As a California native, I’m no stranger to wildfires. In fact, I’ve gotten pretty used to my life being disrupted by them every year. To be honest, I thought I would finally escape this phenomenon once I got here to New Mexico but, unfortunately, it looks like the fires just followed me here too. Thank you, global warming! Sigh.
As the fires began to spiral out of control, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter began to receive countless calls from other animal shelters and community members fearing they would soon be evacuated and needing to find options. temporary accommodation. Luckily, the wonderful team at Bernalillo County Animal Shelter and a Socorro County emergency trailer quickly mobilized to set up pop-up shelters to house the displaced pets.
Once these community needs were met, we then decided to focus our resources on helping animals evacuated from shelters.
It was a delicate moment for us. We were already way over capacity with shelter animals from our own community (a problem we’ve been dealing with for over a year and a half now.) So much so, in fact, that we have a list of quite a long wait for pets surrendered by the owner. We brainstormed together to come up with a reasonable plan of action to help our evacuated shelter friends while meeting the needs of our existing population.
So how do you accommodate more animals when you’re already packed? By appealing to friends outside the region, that’s how it is! We have issued an urgent appeal to all of our transfer partners to take as many animals as possible so that we can make room for animals evacuated from shelters in Las Vegas and Los Alamos. Our friends at Animal Humane in Albuquerque stepped in to help, along with Best Friends in Utah, Arizona Humane, and Austin Pets Alive. We also had help from the National Guard, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. In situations like these, it really takes a village – and I was so impressed with how beautifully we all worked together to figure this thing out.
Transferring animals to all of our friends has allowed us to welcome many more animals from the Animal Welfare Coalition in Las Vegas and the Los Alamos shelter.
Seeing how my shelter community came together to help displaced animals was humbling to say the least. We’re all so overloaded and overcrowded to begin with, so witnessing the collaboration and creative problem solving on the fly was just amazing. It would have been easy for any of these organizations to say, “Sorry, we have our own issues to deal with,” but instead everyone said, “We’re here to help. Let’s understand that!”
The almost unimaginable devastation reminds us that we must protect what is most precious: our lives and the lives of our loved ones, including our animal companions. For better or for worse, it seems like these types of natural disasters are becoming the norm more than ever. No matter where you are in Santa Fe County, the risks are always present. It is therefore extremely important to have a plan in case your neighborhood is threatened by angry wildfires.
Here are some tips to help you stay prepared should the worst happen:
Create a list of hotels and motels that allow pets. Be sure to find a few options, as some locations may also be in the path of a wildfire. Several websites allow you to search specifically for pet-friendly accommodations, including bringfido.com, expedia.com and hotels.petswelcome.com.
If you need to go with your family to a place that doesn’t allow pets, such as an emergency evacuation center, look for a pet sitter, kennel, veterinary practice, or animal shelter, because sometimes these places make special arrangements for animals in case of emergencies and natural disasters. Call ahead.
Download the FEMA mobile app to your smartphone. This app sends you notifications about natural disasters from the National Weather Service, gives you preparedness tips, and helps you locate shelters, among other things. Some reviewers claim that the app sends too many notifications, but the app receives frequent updates to fix user issues, and it’s better to be too informed than not informed at all.
The ASPCA mobile app can also help you prepare for a disaster, manage your pet’s health records, and provide resources to help you find a lost pet if you become separated.
For more information, visit sfhumanesociety.org/fireevacresources. The crisis is not over, so our resources are stretched. If you would like to help, donate to sfhumanesociety.harnessapp.com/wv2/donate?checkout=3870
Stay safe there, my friends!
Jack Hagerman is the CEO of Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society