PHL17 Community Heroes: First-Of-Its-Kind Emergency Services for Displaced Pets

PHL17 along with Barb’s Harley-Davidson is setting out to honor local community heroes. This week, Red Paw Emergency Relief Team was honored for the work they do for animals displaced by disaster situations like fires, flooding and building collapses.

Longtime firefighter and Red Cross volunteer Jen Leary noticed a big void in the city's emergency response system.

“You go to enough fires, building collapses, residential disasters where there’s families with pets and you see all these entities on scene helping the people, but nobody really there to assist with the pets,” 
said Leary.

It was 2011 when she started Red Paw, an emergency services, nonprofit organization run by firefighters that works to provide emergency assistance to animals affected by fires and other residential disasters.

“We’ll do search and rescue if the pets are still missing in the dwelling. We’ll provide emergency medical care on scene and then emergency transport to a hospital or boarding facility or we’ll just provide food and supplies that the family lost.”

Red Paw is the only organization in the country that provides 24/7 emergency response for pets, something Leary and COO Lori Albright are very proud of. The team treats a number of different animals including dogs, cats, turtles, birds, snakes, guinea pigs and even horses.

Red Paw was added to Philadelphia's emergency response plan in 2013 and works in conjunction with the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, the Philadelphia Fire Department, the American Red Cross and other public and private disaster relief organizations.

The team itself is made up of two full time responders and per diem responders. Olly McDonagh, one of the responders, has worked with the Philadelphia Fire Department for 14 years, but prior to saving lives he was a zoo keeper with a degree in animal science.

“For most people I would argue that animals are family and if not family they’re certainly right up there with photos as some of the most prized things you would hate to lose in a fire," said McDonagh.

Leary runs Red Paw out of her South Philadelphia home and relies on donations to keep the organization going. For example, the emergency boarding it provides to families is donated by World of Animals and VCA Animal Hospital in Old Marple and VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia.

For more information on Red Paw and how to get involved, click here.

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