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June 4, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: Inferno! ...the aftermath

Ohlone Humane Society: Inferno! ...the aftermath

By Nancy Lyon

The devastating Summit Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains may be out but Santa Cruz County animal shelters are still taking in animal victims of the raging inferno that destroyed over 31,000 acres and annihilated or displaced many lives. The more fortunate non-human victims, dogs, cats, horses, geese, chickens and other critters have found temporary sanctuary but continue to need care and your support.

Acting in compliance with the Federal Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act state and local emergency plans are required to address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster. Santa Cruz County Animal Services officers, joined by several San Francisco Bay Area animal control agencies, went door-to-door in the mandatory evacuation zone searching for animals that were left behind by people forced to leave their property. The Watsonville animal shelter reported that the majority of displaced companion animals are now being sheltered at the Scotts Valley Animal Shelter facility.

While the immediacy of the disaster is past, the Monterey SPCA and Santa Cruz SPCA continue to do an awesome job of heading up the effort to care for an incredible number of large animals including horses, llamas, goats, and exotics that have found temporary sanctuary at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. During the height of the fire, one volunteer said that if people were unable to evacuate their large animals, SPCA volunteers with trailers were ready and willing to move them away from danger. Those close to the action said they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of volunteer help from the surrounding communities.

Some families with companion animals have no home to return to and are desperately looking for permanent solutions so they can reclaim their animals. Animals that were found wandering as strays in the disaster area wait hopefully for their family to come for them. If their guardian can't be found, most will either be available for adoption or placed with animal rescue organizations.

Trying to address this need, the animal-caring community has responded phenomenally. Animal rescue groups have loaded the Internet with pleas for assistance such as temporary foster homes, funds and equipment.

Companion animals are not the only ones in harm's way when natural disasters happen. The tragedy of death and injury to wildlife is often not mentioned, yet hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wild animals not the only lose their lives, they lose life-supporting habitat that is a severe blow to the future survival of many.

At the Native Animal Rescue (NAR), a nonprofit organization that saves and rehabilitates wildlife in Santa Cruz County, volunteers have the task of trying to save wild critters. T-an Mirabella who volunteers on the NAR hotline said that so far they have taken in mostly nestling and other birds that either fell from their nest or were injured when they were buffeted by the terrible winds generated by the fire. Sadly, most wild creatures are fragile and do not survive long if badly injured; they don't expect many seriously injured animals coming in for care.

However, they are ready to assist with wildlife that have less life threatening injuries such as broken legs, smoke inhalation and singeing. These animals are most likely to come into their facility once returning homeowners find them on their property and bring the injured to NAR.

Although immediate danger from the fire is past, there is still a great need for donations. The Ohlone Humane Society, along with many organizations and individuals, is contributing to help provide care for the fire animals. If you wish to donate funds, equipment, food or other supplies, we suggest contacting the following organizations and shelters to check what they currently need:

Tax-deductible donations to help animals displaced or injured by the fire can be mailed to the nonprofit Friends of the Watsonville Animal Shelter, PO Box 1930, Watsonville, CA 95077. Donations can be made using PayPal at www.fowas.org .Also, check with the following organizations to find out how you can help:

Watsonville and Scotts Valley Animal Services - 831-454-7303
Native Animal Rescue - 831-462-0726
Monterey SPCA - 877-477-2262 (toll free)
Santa Cruz SPCA - 831-465-5000

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