On the blog, author Emma Smith of the children’s book Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires shares her best tips for preparing your pets for wildfires. We’re so excited for her to share her expertise with us.
Tubbs Fire, 2017
When the Tubbs Fire raced across Napa and Sonoma Counties in October 2017, many people were caught completely unaware. This was one of the first times in recent memory that a major wildfire had spread through small towns, suburban neighborhoods, and the rural landscapes linking them. As a result, many folks were not prepared to evacuate their larger pets, such as goats and horses. Even dogs and cats can be hard to handle in chaotic circumstances.
Practice loading. Drill yourself and your animals in boarding the trailer as fast as possible. If animals are not familiar with the process, they may balk and refuse. For smaller pets, it’s also useful to get them used to being in a crate.
For dog owners, stock up on leashes. Shayla Teixeira lives on a Petaluma ranch with her four dogs. She breeds English cream golden retrievers (her business is called Stagegulch Goldens) and she is always alert for wildfires. Shayla keeps spare leashes hanging by the front door as well as in her car, so she won’t have to scramble for them when every second counts. She notes, “In stressful times it can be difficult to handle even the best of trained dogs, so every little thing helps!”
Have animals microchipped and with tags on their collars. In the event you are not able to evacuate an animal due to wildfires, it is crucial that they be identifiable, so that someone who finds them can contact you. Microchipping is a no-brainer; so is a old-fashioned dog tag. Shayla Teixira recalls that when two of her dogs escaped from the ranch in a panic during a wildfire, a neighbor found them and was able to call Shayla immediately because of their clearly-marked tags.
Make a list of local shelters and sanctuaries. Roland Tembo Hendel’s goats were sheltered at a farm animal sanctuary called Goatlandia after they survived the wildfire, while he rebuilt their enclosure. Animal shelters will take in cats and dogs lost in the fires, until their owners come for them.
Identify animal-friendly hotels and evacuation centers. You may need to head straight to an evacuation center in the middle of the night. Be prepared with a name, location, and phone number. Be aware that not all evacuation centers accept pets.
Create an evacuation kit for your animals. Include blankets, emergency food and water (enough for a week), feeding bowls or buckets, copies of immunization or microchip records, and any necessary medication, individually bagged and labeled with animals’ names.
And in a worst case scenario… Jennifer Alvarez has a can of spray paint at the ready. If she is unable to evacuate her horses because of wildfires, she plans to spray paint her contact information on their sides and set them free.
Hopefully, it will not come to that. As Jennifer states, “Living with wildfires is terrible, but it is bearable if you take the time to prepare.”
Learn more by getting in touch with your local animal services department!