DON’T WAIT to make plans to evacuate your animals! These are unstable and unpredictable times with wildfire on our doorstep and if the Smith River Complex – or any other fire – comes knocking, you may have little time to react.
“By level 2, you should be loading those animals and getting out of there,” said Mary Morrison, a member of Southern Oregon Emergency Aid, which helps people evacuate and house large animals during wildfires and other emergencies. She added that “if people wait until level 3 is declared,” her organization may not have time to get in to help the animals.
Sadly, large wildfires can claim many pets’ lives – creatures that were left behind in the heat of emergency.
“Living in the beautiful Illinois Valley means being on Level 1 [evacuation alert] from late spring through the first rains of fall,” said O’Brien resident and Toby Fund President Nancy Lindquist. The Toby Fund helps low income people in the Illinois Valley with spaying, neutering and emergency veterinary bills for their pets.
“The most important thing people – especially animal owners – must do is make a plan months in advance of wildfire threat,” Lindquist said. “Speak to friends and family about housing you and your animals. Be sure there will be appropriate space and care available even when your host assures you there is.”
However here we are – and if this key planning has not been done, right now is the critical moment to make sure that each pet is permanently identified (both tags on collars and microchips are best), and also, to figure out where you’d go with your pets if evacuation becomes necessary. Remember – not all emergency shelters accept pets.
Think about how your pets react to stress. For example, where do the cats hide when they’re freaked out? Under the bed? In a closet? Make a plan to get your hands on them quickly. Have pet crates and carriers ready for each pet. Keep collars on your pets and keep leashes near the door, along with a pet evacuation kit that includes their foods and medications. It’s also smart to rehearse – getting pets used to their carriers and having your family practice evacuating with your pets.
Covering carriers with a sheet or blanket during transport helps keep pets calm – and also, place a pad or some bedding inside the crate for them. DO NOT leave your pets behind! And absolutely never leave a pet tied up. We are all they have.
Lindquist said that the Josephine County Health Department often creates an emergency small animal evacuation shelter. “However, in recent years only a small group of pet owners had utilized it, so don’t count on it being there this year.”
In Josephine County, Southern Oregon Emergency Aid “SOEA” provides emergency transportation and housing for livestock.
Check in with SOEA early on to arrange for help. Anyone concerned about current or potential evacuation orders can move their animals to the Josephine County Fairgrounds – the shelter there is set up for goats, sheep, pigs, chickens or any other type of livestock.
For horses, SOEA member Mary Morrison has opened her Aranaway Farm. “We’ll treat them like family,” she said. Morrison is working with other volunteers to get horses moved to her place and livestock animals moved to either the JoCo fairgrounds or another “safe space.”
For livestock transportation needs and to shelter horses contact Morrison at 541-761-2628, or Linda Bacon 541-266-1124 or 541-217-1894. If you have your own transportation for your animals (other than horses) and want to make arrangements at the fairgrounds, contact Amanda Barnes 541-659-5741.
Morrison also said SOEA hauls and shelters animals free of charge and always returns peoples’ animals. She noted that SOEA has helped many hundreds of animals over the years. Morrison asks that people bring along supplies and proper feed for their animals.
If you see and feel the effects of smoke – so do your animals!
With all the wildfire smoke in the region many people are experiencing headache, scratchy throats and breathing issues. And just as our bodies react to the toxins in the smoke, pets, horses, livestock and wildlife react in similar ways. And birds, especially, with far more delicate respiratory systems, are especially susceptible to the fine particulates in the air. Pet birds should be kept away from doors that are opened to the outside and chicken, geese and ducks should be brought indoors.
Those who care for any species of animal should take steps to protect them and help them cope with the smoke. They cannot escape, they’re stuck where we put them, so it’s up to us to ease their trouble.
If smoke is visible then limit exercise – avoiding any activity that could substantively increase airflow into and out of the lungs of any animal – for example, now is not the time for a game of fetch. Keep all pets indoors as much as possible – and keep your windows shut. Dogs and cats should go outside only for brief bathroom breaks when air quality alerts are in effect. Only exercise your pets when the smoke and ash has settled.
Make sure all the animals in your world are drinking plenty of water, and with livestock, the water should be close to their feeding areas. It’s also a good to provide low-dust or dust-free feeds. Wetting down hay can help and sprinkling or misting the livestock holding area helps livestock cope as well.
In addition to your pets and livestock, please consider the wild animals who are also really struggling with the smoke. Setting up watering stations around your property provides vital help for them.
According to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, “animals with cardiovascular or respiratory disease are especially at risk from smoke and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality.” These animals – and all animals exposed to hazardous air conditions – should be monitored for coughing or gagging and difficulty breathing, which could include open mouth breathing and/or increased noise when breathing.
Other signs your animals are in distress can include: eye irritation and excessive watering, inflammation of throat or mouth, nasal discharge, asthma-like symptoms, increased breathing rate, fatigue or weakness, disorientation or stumbling and reduced appetite and/or thirst.
Again, please remember, you are all they have.