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Red Cross offers app with pet emergency advice

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 10:55 p.m.

A new app released by the American Red Cross is aimed at helping pet owners during crucial times.

Released this month, the Red Cross' Pet First Aid app offers Apple and Android users access to pertinent information during health emergencies and evacuation planning, said Lauren Ashley, spokeswoman for the Red Cross' Western Pennsylvania division.

“(Pet owners) want to keep their pets safe, and we certainly appreciate that,” she said. “Our advice is to plan ahead so you have that information.

“We are committed to serving people, but it's obvious how important pets are.”

The organization has offered pet first-aid courses in the past “but not something so cohesive” as an app, Ashley said.

Users will find videos and instructions for common first-aid situations with pets — including burns and cold- and heat-related emergencies.

Also part of the app is information for emergency evacuations, including pet-friendly hotels and resources for creating an emergency plan.

Events such as Hurricane Katrina increased the response the Red Cross makes during emergencies to help pets, Ashley said.

During disasters, the Red Cross works closely with pet organizations “so we can ensure that people who have pets can go to a pet-friendly area,” she said.

“Many people are not going to leave their pet behind, so we want to think about their safety,” Ashley said.

Having a plan and proper pet identification is important during disasters, said Christy Bostardi, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Animal Friends shelter in Ohio Township.

The organization took in displaced pets from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has worked with emergency personnel in other situations, she said.

“You need to have some kind of plan for where you can go and keep your whole family together — including your pets — and not be forced to separate from them,” Bostardi said.

Like the Red Cross, Animal Friends offers CPR courses for pet owners.

Animals adopted from the shelter are given microchips, but an identification tag and licensing are important, she said.

“We're often approached with or have found an animal that was displaced from their family,” Bostardi said.

“The best hope is that they're reunited, but sometimes it's difficult to do without the proper identification.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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