PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - When a two-alarm fire in Center City claimed the lives of two dogs and a cat due to a lack of procedures geared toward pets in 2011, Philadelphia firefighter Jen Leary saw a need that most major cities have yet to address.
That's when she came up with the idea for the Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, a non-profit run by firefighters that works in conjunction with emergency and disaster relief organizations to provide care to animals on the scene.
Now, seven years later, Red Paw acts as a critical extension of the city's official emergency response plan, working to ensure no family is forced to relinquish or lose their pets due to a residential disaster.
Philadelphia County alone sees approximately half a dozen residential fires every day. And at every fire, Red Paw responders are on the ground providing search and rescue, medical care, transport and temporary shelter to pets in need.
When the fire is contained, their work doesn't end there. Responders work to provide resources, advocacy, support and counseling to approximately 25 families per week. By year's end, Red Paw provides direct care for more than 1,000 pets affected by a fire or disaster in their homes, at no cost to their family members.
Founder Jen Leary and COO Lori Albright joined Good Day Weekend on Sunday to discuss the organization and its chance to win big as an NRG Gives 2018 finalist.
The Philadelphia-based energy supply company will award one of three Pennsylvania non-profits a $100,000 prize following a week of public voting.
If the non-profit wins the big prize, it plans to train an additional team of responders, invest in a fully stocked response vehicle and increase its network of 24-hour emergency vet hospital partnerships. The organization also aims to double its capacity to provide emergency shelter by investing in additional intake space for pets following a fire in their home.
To cast your vote in NRG Gives 2018, see here. Voting is open through May 7.