Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 2 - Public Service
Pet Friendly Shelter Program
Angela Dean Vigil, Animal Care & Control, Emergency Preparedness - City of Jacksonville
Television coverage of a devastated little boy forced to leave his dog
behind during Hurricane Katrina rescue operations showed the world up
close the desolation of abandoning a pet during an emergency. According
to a study by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, most
pet owners think of their pets as their children or family member (74
percent of dog owners, 60 percent of cat owners and 45 percent of bird
Past hurricane evacuations in Jacksonville and elsewhere
proved that many people would not leave their pets behind even when
they themselves were in eminent danger. In some communities, people and
animals have even died because pet owners had no place to go with their
four-legged loved ones. That is a scenario we wanted to avoid in
Anticipating future evacuation scenarios, the City of
Jacksonville and other community-based organizations wanted to be
prepared to take care of pet-owning residents during an emergency. Many
City of Jacksonville departments including Animal Care and Control, the
Emergency Operations Center, the Duval County Health Department, the
Duval Country School System and the American Red Cross teamed up with
the Public Information Office to develop a sheltering plan and a
methodology to educate the community about that plan.
Objectives: 1. Inform at least 50 percent of Jacksonville’s pet-owning population about the new shelter program
2. Have at least 100 families pre-register for the shelter program
3. Drive traffic to information outlets such as the Web site and Call Center.
The group created a Pet Friendly Shelter Integrated Contingency Plan
(ICP). The ICP integrates best practices from other communities
combined with input gathered from local stakeholders. Guidelines and
registration forms were created to give the public the information
needed to prepare to go to a shelter with a pet. To reach the broadest
possible audience, the materials were placed online, in public offices
and can be ordered over the telephone.
Once guidelines and
protocols were in place, talking points and a press release were
created and distributed to all relevant stakeholders (City Agencies –
including the city call center and Animal Care and Control; the
American Red Cross; veterinarians and other animal welfare
organizations) to ensure that the media and the public would get the
answers they needed in an organized and consistent way. Informational
sessions were held to train front-line employees who would talk with
the public about the program. A Web site and downloadable
pre-registration forms were created to give the public a convenient
place to learn more and get the contact information needed to
participate in the program.
The promotional effort included
promoting the program through radio and television talk show
appearances, print stories in The Florida Times-Union and other print
publications, as well as appearances by various team members at local
speaking engagements such as community and town hall meetings.
Evaluation: The Pet Friendly Public Evacuation
Shelter Program Plan enjoyed great reception in the community and the
media, exceeding all its objectives.
1. Press coverage was
positive and plentiful. Using metrics on local media outlet saturation,
more than 85 percent of Jacksonville pet owners had the potential to
learn about the pet friendly shelter program through the earned media.
Coverage included multiple stories in local papers, multiple stories on
local news broadcasts and appearances on morning programs and radio
appearances such as the one on a WOKV talk radio program about
preparing for a disaster.
2. Three hundred forty families
pre-registered for the shelters more that exceeding out goal of 100 for
participation the first year.
3. The new Web site created for the
program had more than 9,000 visitors in the first 60 days of the
launch. On June 1, 2006, it was the number 20 page visited out of more
than 5,000 possible City of Jacksonville Web pages. The city call
center received hundreds of requests for information.
Budget: There were no hard costs to create,
organize or implement The Pet Friendly Public Evacuation Shelter
Program Plan. Shelter registration forms were printed at a cost of $200
to accommodate people who couldn’t download a copy of the forms.