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The mission of Animal Emergency Working Group of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is to provide guidelines for rapid response to disasters affecting the health, safety, and welfare of animals.  Veterinary medicine and animal care resources in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery include, but are not limited to, small and large animal care, facility usage, displaced pet/livestock assistance, and waste disposal.

NJDA Hosts 20th Annual

Animal Emergency Working Group Symposium

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture hosted the 20th Annual Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG) Symposium on Saturday, April 28, with more than 40 volunteers from nine counties and two states participating in tabletop exercises designed to strengthen their skills in operating co-located County Animal Response Team (CART) shelters in an emergency.

Four teams, with members from Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset and Sussex counties, and one visitor from New York, competed in the “Game of CART” and “JeopCARTy” contests to measure how well they can adjust to conditions in an emergency animal shelter where pets of evacuated residents staying in a nearby human shelter are housed temporarily.

While the competition got spirited at times, it was all in the pursuit of statewide cooperation and expanding all participants’ knowledge of responding to the needs of pet owners during a disaster. While the state has not seen a large-scale animal-sheltering response in a disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the AEWG symposium is conducted annually to provide animal responders the opportunity to keep their skills sharp for when they are needed.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is the lead agency responsible for Emergency Support Function 11 (ESF11) in the State Emergency Operations Plan, and works with other agencies that operate human-evacuee shelters to ensure that pet owners who might otherwise decide not to evacuate if they could not take their pets with them have the ability to bring their pets to the co-located shelter.

Three counties that provided captains for the four teams – Bergen, Camden and Hunterdon – were given certificates to redeem for pet crates and blankets, and all participants went home with “go bags” with items such as collapsible water bottles and leashes to use in emergencies.


 Gidget Petry of the Bergen County CART leads Team Purple through simulating shelter operations in “The Game of CART.”


Dr. Meredith Steudle of the NJDA’s Division of Animal Health addresses the opening session of the 20th Annual Animal Emergency Working Group (AEWG) Symposium.