Livestock, Companion Pets Need To Be Included In Wildfire Evacuation Plans

June 21, 2021 16:00 pm · 6 comments

By Olivia Wynkoop – As fire season begins, animal rescue groups recommend that Bay Area residents include their furry friends in household emergency drills and evacuation plans.

A great first step is to prepare a carrier with supplies like leashes, medications, ample food and portable bowls. Without proper transportation equipment, nervous pets can easily get loose when an owner stops for gas or settles in an unknown area.

Michelle Hurst, moderator of the community-led rescue page California Wildfire Pets on Facebook, works to reconnect pets with their owners during wildfire season, with the most frequent cases she encounters being cats.

To prevent animals from taking off in high-stress situations, she recommends that owners fasten a harness or two leashes on their dogs, and to put their cats in a carrier or a pillowcase if there’s no other option during evacuation.

“A lot of times, people don’t have their carrier, so they grab the cat in their arms and try to get from the house to the car,” Hurst said. “The cat’s freaked out because they can feel that you’re upset, your adrenaline is going 90 to nothing … any noise can freak them out and they’re going to claw you and take off.”

The more practice an animal has with loading into a carrier — or a trailer, for livestock — the less stressful it will be to move them quickly, and the less likely they will run loose. Saanen Kerson, vice president of the Napa Community Animal Response Team, recommends practicing the process of moving animals into vehicles to prevent this from happening.

“If you have dogs and cats in your home, we recommend just crating them up, put them in the car once a month, just drive them around town for a little bit and then bring them back home,” Kerson said. “That way, it kind of just normalizes the situation to them. They’re used to going in their carriers and they just know that, well, dogs and cats do that sometimes.”

For a dog who loves car rides, preparing for evacuation can be a breeze, but for pets who are older, have medical conditions or are more nervous, they may need some practice.

Training can also increase the chances of a success in those worst-case scenarios, when humans evacuating their homes must leave animals behind. This is especially true for livestock, Kerson said. One of the most difficult situations that evacuation volunteers run into is corralling groups of livestock that aren’t trained to load into trailers.

“If we’re called out to a site and we have to run around in a field trying to catch a horse, we’re under time pressure to keep moving and being in the middle of an evacuation is not training time,” Kerson said. “There’s not really the time to stop and teach an animal everything it needs to know about trailer loading.”

Sometimes, as in the case of chickens or feral barn cats, animals must stay behind. But they can be safe at home while their owners are evacuated, so long as the space is cleared of burnable vegetation and there’s open food and water available.

During the two evacuations in Napa County last year, Kerson said her team was responsible for checking in on those animals while owners were still required to stay away.

“We had hundreds of animals out in the field, where they were safe. The fire had passed, and they were OK, but their owners just couldn’t get back in yet because they were still under mandatory evacuation. We were caring for those animals as well until those evacuation orders lifted,” Kerson said.

The bottom line? “Evacuate early, even if you’re not sure if it’s even necessary,” Kerson said. “If you feel unsafe, go. Take your animals, go early, have plans.”

remember June 21, 2021 at 4:27 PM

can they be excluded when shopping?

asking for a friend


Oh, please June 21, 2021 at 7:48 PM

Hear, hear. And it is always the folks that are still masking up. Eyeroll. Like the below says. Dumbing down of the masses.

Kauai Mike June 21, 2021 at 4:28 PM

Witness – more evidence of the self-fulfilling prophecy of the dumbed-down masses and governments’ assumed role in providing common sense which they are responsible for destroying in the first place. A dumbed-down herd is an easily managed one.

Khloe June 21, 2021 at 11:15 PM

This is not a joke. Please be careful as there is a single Turkey (not with the group) that is attacking people and I mean viciously attacking. The Turkey went after 3 additional people on my street. I called the PD as I was scared a young child will be attacked; however, she informed me that CPD doesn’t respond to that. I left a message with forest/Wildlife. I just hope no one got hurt cuz that sucker was mean!!!!

Dr. Jellyfinger June 22, 2021 at 7:33 AM

@ Khloe ` It would be easier to avoid this anti social turkey if you gave us an approximate location where the bird hangs out.

If you are truly concerned take an umbrella with you when you walk.
Just pop it open to fend off the avian attacker… probably scare him away anyhow…. back that up with an air horn & a rape whistle so he’ll be sure to run off.

You could also wear a a heavy welders apron, leather chaps, gloves, goggles and a hardhat.

There! Now you are free to enjoy your walks again.

chuckie the troll June 22, 2021 at 7:50 AM

I’m okay with this as long as we don’t have to include politicians.

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