Co-Located Human and Animal Shelters

Johnston County
  • North Carolina

Johnston County has a well-developed plan for co-located human and animal shelters. The need for co-located shelters has been demonstrated in past disasters where persons at risk willingly sacrificed their own safety to remain with their pets. The Johnston County shelter can house up to 415 domestic animals, although those without prior rabies vaccination are not accepted.

In May 2008, Johnston County participated in the North Carolina Hurricane Exercise as a host site for evacuees from the coast. During the exercise, the county successfully demonstrated their ability to set up and operate a co-located shelter according to their plan. The Johnston County plan calls for animal shelters at the same site but physically separate from human shelters operated by the American Red Cross.

Shelter staffing varies depending on whether Johnston County is sheltering county residents or is serving as a host county for evacuees from the coast. For Johnston County emergencies, the shelter is staffed by Animal Services and selected volunteers from Johnston County Animal Protection. When a shelter is hosting evacuees from another county, the visiting county supplies personnel to staff the animal shelter under the umbrella of the Red Cross.

Since the shelters are located at Johnston County schools, the co-location plan requires the support of school administrators as well as emergency management and the local health department. To improve safety at the sites for co-location, industrial hygienists and veterinarians inspected the schools and provided recommendations to prevent cross-contamination between humans and animals.

Local agencies can request these assistance visits through their emergency management to North Carolina Emergency Management Human Services Section. The Emergency Programs Division at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services can help counties plan for a co-located shelter. The Division can also provide information about Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailers (CAMETs), mobile equipment, and supply caches to assist in establishing a shelter for companion animals.