses and cattle, and find shelter for them.

Volunteers take training from Justice Institute of BC, CDART, and other agencies such as St. John Ambulance.

“Our teams do not self-deploy,” McConnell said. “They must be sent in by the ESS team, usually with other responders for back-up.

He aqdded that CDART volunteers also work with existing agencies in the area, such as BCSPCA and other rescue or foster groups.

Anyone interested in joining CDART as a volunteer is encouraged to contact local organizers at 250-421-2700, 250-420-7221, or by email at

Emergency Social Services (ESS) is a component of B.C.’s Emergency Program. ESS are services required to preserve the well-being of people affected by an emergency or disaster. Like CDART teams, ESS teams are established in local municipalities and assemble together for meetings and contingency planning.