Over the past week, an eerie magenta sun has poked through swirling brown skies in northern Los Angeles County as firefighters battle the Sand fire which has scorched upwards of 40,000 acres.
A veritable Noah’s Arc of the domestic animal kingdom has found refuge in nine regional locations through the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. Horses, donkeys, mules, llamas, goats, rabbits, chickens and a Brahma bull were among those rescued. One 75-pound tortious was found ambling down the streets of Santa Clarita to escape the flames. Care centers in Lancaster, Agoura, Castaic and Palmdale have taken in dogs, cats and rodent friends. To date, 768 animal companions have been saved.
Fifty dogs evacuated from Deaf Dog Rescue of America in nearby Acton found temporary haven at the California State Prison in Lancaster. Through Karma Rescue, the prison runs a unique program called Paws for Life where animals pulled from high-kill shelters are paired with inmate-trainers.
The 10-week training process fosters both a sense of purpose and compassion within the inmates while helping to make animal companions more adoptable, truly a win-win situation. Since the program’s inception two years ago, 75 dogs who might have otherwise been euthanized have reportedly been adopted into loving families. Thanks to Paws for Life, many hearing-impaired pups will be added to rescue’s roll call.
Unfortunately, not everyone on two and four legs escaped the Sand fire. Robert Bresnick, 67, succumbed to flames after he fetched his dog from his girlfriend’s home and tried to outrun the blaze in his car.
Triple-digit heat, low humidity and strong winds have thwarted efforts to bring the Sand fire under control. Eighteen homes have been destroyed and 1,500 evacuated. California’s acting Governor, Tom Torlakson, declared a state of emergency last Tuesday releasing state funds to help the affected area. Air quality advisories have been issued as far away as Reno, Nevada. According to NASA, scorch marks from the fire can be seen from space.
Preparedness is key to wellbeing in any emergency. Post a sign outside your door alerting first responders to the number and types of pets in your home. Keep a stash of provisions handy including food, water and waste disposal for at least five days, detailed descriptions of medical conditions, prescriptions and feeding instructions and pictures of you and your pets (in the event you are separated).
Gut-wrenching accounts of people being separated from their pets because the law did not recognize them as family under emergency conditions was the impetus for creating Public Law 109-308. Passed in 2006 and signed into law by then President George W. Bush, The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) requires states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters.
So, if flames ever lick your backyard or the waters raise your roof, there should always be at least one more rung on the ladder or one more seat in the boat for your animal beloved.