The Virginia Tech Community Animal Response Team (CART) is a volunteer disaster response team composed of students, staff and faculty from the Virginia Tech as well as community members from the New River Valley.
Following Hurricane Katrina, in order to help encourage individuals to evacuate their homes in the event of a disaster, the U.S. Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS Act). This legislation required states to include animal care and sheltering in disaster planning in order to be eligible to receive federal disaster funds. Additionally, in 2006, the Virginia State Animal Response Team (VASART) was created through a private-public partnership to serve as a unifying network of organizations, businesses, federal and state government agencies, and individuals that supports the prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery for emergencies affecting animals.
In 2007, Governor Timothy Kaine mandated the establishment of a State Managed Shelter (SMS) Initiative under the Virginia Department of Social Services. The goal of the SMS system is to provide shelter for large numbers of evacuees during an emergency evacuation within the Commonwealth. SMSs are activated only when localities have become overwhelmed, and after the Governor declares a state of emergency. Emergency animal sheltering within the SMS system is managed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Virginia Tech has been designated as a site of one of several SMSs located on college or university campuses across Virginia.
Animals accepted into the SMSs include household pets, such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, or turtles that are traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes and can travel in commercial carriers and be housed in temporary facilities. Household pets do not include reptiles (with the exception of turtles), amphibians, fish, insects/arachnids, farm animals (including horses), and animals kept for racing purpose. Pet owners are housed nearby—a concept called co-sheltering—and visit their pets twice a day to facilitate exercise. The goal of the shelter is to care for pets for one to four weeks following a disaster.
The SMS on the campus of Virginia Tech is unique in that it can draw upon the expertise and volunteer resources of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in staffing the shelter while providing veterinary students an opportunity to learn first-hand about disaster veterinary care, thus preparing future veterinarians to serve on CARTs in their communities.
In August of 2010, a State Managed Shelter exercise was conducted at Virginia Tech to test the plans to shelter humans and companion animals on the Virginia Tech campus in response to a hurricane affecting coastal Virginia.
In March of 2013, the Virginia Tech Community Animal Response Team was recognized as an active CART under the auspices of the Virginia SART, with the focus on providing companion animal emergency sheltering.
The Future of VT CART
In response to a local or regional disaster affecting the New River Valley area, the CART may be requested to provide emergency animal sheltering service for a locality upon the official request of a County Emergency Manager.
In the future, with additional training and resources, the VT CART could potentially assume other emergency response roles such as Large Animal Sheltering, Veterinary Medical Clinical Services, Animal Rescue, and Animal Disease Outbreak Support. If you would like to see us take on these larger roles, you can help by donating to or volunteering with VT CART.