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Oct-23-2007 16:21printcomments

Southern California Fires Threaten Pets: Experts Give Advice

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International offers evacuation tips for pets.

Southern California wildfires
Southern California wildfires
Photo courtesy: SPCA

(LOS ANGELES) - Southern California wildfires have already displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and they have burned more than 1,000 homes. In reality, the number of people and structures lost can not be tabulated yet, nor can other losses, like family pets and livestock.

Many residents in the path of the fire are wondering how to safely protect their animals. The help answer those questions, the SPCA disaster evacuation recommendations for all animal guardians.

Evacuation Options

"Always look for personal solutions and use the public services as a last resort," the SPCA says. Try to find an alternative to public services. During a disaster, animal shelters and other public services become overwhelmed with thousands of animals very quickly.

"Do your part to alleviate that pressure by finding personal solutions" the group suggests, if at all possible.

Locate pet-friendly lodging in or around your area, sometimes you can rent a pet-friendly motel or hotel room. Sometimes, these facilities waive their no pet policy for one or two smaller animals in times of disaster, but this is not certain. AAA publishes a book of all the pet-friendly lodging in the U.S.

Look for animal day-care facilities in the area. The Santa Ana winds are unpredictable and if you are in a potential path of danger, the SPCA recommends you do not leave your animal home alone for extended periods.

"If fire threatens your home while you are away your animals will have no means of escape. Law enforcement will not allow residents past roadblocks to retrieve a pet that was left behind." They suggest leaving your animal at a day-care facility, kennel or in the company of a person you trust if at all possible.

They also suggest that pet owners know what their local animal shelter is doing. In times of crisis and evacuation, you should follow the lead of the local animal organizations. "Check with your local shelter to get their recommendations or learn of pet friendly evacuation facilities through your local news."

The SPCA believes people should make all attempts to network with family and friends.

"Friends and family are reliable resources that can give your animals a safe and familiar place to stay until they can return home. Having someone who is ready to provide for them can save you a lot of time and worry."

With no warning and no other option, they say you should just let the animal go free.

"If fire is rapidly approaching your home and there is no time to safely evacuate, release your animals rather than leaving them confined. This will allow them to escape."

Of course if you make sure the animal has a collar and tag with a cellular telephone number, not the home phone number, it will help insure the animal is returned home.

Also, experts at the SPCA say birds and horses are extremely susceptible to smoke.

"Even if your home is not being threatened by flames, smoke can be tremendously harmful. Place birds in enclosed rooms without many windows and keep horses in a barn to cut down on smoke inhalation."

“Be prepared. Practice makes perfect,” said Terri Crisp, SPCA’s Animal Resource and Rescue Consultant. “With a little planning and foresight, a lot of confusion can be eliminated and all family members can safely be removed from harm’s way.”

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Shari Mahan October 24, 2007 3:50 am (Pacific time)

I heard about the Golden Retriver Mother and her pups were saved...how wonderful!! My family have planed on adopting a golden retriver pup soon and seen the story. Wanted to know if they were looking for people to adopt the puppies...we would be VERY interested!! My e-mail--skmspdd@yahoo.com

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.