Evacuation safety not just for humans

Placer County Animal Services Center provides relief sites for evacuated animals
By: Kylea Scott Journal correspondent
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As Placer County residents evacuate their homes, their pets can also be extracted from harmful situations. Animal shelters for evacuated animals are set up when the need arises, according to Mike Winters, animal service manager for Placer County Animal Services Center. For them, it is a routine response to an emergency, he said. Last week Animal Services set up an emergency shelter for pets evacuated from homes threatened by the Robbers Fire. As of Monday the fire, which started Wednesday, had burned 2,500 acres and threatened 170 homes in canyon land between Foresthill and Colfax. The Placer County Animal Services Center is notified to respond by the Placer County Sheriff?s Office, the Placer County Fire Department, or the American Red Cross, Winters said. In the event of an emergency, the American Red Cross sets up accommodations for people who have been evacuated from their homes. However, they do not host pets of any sorts, according to Winters. ?People end up staying in their cars to be with their pets, or having to find alternate accommodations,? he added. The animal shelters are usually set up near the Red Cross sites, Winters said. A shelter for residents evacuated because of the Robbers Fire was set up at Foresthill High School in Foresthill soon after the blaze began. However, according to Winters, for this emergency the Gold Country Fairgrounds were chosen for the animal shelter site because of the amenities. They have air conditioned barns, horse stalls, as well as plenty of room for animals and volunteers, Winters said. Animal services center employees provide assistance in evacuation of large animals, as well as round trip transportation, according to Winters. Once the emergency is under control, they assist in reuniting animals with owners, he added. If the emergency situation persists or escalates, they have contingency plans to house more animals than the Fairgrounds in Auburn can accommodate, Winters said. If this site fills, any more animals brought in will be transported to the Roseville fairgrounds, he added. However, Winters doesn?t think this fire will persist. ?It?s about 30 percent contained now, we?re hoping it will be pretty much contained by the end of the week,? he said. According to Winters, animal services center employees and volunteers from other organizations stay with the animals 24 hours per day. They work on a rotation, and have about 75-80 percent of animal services center employees on site at a time, he said. The rotation allows all employees the chance to care for these animals, he added. So far, volunteers from FieldHaven of Lincoln, Placer SPCA, and A New Hope Animal Foundation, have joined efforts to help care for the sheltered animals, Winters said. Animals can be checked in at the ?rabbit and poultry? barn near the Pleasant Avenue entrance of the fairgrounds in Auburn, Winters said. If transportation is needed, residents should call the Placer County Sheriff?s Office, The Placer County Fire Department, or the Placer County Animal Control line, he added. ?Everyone has been really helpful. Some of the firemen from Cal Fire came over and wanted to walk the dogs. They took them out, and when they came back those dogs were good and tired,? Winters said. The shelter is currently housing horses, goats, cats, dogs, and a bird, according to Winters. They can usually handle most animals and family pets, he said. In an emergency, the shelters are prepared to care for the animals for weeks, but according to Winters, the fires don?t usually last that long. When the emergency is contained, animal owners are contacted to begin the reuniting process, if animals are not or can not be claimed they will be taken back to the animal control office, Winters said. Pet owners are encouraged to come visit their pets to help feed, clean, and exercise them. If an animal is brought in with a special diet or medication, they ask the owner to provide the shelter with the proper medicine or food and instructions for special care, said Winters. Colleen Bailey, resident of Spring Garden Road in Foresthill, said she has two horses, two goats, and one cat under the care of the shelter. She visits her animals twice daily to help reduce the amount of work for the employees, she said. ?It?s been so nice to not have to worry about my animals, I know that they are well taken care of,? Bailey said. According to Bailey, some family friends offered to help house and care for their larger animals, but the shelter at the fairgrounds in Auburn was closer to where they are staying, and more convenient. ?Animal services has been fantastic, like a well-oiled machine. We are so grateful for them and the work they are doing,? Bailey said. Donations are being accepted through the Placer County Animal Services Center at 11251 B Ave. Auburn. For more information, call the Placer County Animal Services Center at (530) 886-5500.