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The story of the Capitol Area Animal Response Team begins in 2008 with Julie Castaneda, owner and president of Dog Day Afternoon Inc., a Topeka dog daycare facility. For 10 years, agencies such as the Topeka Rescue Mission, the Battered Women's Task Force, Red Cross, VA Hospital, Valeo Behavioral Health Care, and the JayHawk Area Agency on Aging had referred families in crisis to Julie and her husband, Phil, to provide emergency animal sheltering when the family was temporarily unable to care for a pet because of domestic abuse, fires, an unexpected death, or other reasons. Dog Day Afternoon also had provided free or very low-cost pet food to those who needed a little extra help. In addition, Julie and Phil had worked in disaster response at the local and national level for more than five years.

In August 2008, Julie was invited to head up a Shawnee County disaster team. Since Dog Day Afternoon already had crisis-intervention programs in place, it seemed like a perfect fit. Julie agreed to found the organization with the understanding that she could roll the existing DDA programs into the new nonprofit group. Julie reached out to the Topeka animal-welfare community, and began holding a series of informational and organizational meetings. In November 2008, CAART became a reality, with Julie as Executive Director, and Phil as as president of the board.

A year later, CAART had 60 volunteers. About 20 had been trained in disaster response, with others still in training. In its first year, the group hosted two Pets and Disaster seminars, which are free to the public.

In that same year, the CAART pet food pantry provided more than 25,000 pounds of food to more than 1,300 animals in 350 pet-owning households. Also, in its first year the CAART Crisis Sheltering program cared for 80 pets, providing shelter, food, and veterinary care including spay/neuter, vaccinations, flea control, heartworm prevention, and any other needed medications or treatment.

Over time, the programs of CAART have continued to grow. For example, from June 2009 to June 2010, the organization...

  • distributed more than 120,000 pounds of pet food and supplies
  • served 520 households and 2,350 pets
  • helped offset the cost of 75 spay/neuters for Pet Food Pantry pets

Today, CAART not only works closely with the Topeka Rescue Mission and other human services agencies, but also with Topeka and Shawnee County Animal Control, Shawnee County Emergency Management, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Kansas State Animal Response Team (KS SART), Save Our Shelter Animals (SOSA), Helping Hands Humane Society, the Kansas Animal Health Department, Critter Care, Topeka Zoo, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Stone Nature Center, Shawnee County Extension Office, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Horse Council, the Cat Association of Topeka, and a host of area veterinarians.

CAART has a five-member volunteer board of directors who set policy. The Board meets five times a year. In November 2008, CAART was registered as a Kansas non-profit organization. Currently, CAART has 501(c)3 status through the Topeka Community Foundation; its own 501(c)3 status is pending.

Left: Julie Castaneda, Executive Director, shares a moment with CAART volunteer Amy Klun. Center: Julie and Phil Castaneda, President of the CAART Board, with some of the many generous Pet Food Pantry donations. Right: Julie works with a stray dog recovered after Hurricane Ike devastated Beaumont, TX. The dog was about to be euthanized for being aggressive. He calmed down after working with Julie, and was claimed by his owner 10 days later.

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