Riverside County residents able to volunteer their time and resources helping save animals during wildfires, floods and other disasters are being asked to consider joining the Riverside Emergency Animal Rescue System, which starts its next academy in February.
The nonprofit REARS is operated by the county’s Department of Animal Services, which will be holding a daylong orientation and training session for prospective team members on Feb. 25 in the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter, 6851 Van Buren Blvd., according to agency spokesman John Welsh.
Animal Services Commander Josh Sisler said the group is often instrumental in relieving fire department personnel from the task of taking care of domesticated animals during a large-scale emergency.
“For more than 15 years, these dedicated volunteers have been an amazing resource for us — and county residents — during crisis events,” Sisler said. “We are very fortunate to work with so many generous people.”
He said good Samaritans regularly come forward to offer assistance with animal rescues during emergencies, but the department can only call on trained REARS volunteers.
“Our REARS volunteers are always ready to help when emergency situations occur,” Department of Animal Services Director Erin Gettis said. “We are grateful for the hours they’ve donated and incurring personal costs when responding with their rigs and trailers.”
There are currently about 60 volunteers, some of whom include retired animal control officers, officials said.
Most of the volunteers are accustomed to handling large animals because they’re equine enthusiasts, but the program does not mandate that volunteers have prior experience with livestock to join.
Once volunteers receive their orientation and training, they are certified to respond to the county’s calls for assistance.
Information on the program and its requirements, as well as applications to join, can be found at www.rcrears.com.