Bet you can guess what I’m writing about this week. Is there really anything else on anyone’s mind but the fire? It’s close enough to touch just about everyone here. It seems that everyone knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, who has been affected and lost everything. One sad situation after another—although it certainly could have been much worse in terms of human casualties. The animals are another story. So many people had to flee quickly and couldn’t find/catch/transport all their animals – especially those with horses or livestock. The amazing thing is how many survived and are being found alive!
There are certainly lessons to learn from this incident, both from the shelter perspective and as a pet owner. It really re-inforces the importance of a microchip. Animals were turned loose to give them a chance to survive, and they are being caught – that’s sometimes the easy part. Next is how to reunite them with their owners. How many black cats look alike? Especially if you add some cinders and singed fur. Would you recognize your pet? What if he was badly injured? Or just completely filthy? In the chaos of rescue work, sometimes the exact location where a pet was found isn’t documented (or all landmarks and street signs are gone and the rescuer really doesn’t know where the animal was found). Animals in panic mode can travel quite a distance and be found far from home so you can’t rely on a description of where the animal was found to identify him. Collars are wonderful and definitely your first line of offense in trying to get your pet back if they ever became lost – but a microchip is very much needed as a back-up system! So here’s a plug for our “Get Them Home” campaign, and a reminder that we offer residents of Rohnert Park and the City of Cotati FREE microchips for all your pets.
Hearing all the stories of the evacuees makes you ponder the question, “What would you grab if you only had a few minutes to get out of your house?” For those of us with pets the answer is clear – grab every living being and go! But when you really think about it, how would you do that? Do you have leashes within easy reach? Do you have carriers ready for your cats? Or are they up in the loft of the garage? Let’s use this incident to get ourselves emergency ready! Dust off those crates and carriers and put them someplace that everyone can reach. You might even do a practice evacuation – especially if you have children and pets, and see how long it takes to round everyone up and into the car.
We took a load of supplies to the Calistoga Fairgrounds where an evacuation site was set-up and it was interesting to note that there was no animal shelter operating there. Animal Services staff was mostly there to manage all the donations that were pouring in (what a generous community we live in – truckload after truckload of supplies were continuously coming in) and passing out supplies to anyone who needed something. Instead of having all the animals stacked in cages and crates in one area, all the evacuees with pets were living with their animals in their tents, RV’s or cars. The pets were able to remain with their family and the people had the comfort and love that their pets were able to offer. I’m sure that when the sadness of the event hit them, along with the realization of all they lost, a lick or purr went a long way to soothe their fears.
How would your pets do in this type of situation? How prepared are you if an earthquake hit or an evacuation was ordered? Please take these lessons to heart and do just one thing each week to get prepared.
No More Lost Pets – free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati City. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one! The shelter is open Wed 1-6:30, Thur-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 and Sun 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.