This past summer, many people were evacuated from their homes due to the wildfires, but so were many animals, from snakes and chickens to goats and horses. Many of those animals were cared for by volunteers from the Quesnel-based Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada.
This summer’s wildfires brought the Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada top of mind, as the volunteers set up an emergency shelter at Alex Fraser Park and cared for evacuated animals, but the society looks after animals throughout the year.
And the society was deployed again just last weekend, helping evacuate animals from Nazko due to flood conditions. They currently have 11 dogs, five cats and 12 goats in care.
Director Willow Eyford, who is one of the society’s founders, says a lot of people think they care for animals only when something big, like wildfires or floods, happens, but a lot of what they do is taking care of animals when they are displaced by house fires, or when the pet owner has to go into the hospital but doesn’t have family or friends nearby who can look after their animals.
Eyford says the society now does a lot of work with the Amata Transition House and Seasons House, temporarily fostering animals until the pet owners are in a position where they can safely manage their animals.
“Our local women’s shelter doesn’t allow pets, and we know women will delay leaving because they know they have to leave their pets,” she says.
“Animals are our family now. We are at a stage where disaster relief must include our pets.”
Eyford and Debbie Knabke, who is also a director, were both members of an international disaster response group called Noah’s Wish before starting the Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada around 2010.
“When they disbanded, we knew there was going to be a need for this in our community and we needed to fill that gap,” says Eyford.
“We already had the training and had already responded to a couple of disasters, and we started training local people.”
The Pet Safe Coalition Society of Canada’s mission is educating and preparing individuals, communities and organizations to mitigate the impact of disasters on animals. The society is 100 per cent volunteer driven and relies on fundraising and donations.
This past summer, the Pet Safe Coalition set up an emergency shelter for evacuated animals at Alex Fraser Park.
During the summer, 1,001 animals were registered at the shelter. Eyford says this does not include the animals Pet Safe Coalition volunteers hauled or provided food or supplies for.
“People were registering animals before they were registering people at the Reception Centre, which speaks volumes,” she says.
Eyford says the highest number of animals that came to the shelter were chickens (350).
“During the fires, we had everything from snakes to horses,” she comments.
“We fostered what we could, which helped.”
Eyford says they had up to 12 volunteers per day, not including the 24/7 security volunteers.
“Graydon Security was very good,” she says.
“They gave us a tremendous discount, and then we had volunteer security people after that.”
Eyford was amazed at how much people wanted to help.
“Our community honestly is the best.”
Eyford wants to thank the Alex Fraser Society, the Quesnel Fur and Feather Association and Quesnel and District 4-H Council for accommodating them “and letting us take over the grounds.”
One of the ways people can help the Pet Safe Coalition is by volunteering to foster animals. Eyford says they have a small number of foster homes, but they do not have nearly enough.
“Sometimes it’s just an overnight stay,” she says.
“Sometimes we have Victim Services call in the middle of the night, but sometimes, we know about it ahead of time.”
Eyford says that if people are interested in fostering animals, if they have pets of their own, they should be up to date on their vaccinations because the society doesn’t always know the vaccine history of the animals that are coming in. Anyone interested in fostering dogs needs a fenced yard.
Once someone expresses interest in fostering animals, Eyford says they will do a house visit to ensure the environment is appropriate.