This article originally appeared on Dr. Mahaney’s Pet-Lebrity News column on Pet360.com as Interview with Nat Geo WILD Animal Storm Squad Star Karissa Hadden.
I love having the opportunity to profile others w0ho are using their skills to help animals. If you’re not already aware, there’s a Nat Geo WILD program called Animal Storm Squad in which a group of animal professionals swoop in to help families and pets in need when natural disaster strikes.
Animal Storm Squad features Karissa Hadden, a veterinary assistant and founder of Never Stop Saving Animal Disaster Rescue Transport. Hadden is certified in advanced search and rescue by the National Association for Search and Rescue and her educational background includes a degree in human resource management and public communications service from Fanshawe College in Ontario, Canada and a veterinary assistant certificate from the Stratford Career Institute.
Fortunately, Hadden was willing to take time from her busy schedule saving animal lives to speak with me for this column. Here’s what she had to say about her work:
Q: What events in your upbringing led you to want to become an animal assistant and what was your training like?
A: As a child, I always envisioned being a veterinarian or biologist but unfortunately my math and science skills didn’t quite match my enthusiasm and love for animals. I spent countless hours volunteering for shelters growing up, attending horse camps and roamed forests and parks to learn more about wildlife. I had cats, dogs, fish and mice growing up as well. We were never without a pet in the house!
After attending Fanshaw College for Human Resource Management I knew my love was still very much in the animal field so I enrolled in the veterinary assistant program through the Stratford Institute in Quebec, Canada. After completing the course, I applied to many veterinary clinics and the first clinic hired me.
Q: What are your favorite aspects of working with animals and what are your professional goals in the realm of animal care provision?
A: My favorite part about working with animals at the clinic is the diversity of animals that come in for care. My veterinarian, Dr. Jim Holmes, specializes in exotics and has helped with primates as well as domestic animals, so each day looking at our schedule and what may come in is always exciting. From seven-foot boa constrictors to macaws, kittens and puppies, I love the experience and handling I get on a daily basis. We also do work for our city’s animal control so we help with raptors, wildlife and cruelty cases.
I always struggled financially to be able attend vet tech school, but thankfully the doctor I work with has trained me internally in vet tech duties. I’ve already accomplished so many goals in the past six years, from not just being able to draw up a vaccination, answer calls and book appointments to now intubating dogs, drawing blood, running fecal samples, taking radiographs and assisting in both elective and emergency surgeries. My future goals are to dive into animal behavior in stressful situations and how they react and respond during natural disasters.
Q: How did you get involved in Animal Storm Squad and what can we expect to see on the show?
A: I got involved in Animal Storm Squad after a friend of a volunteer of ours from Never Stop Saving who worked at a production company in California reached out to me to ask if they could come and film a short clip of our team responding to a natural disaster. As we were already out in the field for a tornado disaster I said sure, and after putting together a short clip and showing it to Nat Geo WILD, it quickly became the show Animal Storm Squad.
On the show you can expect to see many rescues from cats and dogs, horses and ponies to destruction, intense situations, erratic weather and how amazing it is to see how quickly communities come together in a time of need. We work with police and fire officers, animal controls and many other amazing animal organizations like All 4 Paws in South Carolina to Furgiving Pets in Texas.
Q: What is your most remarkable story of animal rescue?
A: There are too many remarkable rescues to pick just one, and some are even before the cameras and production were even a part of our process, but to me the most remarkable rescues are the ones where we can not only tell the owners we have rescued their pets unharmed, but that their home has survived as well!
Q: What’s next for you and how can my readers get to know you more (social media, links to show website, etc.)?
A: I wish I knew! All I know is that I will continue to do everything I can to rescue animals in need after disaster strikes and with the animals that need my help in my own community. We are always needing help with donations small or big. Unfortunately, one of our rescue vehicles kicked the bucket so we are raising funds to be able to purchase a Ford Transit or Mercedes Sprinter.
I also want to inspire our youth to get involved with what they are passionate about, to get out and volunteer for your local shelter and rescues. Walk the dogs, play with the kitties and bring awareness to the millions of animals that desperately need us to be their voice. We recently received our charitable status in Canada and next we will be applying for our 501 c3 in the US.
Make sure to tune into Animal Storm Squad on Fridays at 10 p.m. EST on Nat Geo WILD.
Have you ever been called to action to help save an animal in need? Feel free to share your perspective in the comments section.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Thank you for reading this article. Your questions and comments are completely welcome.
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Copyright of this article (2016) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.