As residents from Sonoma County impacted by widespread fires fled to Petaluma in droves, animal rescue groups and local shelters convened to care for frightened pets.
The nonprofit Petaluma Animal Services Foundation set up a mobile shelter outside Lucchesi Park Community Center to ease the burden on those taking refuge inside. As of Wednesday morning, the nonprofit was providing care for 20 pets, Executive Director Jeff Charter said.
“We take care of folk’s animals when they’re here so they can take advantage of the resources — get a bite to eat, something to drink, a cup of coffee and those kinds of things and know their animals are safe,” Charter said Monday. “We’re here to be the safety net for the animals because in a disaster, they tend to get lost in the shuffle sometimes, but those of us who are animals lovers know they’re not going to get lost in our shuffle.”
The shelter is well-versed in disaster response after lending a hand with the deadly 2015 Valley fire in Lake County. Along with several other rescue organizations, the nonprofit last week also went to New Orleans to clear shelters of 150 dogs and cats displaced from raging hurricanes in nearby states, flying out just hours before Hurricane Nate closed area airports, Charter said.
The 22 dogs brought back to the Hopper Street facility have since been relocated to other shelters in light of the disaster at home, he said. About 20 cats were still in Petaluma Tuesday.
Volunteers were helping out in the shelter and the organization was seeking cash donations to help buoy efforts, Charter said.
Meanwhile, The Tiny Pitbull, a Petaluma-based rescue organization, used its foster network to take in animals, founder Christine Del Ponte said. At least four people who had adopted dogs from the organization lost their homes in the fire, and as many as 15 dogs were placed in the foster homes through the network.
“We are here in our community and they have been so supportive for us,” said Del Ponte, who was also housing several displaced dogs. “This is our turn to help for their needs as well. We’re offering food and supplies.”
At a ranch on Skillman Lane, Susan Peterson and her husband, Rob Blouin, sheltered much of the livestock of Sonoma Mountain residents who were ordered to evacuate as the fire spread over the mountain from Sonoma. Peterson said they had taken in 50 horses, dozens of sheep and even a baby zebra.
“We’re just taking in the animals of people who don’t know where to put them,” she said. “People don’t want to leave their animals behind.”
Sonoma Humane Society is also providing no-cost veterinary care for pets that have suffered burns. Anyone who has lost or found an animal can message Sonoma Humane Society on Facebook and use the hashtag #LOSTPETSsonomacountyfire2017.
Petaluma Animal Service’s Senior Animal Control Officer Mark Scott spent the early part of the week in on the ground in Santa Rosa, helping the Sonoma County Animal Services officers. Tuesday afternoon, he was providing escorts for those who needed to check on horses and mules.
“It’s pretty bad in certain areas, other areas are totally fine,” he said. “Some areas are only accessible to emergency crews and there are still power lines down with active fires that are smoldering or full-on fire.”
Free burn care for pets
Sonoma Humane Society is providing no-cost veterinary care for pets that have suffered burns. Anyone who has lost or found an animal can message Sonoma Humane Society on Facebook and use the hashtag #LOSTPETSsonomacountyfire2017.