By Krista Koontz, Humane Investigations Coordinator
In 2021, Animal Friends’ Humane Investigations team handled a total of 12 mass rescues involving 244 animals. It became apparent that, with only two officers at the time, there was a need for assistance when responding to these scenes. Recognizing that our Humane Investigations Department would likely be facing an increased number of mass rescues, Animal Friends created the Mass Rescue Team.
The Mass Rescue Team (MRT) is comprised of Animal Friends staff who volunteer to assist our Humane Society Police Officers in responding to scenes involving more than five animals who need to be removed from a single incident or property. The MRT is structured under the Incident Command System (ICS) that is used by almost all police, fire and emergency management departments, which creates a position structure that is easy to understand and implement. By using this structure, our Humane Investigations team will be able to work seamlessly with other agencies that may be needed to assist on the scene. It will also allow the scene to be organized and well-planned.
In order for staff to become part of the MRT, they are required to complete a pre-requisite online training in Incident Command Structure (ICS 100) through FEMA. Staff are then required to attend an in-person training which reviews the information learned in ICS 100 and trains staff in how the command structure will be implemented on scenes. This training also reviews the policies and procedures of the MRT. After this training is completed, staff members must then complete FEMA ICS 200 online training within six months of completing the in-person training.
The implementation of the MRT has allowed Animal Friends to handle mass rescues in a far more structured and efficient manner. Our Humane Investigations team plans to continue to expand the Mass Rescue Team and add new members, as well as create new trainings for current members to attend.
If you have witnessed animal cruelty in Allegheny County, contact our Humane Investigations team to give your eyewitness report at 412.847.7066.