Sarah Montague, Senior Producer
Sarah Montague is in her seventeenth year as producer of the fiction series Selected Shorts for WNYC, and also produces features, dramas, and documentaries.
After getting the perspective of rescue organizations and government officials for a WNYC story on emergency animal rescue, I wanted to find out how NYC pet owners and their animals had actually responded to the crisis/threat of Irene, so I conducted an unofficial survey among a few neighbors and colleagues.
A recent poll commissioned by the ASPCA (conducted by Lake Research Partners) found that “one-third (35 percent) of cat and dog owners don’t have a disaster preparedness plan in place.” However, the responses I got suggested at least a heightened level of awareness.
Boutique owner Kerrilyn Pamer frequently has her dogs (Beba, a Chihuahua rescue from Puerto Rico and Otto, an engaging Pit Bull mix), with her at her Tenth St. shop Castor & Pollux, but says that at home, she and her husband John have a go-to spot in Prospect Park: “The dogs are pretty much always with us, so our plan incorporates their plan.”
During the advent of Irene, Beba “was on high alert,” but Otto was “pretty much asleep.”
Producer Gwen Frey owns four dogs — a French Bulldog, a Brussels Griffon, and two Yorkshire Terriers.
“My first concern was if we did flood — how would I get them out?" she said "So I was prompted to buy bags, because I was worried that we’d be separated if we went to a shelter.”
(The good news about the City’s co-sheltering plans hadn’t reached her.) Frey’s dogs are also featured in her life insurance policy.
Radio producer Arthur Yorinks cares for two elderly miniature poodles on the Upper West Side; one of his poodles, Elke, is usually a storm predictor, “an immense shaking of her entire body takes place and I know that something is coming.”
Strangely, says Yorinks, who had food and water set aside, but no specific evacuation plan in place, Elke completely failed to tune in to Irene.
None of my impromptu survey subjects was aware of the city’s Animal Task Force, but all had a favorable impression of the Bloomberg Administration’s initiatives regarding animals, and all feel that New York City is a pretty good place — come rain or shine — to be a pet owner.
“I think people are hyper-aware of animals here,” said Pamer.
Gwen Frey said that if she needed help with her animals she’d call on “any store owner or neighbor without hesitation.”
Yorinks, who used to breed Border Collies, remembers that New York was once “almost a police state for animal people.” But now, he says, the city recognizes the importance of pets as part of life in New York.
For my part, Irene has been an eye-opener. I had plenty of water put by and a cat carrier, but no folder with health info (recommended by the OEM and other agencies for easy entrée to the shelter system) and no extra food. I suppose I was hoping for the best in part because my Siamese, Emily, is a rescue, and I assumed that she really, really didn’t want to go through another confusing scene of panic and displacement.
One other thing that Irene has done is persuade me to buy a collar and ID tags, previously distained in our household. For Christmas, I may even get Emily a microchip.