For some people, animals are like their children. To others, animals are an important way to earn a living.
Either way, animals are a big part of the lives of many Columbia County residents, which is why Columbia County officials are updating the county's Plan for Handling Animals in Disaster.
Pam Tucker, the county's Emergency Services Division director, said a draft of the plan to evacuate and shelter animals in a disaster was written in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd devastated the North Carolina coastline causing massive flooding and the deaths of many pets and livestock.
"It was a new awakening,'' Tucker said, adding that her department and representatives from area humane societies and animal welfare groups got together in 2002 to make an animal disaster plan.
In the past few years, Tucker said her division had worked with animal welfare groups, area and state humane societies and the county's Animal Care and Control department developing a plan to find and secure resources for animal evacuations and how to care for animals in a disaster.
The county's plan involves sheltering animals, which include horses and pets, at the Columbia County Fairgrounds, which has been approved by the Georgia Department of Agriculture as an animal shelter. People with animals at the fairgrounds can be housed at nearby Patriots Park, to be close to their animal and help care for them, Tucker said.
Animals need to be considered in emergency planning for several reasons, Tucker said, including the public health and safety concerns caused by abandoned animals and carcasses of those killed by the disaster and its aftermath.
"People do not need to leave their pets at home," Tucker said. "I feel the same way, I wouldn't leave mine. They have got to be accounted for. That is a big reason so many people will not evacuate. So many people lose their lives over it."
Tucker said the bulk of the plan was written in 2002, but officials needed more information and supplies from the state humane society before the plan could officially be approved by city and county officials.
"What we are doing now is we are going to get the signatures from our chairman and both city mayors just to make it official," Tucker said.
Now, Tucker's division is asking for input to update contacts and volunteered donations and services from businesses, animal welfare groups and citizens.
"This is a community and we do not operate in a vacuum. We want everybody to have a part," Tucker said, adding that she is asking for anyone or anything she missed. "This is everybody's plan."
The plan can be viewed at www.columbiacountyga.gov. Tucker asks that any additions, deletions or changes be sent to her office by Oct. 17. For information, call 868-3303.
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