REARS is the system that has been developed to perform animal rescue, evacuation, sheltering, care and welfare of domestic and livestock animals within Riverside County during times of disaster or extraordinary emergencies.
REARS is comprised of a coordinating council consisting of the Riverside County Animal Services, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Fire Department – Office of Emergency Services and the California Highway Patrol. These are the primary agencies in supporting an evacuation.
The REARS backbone for carrying out the operational tasks of rescuing, evacuating, sheltering and caring for animals during emergencies is local government animal welfare staff and volunteers trained in animal rescue and emergency animal care. This cadre of trained individuals is supervised on incidents by Riverside County Animal Services management staff.
REARS can be deployed anywhere within the County of Riverside for emergency activities. Local government can also request REARS through the normal call out procedure. Through the Operational Area Coordinator, RivCo Fire Department – Office of Emergency Services, REARS may also be deployed out of County.
REARS is activated through a pager or a telephone call out procedure. (see activation procedures) RivCo Animal Services will always be the lead for REARS, though may be assisted on scene by another coordinating council agency such as RivCo Sheriff, RivCo Fire Department – OES or CHP.
RivCo Animal Services Supervision (Animal Rescue Coordinator) will be collocated at the Incident Command Post while another representative establishes an Animal Staging Area (Animal Staging Manager) nearby. This staging area will be in close proximity to the ICP, though not close enough to interfere with ICP or operational activities. The nature of the size and quantity of animal rescue equipment and vehicles necessitates an Animal Staging Area, separate from the Incident Staging Area. This will be the area that equipment is checked in, configured in teams and then deployed to perform animal rescue activities.
Rescued animals are brought to Animal Staging for inventory, tagging, emergency first aid and then transported to board facilities by transport teams.
Riverside County Animal Services is the tasked agency within the County for the rescue, care and welfare of animals. During times of disasters, they have called upon the services of other local government animal services agencies to assist. It was quickly realized that extraordinary emergencies can overwhelm the available on duty animal rescue agencies and extended response times will affect the overall success of rescue operations. Additionally, there was often an overwhelming response of good intentioned local citizens desiring to assist. This has helped in the past, though often hindered emergency operations and needlessly placed citizen rescuers and first responders in harms way.
The Mountain Fire of October 2003 was the catalyst to developing a coordinated and collaborative effort for the emergency rescue, care and welfare of animals during times of emergencies and disasters.