Rescue Agencies Shelter California Wildfire Pets

The fires in Santa Barbara started 9 days ago and blackened more than 8,000 acres, destroyed 80 homes and injured 29 firefighters. Local animal rescue organizations rallied to the aid of evacuees by providing safe shelter for their domestic animals.

Almost 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes during the firefight. Santa Barbara City Animal Control officers were on hand until 9pm on the day fire broke out to assist citizens in evacuating their pets. Domestic pets were evacuated from the South Coast to shelters in the Santa Ynex Valley and throughout the North County. Most pets were taken to the County of Santa Barbara Animal Services Shelter, which eventually gave shelter to more than 1000 animals, and the Santa Barbara Humane Society, but horses were taken to private ranches throughout the area.

As shelters reached capacity, even the Earl Warren Showgrounds opened it’s doors to pets, with a menagerie of dozens of horses, mules, a donkey, mini horses, three pigs, goats, bunnies, roosters, possums, chickens, parakeets, a cockatiel and one "very stubborn" llama. And the Equine Assistance & Evacuation Team, which provides equipment and manpower to rescue horses during natural disasters, actively retrieved horses from homes that had been abandoned.

Once the fires were under control, and residents were allowed to return to their homes, many shelter staff were present on Sunday, when the Humane Society is normally closed, so that people could be reunited with their pets as quickly as possible. The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning in effect until noon today (Thursday) and humidity has decreased in recent days, prompting firefighters to to remain on full alert for the fire to spread further. If the fire spreads, Animal Control expects to expand its outreach to include shelters in Santa Maria and Lompoc.

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