Shelter set up for smaller pets also

As the threat to homes from the Waterfall fire increased, residents were given just enough time to remove precious items from their homes - important papers, family photos, heirlooms and pets.

Animals evacuated by their owners, who were unsure of the length they would be ordered to keep away from the area, were taken to an emergency shelter put in place by Carson City Animal Services.

Types of animals taken to the shelter included dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, ferrets and quite a few different "pocket pets" - turtles, lizards and other small reptiles.

"Animals were housed for four days - day and night - at Fritsch Elementary School," said Pat Wiggins, animal services supervisor.

"Most of them were picked up (by their owners) after the fourth day and we removed the remaining animals and placed them in the shelter (on Butti Way) for maybe eight to 10 days, until the homeowner was situated."

Wiggins said people who own horses are usually set up to transport their own animals.

"Horse people are good pet owners because there's so much care involved. Our stock trailer is adequate for four horses. We had it there all day and never used it (for a horse). We used it for goats, other smaller livestock."

Wiggins said the animals were placed in the courtyard area outside of the kindergarten class. Some pets were housed indoor, some outdoor.

"Fritsch really worked with us in caring for the animals," he said. "We kept the pocket pets inside, dogs were individually kenneled and cats were put in cat condos."

In addition to Carson City Animal Services, PetNetwork of Incline Village helped day and night.

"We've had a partnership with the them the past four years. They're a big benefit to Carson City. They were there from start to finish."

Wiggins said there were public volunteers who came in and walked and watered the dogs.

"There were almost too many volunteers to handle the amount of animals we had. But that's a good thing.

"We had staffing of three from PetNetwork and our entire department, eight of us, 24 hours a day, and 15-20 volunteers. And a list as long as my arm of other people who'd come down if we needed them."

Wiggins said the animal services office received calls from every animal agency in Northern Nevada, including the United States Humane Society, at the time of the fire.

"They said if we needed help they'd be happy to help."

Wiggins said he was aware of only one pet that perished in the Waterfall fire, a parakeet one man could not get home to evacuate.

"There was a lot of burned wildlife," Wiggins added.

Carson City Animal Services is trained to handle emergency disaster situations.

"We have our own protocol to follow. We have officers in the field every day which gives them a good feel of how to handle themselves in an emergency situation. For Dan (Warne) and me, it was natural for us to do what we do."

Dr. Mike Chumrau of Sierra Veterinary Hospital said emergency situations can have a psychological effect on a pet and the best way to handle an emergency is to crate train a pet.

"Crate-trained pets have a better chance of not feeling anxiety," Chumrau said. "They feel protected by the crate. Pet owners should get them used to being in one. It could save their life."

Chumrau advised water is the most important thing to have with an evacuated pet as an animal can survive at least two days without food. Also take with you any medications the pet may be taking.

"It would be good to prepare an evacuation plan for your pets," Wiggins said.

"If pets are known to be in a home which is on fire, dispatch would contact animal services while the fire department fights the fire.

"If there is a disaster at any time, we are open 24 hours a day. The veterinary community helps us out quite a bit, too."

n Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.


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