THOMASVILLE — Animal safety during disasters will be the main focus of the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society’s annual spring benefit dinner on April 29.

The event’s featured speaker is Terri Crisp, founder and president of Noah’s Wish, an organization that strictly deals with rescuing animals in times of disaster and preparing individuals and communities to respond to the needs of animals during disasters.

“We’ve experienced so many storms in our area that we thought it would be interesting for the people in our community to have the chance to find out how animals are rescued,” said Carol Jones, executive director of the humane society. “This woman has been involved with Hurricane Katrina, a tsunami, the Bainbridge floods and rescued animals from fires. People are thinking more and more in terms of their animals and are horrified by what they see during these disasters and becoming more proactive.”

Crisp formed Noah’s Wish in 2002 after more than 20 years of experience on the front lines of animal rescue.

“It took us a while to come up with the name,” she said. “We chose Noah because he was the first person who put forth an effort to save animals in a disaster, and we thought it would be his wish that someone continue in his footsteps.”

Crisp began her career in 1983 as a volunteer at the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley. In 1988, she volunteered for United Animal Nations (UAN) and represented them during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1993, Crisp was hired by UAN to develop its Emergency Animal Rescue Service Program (EARS), where she learned to train and mobilize volunteers in animal rescue across the country.

Her extensive experience has been amassed through response to more than 70 major disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, and her work and the mission of Noah’s Wish have been covered in various media outlets like The Oprah Winfrey Show and 20/20.

Crisp is the author of two books, “Out of Harm’s Way” and “Emergency Animal Rescue Stories,” both of which provide personal recollections of her relief work.

She also helped author an independent study course for FEMA called “Animals in Disasters.”

“I’m real excited to be going down to Thomasville and pleased to have been invited to this event,” said Crisp. “Any opportunity to meet with people who live in areas that are at risk for disaster — I think hurricanes are the biggest concern for this area — and give people information to help them be better prepared is great. A lot of people have a plan in place but it is not complete or they need further assistance, and the best plans available are what we want to be able to give them.”

Ten percent of the proceeds from the ticket sales go to Noah’s Wish as a donation. The rest goes to support the overhead at the humane society shelter for projects like the spay/neuter program and to pay utilities.

“Animals need a better guarantee,” said Crisp. “They need to know that during a disaster there is going to be services in place that they need in order to survive.”

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