Emergency Unit Assists During Major Events
More volunteers are sought for a special volunteer unit activated by the Riverside County Department of Animal Services during major events.
The Riverside Emergency Animal Rescue System – or simply REARS – is a volunteer unit that assists Animal Services when disasters strike, such as the ever-frequent threat of wildfires. REARS has also assisted the county department when a large-scale animal neglect case requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.
The next REARS course is Saturday, March 30, at the Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter (6851 VanBuren Blvd., Jurupa Valley). The course will take place in the shelter’s training center, located just to the right of the main lobby doors. The workshop runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Members who complete the course are then eligible to be part of the mock exercise on April 27 at the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus. More details about that event will be posted on Animal Services’ website. REARS members only have to attend that one practical exercise once per year to remain active and certified. Only those that attend that mock exercise are allowed to participate in the real-life, emergency events.
“We often get people from all over that want to assist our agency during wildfires,” Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said. “However, we only use our REARS members because they have been properly trained to work with us during such critical moments.”
Mayer said it all comes down to working safely during moments of crisis. “We cannot allow random volunteers to gointo evacuation zones because we are working directly with an incident command post and only going to locationswhere we are allowed to safely go. That’s why we only use those specialized volunteers that we have trained andcertified as REARS members.”
The unit has been in existence for more than 10 years. Many of the members are those skilled with horse-handling skills and own trucks and trailers. Although livestock skills are not a requirement for REARS members, those skills do come in handy during the major evacuation events.
“We appreciate all these volunteers so much because they’re spending their own time and gas money,” Mayer said. “They’re amazing people.”
And here’s a REARS-related fun fact: In April 2010, volunteers from REARS assisted Riverside County transporting hundreds of pets from the old Riverside Animal Shelter on Wilderness Avenue to the new Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley. The REARS volunteers made the large-scale event go smooth.