Special-needs shelters set


POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

People with special health needs and pets will be accommodated at designated emergency shelters, Gov. Linda Lingle and state Civil Defense Director Robert Lee said yesterday.

They made the announcement at Stevenson Middle School, where pets and people with special health needs can go in an emergency. There will be 158 special-needs shelters spread across all islands, and 55 pet shelters on every island except Molokai and Lanai.

The announcement came at the start of hurricane season, which runs through November, and three years after Lingle signed a law that provides shelter space for pets.

“;Most people who love their animals would no sooner think of abandoning a pet than they would any member of their family,”; said Lingle, a cat owner.

During Hurricane Katrina, 30 percent to 40 percent of those who stayed in their homes did so because of their pets, she said.

In the storm's aftermath, Congress took a position that pet shelters were needed, the governor said.

“;We can't sit and let that situation occur where people refuse to leave because there's nowhere for them to take their pet,”; she said.

Pamela Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said, “;If you don't address the pet issue, then it becomes a people issue.”;

The shelters for people with special health needs would be headed by a leader from the Red Cross and staffed with state Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, of which there are 750 ready to provide for the more than 250,000 special health needs residents.

Those with health needs will have to be accompanied by a caregiver. The shelters will be equipped with such items as oxygen tanks and special cots, but no medication will be provided.

Individuals requiring more than caregiver attention should go to a hospital rather than a shelter.

Pets must be brought in crates or carriers, with at least a two-day supply of food, water, medication, dishes, identification tags, leashes, newspapers and towels.

Pet-designated shelters, which will be overseen by a Humane Society-trained resident, will accept common pets, such as dogs, cats, guinea pigs, turtles and birds, but not large livestock. No limit has been placed yet on the number of pets.

Lee said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends having shelter for 35 percent of the population, and the state has exceeded that with nearly a half-million shelter spaces. The state is also partnering with condominiums and hotels to increase shelter spaces, he said.