By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Dangerous animals escaping from zoos is always an alarming situation. Just recently, a bobcat named Ollie escaped from the National Zoo in Washington. Zoo officials, police and animal control specialists searched for the animal for two days in nearby Rock Creek Park, but did not capture it. On Wednesday, Ollie wandered back to the zoo on her own. Officials say she’s in good health and no worse for wear after her burst of freedom.
Certainly, zoos have disaster management plans and work closely with local emergency agencies to make sure everyone is on the same page for handling such an event. Venomous snakes, however, present a very different and potentially deadly challenge.
Venomous Snake Ownership Requires Special Plans to Deal with Escapes
Lots of people keep wild animals such as monkeys and iguanas as pets. Some of those animals are not registered with local authorities because it is illegal to own them. Nevertheless, emergency management personnel and first responders must have a plan in place if those animals were to escape.
However, there are also groups of venomous snake owners, including some who use the snakes in religious practices. Police, fire and emergency medical services should have special plans in place to deal with dangerous snakes on the loose, just as they have procedures to deal with normal house pets in emergency situations. One fire department battling a home fire in James Island, South Carolina, found about 80 snakes, including a dozen or so dangerous reptiles, inside the garage.
Snake Escapes Are More Likely at Reptile Shows
Reptile shows often attract large crowds of snake enthusiasts who bring snakes for demonstrations and to sell. Although reptile shows instruct customers to bring their animals in cages or containers, occasionally some snakes do get free.
Emergency managers need to prepare for such incidents by mapping out plans and communications among the appropriate departments, so they can effectively deal with this potentially hazardous situation. These departments include police animal control units or the Department of Fish and Game.
Be Ready for Unexpected Events
One of the most important lessons of emergency management is be prepared for the unexpected. Hurricanes, tornadoes and major floods, for example, occur fairly regularly.
Strange events like a dangerous reptile on the loose are rare, but they could happen. If first responders plan for these strange events, emergency managers will also have plans in place to deal successfully with these emergencies.