Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The wildfire season is really heating up. Wildfires wreak havoc on the land, on people’s homes and businesses, and their pets too. According to U.S. Fire Administration statistics, wildfires torch 4 to 9 million acres every year, forcing all living things in their path to flee for their lives. Residents must evacuate not knowing if they will have a home to come back to when the fire danger has passed.
Although our first thought might not be about the pets of wildfire evacuees, the devastation affects not only them but the area’s animal shelters, rescue groups and pet food stores. Shelters scramble to find enough space for the influx of newly homeless pets that need a safe place to stay until the evacuees can return to their homes. The shelters also scramble to find enough food to feed these pets, since many of their owners are facing loss of property or business income and are unable to help with the cost of caring for their pets during this difficult time.
Thankfully, compassionate pet food companies like CANIDAE exist, companies who quickly answer the call for help and get huge pallets of food delivered where it’s needed most. Last week, it was needed in northern New Mexico, where the Las Conchas Fire started on June 26 near Los Alamos. This wildfire is New Mexico’s largest to date; it’s scorched nearly 150,000 acres thus far, and is still burning today. So far, more than 400 homes were threatened by the fire, and 63 homes were destroyed.
I spoke with Lisa Gipe, the Shelter Manager at Espanola Valley Humane Society, who informed me that the residents of Las Alamos are now being allowed back into the area. When the wildfire swept through the area last week, her shelter took in a staggering 108 pets of the evacuees in just a few short days.
To make room for this large influx of temporary guests, the shelter staff found foster homes for their resident pets. Lisa explained that it works better to keep the evacuated pets housed at the shelter instead of fostering them out, because it’s less traumatic for the pets and much easier to coordinate their care. Keeping the evacuated pets at the shelter also allows the owners to come in and spend some time with their pets if they can. This helps both the pet and their owner to not feel so stressed out during this challenging time.
As you can imagine, providing enough food for all of these suddenly homeless pets is not an easy feat. Lisa said her shelter quickly ran through the food they had on hand for their resident pets, and they were very much in need of aid. “The large donation of pet food we received from CANIDAE helped us tremendously,” she said. “We were so relieved that we wouldn’t have to worry about being able to feed the evacuees' pets. We’re very grateful to CANIDAE for their support and generosity.”
Nina Chiotasso, a shelter employee involved in community outreach for the Espanola Valley Humane Society, posted updates on their website about the wildfire and subsequent aftermath. In one update she thanked all of the shelter’s supporters, whose donations of money and pet food would help them offset some of the cost of caring for the evacuated pets, which she estimated was about $120 for each animal. “Before this, we had to take weekly inventory to make sure we had enough food and litter for the coming week, and right now we do not need to worry about that. Our food sheds are full and our animals are comfortably bedded,” she said.
As the residents of Los Alamos, New Mexico can attest, wildfires are wickedly destructive beasts that can change lives forever. The greatest threat of the Las Conchas Wildfire may be over, but its aftermath will linger. Fortunately, the evacuated pets were all kept safe and well fed while the fire raged. Although these animals don’t know who was responsible for their full bellies, I’m sure they appreciated the food nonetheless. Thanks CANIDAE – you rock!
Photo by Joe Duty
Read more articles by Julia Williams