REGION — On Tuesday, July 23, more than 100 animals were rescued from R-N-D Kennels in Solon after Maine Animal Welfare authorities determined the animals were in need of urgent care. The kennel, located at 196 Rowell Mountain Rd., was in the business of breeding rough-coat collies but cats, chickens and horses were also seized by agents executing a search warrant.

The animals were removed from the property and sent to undisclosed locations.

Animals are removed from a property in Solon Tuesday morning, July 23, after state officials executed a search warrant and seized about 80. Photo courtesy of Maine Animal Welfare

The rescue set in motion a coordinated response from local, state and national agencies and organizations, including Oxford County Animal Response Team, or OXCART.

“We are an all-volunteer team that works with emergency management, said Shirley Boyce, OXCART shelter coordinator. “We are called that out when a disaster might affect a large number of people who have pets. We do smaller responses, too. If there is a need, we are flexible as to what we do.”

For instance, OXCART responded to a fire at Oxford Meadows Apartments, Oxford in 2016. The team set up a shelter for the pets of displaced residents, recovered animals from the scene, and then gathered food and supplies for pets once residents were moved into temporary housing.

Allyson Hill, Oxford County Emergency Management director said the team also assists other agencies. “As an example, the team has helped with two different horse rescues,” she added.

“Thankfully, there are not a lot of disasters in Maine,” Boyce said.

Under the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which was signed into law in 2006, state and local emergency management agencies must have plans for the accommodation of pets. The inspiration for the PETS Act came from events during and after Hurricane Katrina, where inadequate emergency plans often forced people to abandon their pets or stay with them in a dangerous situation.

“Would you leave your pet in a situation like that? I know I wouldn’t be able to. I know a lot of people wouldn’t be able to,” Hill said.

Dogs are removed from a property Tuesday morning, July 23, in Solon after state officials executed a search warrant and seized about 100 animals. Photo courtesy of Maine Animal Welfare

In the event of a disaster, OXCART has a service trailer filled with cages and other supplies needed to set up a temporary pet shelter at designated Red Cross emergency shelters, such as a school. The temporary shelter equipment comes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is purchased with grants, Boyce said.

“We have 12 large dog crates to use in setting up a disaster shelter,” she said. “If there is a big event, we can contact the state or other animal response teams to use their equipment.”

Hill said the current situation was a unique one. “The PETS Act was meant for housing animals with their humans in disaster situations. This is different because we have a bunch of animals without their humans. Three county animal response teams, state and national agencies, and a number of animal shelters worked together to respond to this situation. Those groups continue to work together for these animals.”

The team is always looking for new volunteers, she said. However, those volunteers must complete a community emergency response team course, and regular training and drills before they can respond to a situation.

“As anybody with a job knows, the world runs on liability,” Hill said. “As wonderful as it is that people want to help out right now, you can’t do that unless you’ve previously been involved with the group, are vetted with the group and have had training. It also helps in any situation to have a relationship with each other before coming together.”

Those interested in joining the team should volunteer with the understanding that attending training and meetings is necessary, even if the knowledge is never used.

Vans are lined up near a property in Solon on Tuesday morning, July 23, after state officials executed a search warrant and seized about 80 animals. Photo courtesy of Maine Animal Welfare

“We maintain a thankfulness that we don’t have the need to respond often,” she said. “But, we always keep in mind that we might have to at some point.”

OXCART has about 15 volunteers on the roster, said Boyce.

“Since we don’t deal with a lot of disasters in Maine, not a lot of people are aware we exist,” she added. “We can always use new members. We meet once a month or once every other month to train and to talk about current issues.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with OXCART in the future should contact Hill at 743-6336.

Since the situation is under investigation, the location of the animals and other specifics can not be disclosed, said Jim Britt, director of communications for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“Shelters are providing a lot of support right now; much more than I ever could have imagined,” he said. “The animals are being very well cared for by dedicated professionals and volunteers.”

Those looking to help can do so by making a donation, he said. Dry and dye-free canned puppy and adult food, puppy pads, treats and toys are needed and can be dropped off at animal shelters.

For those wishing to make monetary donations, Britt recommended donating to a local shelter, as well.

“Ultimately, a donation will help the animals but it will also help the local shelters,” he said.

Locally, Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills, 9 Swallow Rd, Paris is accepting donations.

“Anything that comes into RPC, we can get to the temporary shelter,” said Boyce. “Donations have been coming in but the animals are going to be at the location for at least a month, so there is definitely a need.”

Donations can also be made online at www.maine.gove/dacf/animals.

A press release issued by DACF on Wednesday, July 31, said:

The 96 dogs, 6 cats, 3 chickens and 2 horses seized by Maine Animal Welfare last week are receiving needed medical care and behavioral evaluations. At present, all of the animals are considered evidence in the complaint and the legal process is expected to take several weeks. The urgent and immediate need is for public contributions to help finance the rescue effort.

More than 70 adult Collies and Dobermans are being cared for in an emergency shelter. “Everyone is doing a great job caring for the dogs and our next hurdle is to move to an emergency shelter that is larger and better equipped,” said Liam Hughes, Maine Animal Welfare Director. “We are trying to give the dogs the individual care they need, but this temporary shelter site is too small. We are working to move to a new location so we can focus on rehabilitation.”

The emergency shelter location is and will remain undisclosed to provide security for the animals and the staff coordinating this effort.

Anyone wanting to help should check with their local shelter. Shelters across Maine are sending supplies and trained staff to care for the animals.

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