Heath Nagel has always been an avid animal lover. He created the Emergency Pet Care Program because he saw a need. According to Nagel, many people worry about the welfare of their pets in the case of a human-related emergency. They wonder, who will take care of their beloved animal if they’re confined to a hospital bed?Nagel says he once encountered a woman in the midst of a medical emergency who did not want to leave her pet. According to Nagel, the Marco Island firefighters had to find a neighbor to take care of her animal while she was being treated.
“We’re concerned about the pet,” Nagel said. “We’re not going to leave a pet to sit in a house alone to starve to death. We make sure the pet is taken care of as well.”
The Emergency Pet Care Program addresses this logistical issue head on. It works via a pet emergency card system, similar to that of the File for Life program for humans. The card, which is filled out by the pet’s owner, has detailed information about the pet, including its veterinarian, a list of medications, and a designated emergency contact. Pet owners are instructed to leave that card on their refrigerator at all times. Marco Island firefighters/paramedics have been trained to check the fridge for pertinent pet information.“I think this program is important to the citizens of Marco Island because we see a need,” Bowden said. “At the fire department we focus on community risk reduction and this is one of those risks we see often.” The Pet Care Program is also in the process of creating a foster care network for islanders. It consists of volunteers who are available to care for displaced pets. When you sign up to be a foster you’re asked to indicate what type of animal you would be available to look after (dog, cat, reptile, rodent, or bird). You’re then entered into a database. In the case of an emergency you’ll be called into action to take care of a pet in need.
“If you don’t have anybody here that can care for your pet, we have a bank of people that are dog lovers, or animal lovers, and can care for your pet in the event of an emergency,” Bowden said.The event ended with a pet CPR/ Heimlich maneuver demonstration. Shogi, a dog CPR mannequin, once again made an appearance. Marco Islanders Steve and Carole Roberts donated Shogi to the MIFRD last year.
The Pet Care Program is available to all Marco Island residents.For more information on the Pet Care Program or Pet CPR visit the Marco Island Fire Department, 1280 San Marco Road. Call them at 239-389-5040.