As the National Weather Service issues its first Red Flag Warning of the season in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, where winds of 50-plus mph are expected to mix this week with single-digit humidity, the Humane Society of Ventura County is sounding the alarm to pet owners of an ongoing reality: Natural disasters can strike at any time, so be sure to have an emergency plan that includes your pets.
The Ventura County Fire Department also is urging people to be ready for a disaster at any time. “Being prepared in advance is greatly preferred,” said Mike Des Forges, public information officer for the VCFD, “rather than attempting to make arrangements and gather your belongings after you’ve been ordered to evacuate.”
During the devastating Thomas, Hill and Woolsey fires and floods that ripped through Ventura County in the autumns of 2017 and 2018, the Humane Society of Ventura County opened its doors 24/7 to offer assistance to families with pets evacuated in the unprecedented natural disasters. At those times, the HSVC sheltered hundreds of evacuated animals at its property in Ojai, until their owners could bring them home.
In advance of this year’s fire season, the HSVC has increased its capacity for animal intake as well as outfitting its fleet of trucks, vans and stock trailers with equipment and supplies. “It’s one of those situations where we plan for the worst but hope for the best,” said HSVC Senior Humane Officer Tracy Vail.
How the Humane Society helps
The HSVC offers sanctuary for displaced pets as well as temporary crates, kennels, pet food, ID tags, and other supplies for those in harm’s way. “We will also send out our Equine Rescue Teams to assist with animal evacuations at the owner’s request,” said HSVC Shelter Director Jolene Hoffman. “Our primary concern is for the safety of people and their pets, so please do not hesitate to take your pets to an animal rescue center in the event of an emergency.”
Greg Cooper, director of community outreach for the HSVC, noted the obvious challenge of budgeting for disasters since they’re impossible to predict. Ongoing financial support from the community has been crucial in helping the nonprofit HSVC offset the sudden costs incurred for its services during times of distress, he said.
“We offer disaster relief services free to those who are evacuated because we know it’s more important to find safe refuge than to worry about the cost,” Cooper said.
‘They were here for us …’
Carol and Doc Pierce of Rose Valley Falls were among those evacuated along with their animals during the Thomas Fire of 2017. The HSVC offered sanctuary to their pets during their time away.
“We knew our own pets were safe, loved and cared for,” Carol Pierce said. “That is a feeling that still makes me tear up with gratitude for the Humane Society of Ventura County. They were here for us … and for literally hundreds of people and vulnerable animals.”
For more information on the Humane Society, including how to help, visit hsvc.org.
WHAT TO DO
Here’s an evacuation checklist for pet owners, from the Humane Society of Ventura County:
ID your animals: All pets should be microchipped and always have ID tags affixed to their collars with up-to-date contact information.
Involve your neighbors: Plan in advance to have your neighbors assist with the evacuation of your pets in case you are away from home.
Pre-pack: Keep a go-bag for each pet, to include five days of food and water, medications and vet records, leash, collar, ID tags, harness, and photos of you and your pet together. Have available a crate or carrier – labeled with your name and contact information – to transport your animals and keep them safe. Bring litter and a disposable litter pan if you have cats and spare poop bags for your dogs.
Find a shelter: Evacuation centers often don’t allow pets, so it’s important to know the local animal shelters, rescues and county facilities that will take in pets in the event of an emergency. Find out in advance about each shelter’s requirements for taking in animals.
Be in the know: Keep informed of the happenings in your community before, during and after an emergency, through the radio, TV, computer or phone. Be prepared to adapt quickly to new information and news that could affect your personal circumstances.
- Reenter slowly: After a disaster, your home and neighborhood may be very different. When you return, it’s important to keep a close eye on pets and don’t let them roam loose. The break in routine can be disorienting to your pets so be patient during their transition back to normalcy.