Yesterday evening, Nick and I received an email from Kent Animal Shelter informing us that due to an out of control wildfire in Brookhaven, they might need to evacuate all of the animals from the shelter. That meant some 30+ dogs, a new litter of 10 pups, and countless cats from both their cat adoption center and their cat retirement home, needed to be pulled out and taken to safety…
Nick and I are lucky enough that we are off on Mondays, so it wasn’t a big deal for us to throw our two cat carriers in the car and head on over. We knew with the issues we were having with Leah it would be a bad idea to take in any dogs, but housing a couple of cats in our spare room overnight didn’t seem like such a big deal.
When we first got to the shelter, only a few people had arrived to help the animals. We were told the shelter was on “stand by” and we got comfortable in the car to wait. Daunted by the fact that not many people were there to help, Nick and I grew concerned about how they would rescue all of the animals, and we brainstormed about how we could set up all of our dogs’ travel crates down in our basement and put throw away aluminum tins in each to serve as litter pans. We normally have three wire crates, one for each dog, but my Mom just gave us an extra one that she had lying around down in Florida, and one of our crates also has a divider that we could use. Plus, Leah’s crate is huge, so we could potentially put two cats in it – as long as they got along. In the end, we figured we could house at least 4 and as many as 6 cats in a makeshift shelter in our basement. It would have only been a small chunk out of all of the cats that Kent needed to get out, but it was a start.
But as we sat there planning, volunteers began showing up one after the other, bringing their children along, dropping everything on a work night to come to Kent and help evacuate animals. After a while, Nick and I got out of our car and meandered over to the large group that had formed, and listened as other volunteers spoke about how many animals they would squeeze into their homes – and we were humbled. Volunteers were planning to cram as many animals, dogs and cats alike, inside their vehicles as possible to get them to safety. One woman remarked that she would close her doors on leashes, if need be, to keep the dogs from moving around inside her vehicle.
A while later, we went inside the shelter’s office to get away from the mosquitoes that were starting to bite, and watched as the employees fielded call after call from other shelters and private parties willing to help. I heard one employee say a woman had a horse trailer and was willing to take up to ten large dogs if needed.
As it turns out, Kent soon got the call that the fire had been contained and they would not need to evacuate. This was a huge relief, especially after one of the volunteers from the cat house had mused that many of the cats were semi-feral and she had no idea how they would even get them into carriers in the first place. So we headed home, content with the knowledge that so many people were willing to drop everything and help shuttle countless animals to safety in the event of an emergency.
Listening to the radio on the way home, we learned that while we were at the shelter planning for the possibility of a lot of homeless pets, many local residents were finding themselves temporarily homeless – forced from houses that potentially sat in the path of the fire. I’ve discussed being ready for an emergency evacuation in the past, and I can’t stress to you just how important it is for you to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.
Don’t think it can happen to you? I’m sure this unfortunate Manorville Family felt the same way.
Natural and manmade disasters strike without warning, and you might be forced to leave your home without much time to gather your belongings. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods are the disasters that spring immediately to mind – but don’t forget about ordinary house fires and gas leaks that can leave you temporarily without a roof over your head. It is difficult enough to evacuate without animals, but people with animals need to be extra prepared. Along with your own belongings, you’ll need pet food, medications, vaccine records – and enough crates to house every animal you own.
Think you can just throw everything you need together in a few minutes? Take it from someone who just packed a week’s worth of belongings for themselves and their animals in order to take a vacation. It’s not going to happen.
So please, turn off the computer for an hour or so, and go pack an emergency “Go-Bag” for yourself and another one for your four-legged friends. If you need ideas on what to take, please refer to my previous post about the subject – A Plan for your Pups – and Cats – and YOU.