When nearly 100 Redwood City residents were displaced by a fire at the 72-unit Hallmark House Apartments on July 7, 2013, many pet owners were left searching for their missing dogs, cats, parakeets, or other animals in the aftermath of the fire.
American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter volunteer Ann Schneider tried to bring what comfort she could to the displaced residents whose pets were missing by taking photos of pets turned in to the Peninsula Humane Society after the fire. Ann then showed those photos to the residents, hoping her photos would reunite the owners with their beloved pets.
As a pet owner herself, Ann felt a deep connection to the project.
Ann, who has volunteered for the Red Cross since 2005 working primarily in external relations, said taking the photos was challenging, as it was difficult to get the upset animals to stay still, but she managed to take the photos and returned to the shelter.
Red Cross Regional Communications Specialist, Pooja Trivedi, worked closely with Ann during the project.
“For many of the residents their pets meant the world to them. Ann's photos reassured them that their pets were safe and being cared for,” said Pooja.
The printed photographs were passed around to residents during a meeting at the National Guard Armory in Redwood City, which served as a shelter in the days after the fire, so people could begin to identify their pets. During the meeting the following Thursday after the fire, employees, residents, partner organizations, and fire department representatives were also in attendance to discuss services available to residents and long-term housing options.
Ann recalled how important the photos were during that meeting. “People were desperately, desperately concerned for their animals,” she said.
Ann, who works in the environmental field, said there were originally 14 animals to be matched with their owners, but when she arrived at the Humane Society, there were only four cats, two parakeets, and some fish that had not been identified, as “a majority of them had been chipped and matched to their owners.”
Animal shelters and veterinarians can scan an implanted microchip, which is the size of a grain of rice, to identify and reunite pet and owner quickly.
Both Ann and Pooja urge owners to microchip their pets, save photos of their animals on their cell phones, and have copies of printed photos of the animals in their emergency kits to help identify pets if an emergency or disaster occurs.
Learn how to include your pets in your emergency and disaster preparedness plans: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety
Learn about the American Red Cross Pet First Aid mobile app: http://www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/pet-first-aid-app
Read more about this response: http://www.redcross.org/ca/san-francisco/news-events/news/article/Red-Cross-Responds-to-Major-Redwood-City-Fire