nj_animal_shelterPhoto: A shelter set up during Hurricane Sandy.

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture recognized the achievements of the state's County Animal Response Teams in 2012 during a ceremony Saturday, February 2 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy and Emergency Services Center in Sayreville.

The recognition ceremony took place during the Animal Emergency Working Group's annual review of County Animal Response Teams (CART) activities. Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent damage presented the state with unprecedented emergency challenges, including the need to evacuate and house hundreds of pets, as well as rescue hundreds more that were left behind or lost during the storm. The CARTs were activated by their county Offices of Emergency Management in preparation for the storm and some had continuing mission for almost 4 weeks.

Recognized CARTs activated during Sandy included: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex, and Union.

Some of those highlighted during the event for their actions above and beyond the call of duty during the response to Sandy were:

Bergen CART: Gidget Petry – CART Director – Petry organized the evacuation of animals from flooded towns in Bergen after a levee was overtopped and then organized the sheltering of those and other animals.

Burlington CART: Elaine Sullivan – CART Director, Matthew Edson and Rebecca Boncheck – CART Veterinarians – In addition to caring for animals initially sheltered in Burlington, they received and cared for more than 40 animals from Ocean County. During this time, they also helped reunite people with their pets that had been left behind during evacuation and then rescued by the Humane Society of the United States. The three also traveled to Monmouth and Ocean counties after their shelter closed and helped care for animals there.

Camden CART: Chuck Bell – CART Director and Veterinarian – During the hurricane, Bell, one of the founders of the CART movement in NJ, and his team sheltered some animals in Camden for a few days. When these animals went back home, he organized his team to give assistance to Burlington and with very little warning, set up a shelter for Ocean as a snow storm approached and they faced further evacuations.

Monmouth CART: Christine Seminerio – CART Director – Seminerio single handedly ran the Monmouth County shelter for nearly four weeks. Prior to Sandy, Monmouth was still organizing a CART, and Christine was involved. As Sandy approached, she went to the former Arthur Brisbane Child Treatment Center in Wall and set up to receive animals whose owners were being sheltered in other parts of the building. She ran the shelter completely alone and unassisted for the first four days. After that, help came but she continued to stay as shelter manager for the duration of the shelter activation.

Ocean CART: Sandy Grey – CART Director and Shelter Manager, Helen Ferraro – CART Shelter Manager and John Bergman – CART ACO – Sandy and Helen ran two separate shelters for almost 12 days. During that time, more than 500 animals passed through their doors. Each one of them averaged over 100 hours of volunteer time during that period. John participated in the Search and Rescue of animals that had been left behind during evacuation of shore communities. In addition to rescuing these animals, he worked at ensuring they were reunited with their owners and even drove some of them across the state to make sure this happened.

Sussex CART – Karen Dashfield – CART Director and Veterinarian – Dashfield organized and ran the Sussex shelter where many people came to find power and heat. She also helped place animals that were given up for adoption when the owners could not care for them.

The Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG) is a cooperative interagency committee of governmental agencies, animal owners, livestock enterprises, veterinarians, non-profit animal groups, and the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, and other animal organizations, collaborating to develop and implement a coordinated animal emergency response. AEWG members, along with CART leadership and CART volunteers, were in attendance.