An­i­mals caught up in the wild­fires are get­ting help

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STE­WART dave.ste­wart@the­ Twit­­wart

In less than two weeks, a P.E.I. man has helped save more than 300 an­i­mals caught up in the Bri­tish Columbia wild­fires.

In less than two weeks, a P.E.I. man has helped save more than 300 an­i­mals caught up in the Bri­tish Columbia wild­fires.

As of last Wed­nes­day, Ron McCon­nell said their count was 27 horses, mules, four minia­ture horses, a don­key, nine cats, nine dogs, seven goats, two sheep and 250 chick­ens.

McCon­nell moved to the P.E.I. from B.C. about six months ago with his wife and is in the process of start­ing up a P.E.I. chap­ter of the Cana­dian Dis­as­ter An­i­mal Res­cue Team (CDART).

He flew back out to B.C. about a 10 days ago to lend as­sis­tance to the ef­fort.

“We’ve got CDART teams de­ployed in three dif­fer­ent ar­eas of B.C. right now work­ing in the wild­fires,’’ McCon­nell said. “We’re usu­ally up and run­ning by 7 in the morn­ing and shut­ting down, if we’re lucky, around 8 or 9 at night.’’

McCon­nell is lo­cated in Prince­ton where the fire has been 60 per cent con­tained.

Not only is McCon­nell and his team res­cu­ing an­i­mals, they are go­ing into ar­eas where peo­ple have been evac­u­ated to take care of those left be­hind.

He said leav­ing pets be­hind has been tough on the lo­cals.

“It is. Let’s face it. They’re part of our fam­i­lies even if they are a pain in the back­side some­times. And, they’re a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity, but they de­pend on us. They’re our com­fort zone, but they de­pend on us. Hav­ing that re­as­sur­ance that there is some­body that can go in and help them to try and get those an­i­mals to safety or main­tain them in place, it’s a huge load off these peo­ple.’’

McCon­nell said peo­ple have enough to worry about, liv­ing at evac­u­a­tion cen­tres, deal­ing with lo­cal agen­cies to find shel­ter, sup­plies, food and con­tact­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

On Thurs­day, res­i­dents of a ru­ral area on the out­skirts of Pen­tic­ton joined more than 45,000 peo­ple in the prov­ince who have fled their homes.

“If we can pull just one of those el­e­ments out of there it just makes it that much eas­ier on them.’’

McCon­nell said they are lit­er­ally driv­ing onto prop­er­ties, putting out a bowl of food and some wa­ter and then com­ing back to see if a crit­ter has been munch­ing on it.

“In one in­stance, we had a lady that was wor­ried about her (or­ange) cat so the team went in (and left food). The food was dis­ap­pear­ing, but you’re never sure. Could be a skunk or a rac­coon that was get­ting it, but one day, out of the cor­ner of his eye, one of the guys saw a big or­ange cat run­ning across the back­yard so we could re­port her kitty was alive.’’

McCon­nell said when it comes to res­cu­ing or main­tain­ing an­i­mals, they’ve had a 90 per cent suc­cess rate.

RCMP are also on the look­out for and res­cu­ing an­i­mals, said RCMP Cpl. Janelle Shoi­het. She says of­fi­cers are pa­trolling com­mu­ni­ties and help­ing to guide live­stock back to where they be­long when­ever pos­si­ble.

She says of­fi­cers have also been in con­tact with the B.C. SPCA to get an­i­mals more ad­e­quate sup­port.

In a few cases where the SPCA wasn’t avail­able im­me­di­ately, Shoi­het says of­fi­cers have fed their lunches to an­i­mals to en­sure they weren’t hun­gry.

The SPCA, which has been deemed an es­sen­tial ser­vice by the prov­ince amid rag­ing wild­fires, says an­i­mals are be­ing lo­cated, fed, given wa­ter and re­united with their own­ers when pos­si­ble.

An­i­mals will also be taken into the tem­po­rary care of the SPCA if they de­ter­mined to be in dan­ger due to fires or health is­sues.

The SPCA says of­fi­cers have res­cued dogs, cats, horses, pigs, lla­mas, mules, a cock­atiel and even a red tail python from fire-af­fected ar­eas.

Se­nior an­i­mal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer Kent Kokoska says the python, named Me­dusa, was re­united with its owner, who was very happy to see their pet again.

The min­istries of Forests, En­vi­ron­ment and Agri­cul­ture say mo­torists should be on the look­out for an­i­mals wan­der­ing around road­ways be­cause wild­fires have dam­aged fenc­ing, al­low­ing an­i­mals to es­cape from their en­clo­sures.

The min­istries say any emer­gency sit­u­a­tions in­volv­ing wildlife should be re­ported to the Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer Ser­vice.

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