Some still don’t know the fate of pets after the Colorado wildfires

Some still don’t know the fate of pets after the Colorado wildfires

DENVER (AP) – When Lisa Young evacuated her home as a rapid wildfire raged in Colorado, it looked like firefighters would be able to stop what appeared to be a grass fire in a field behind her home. She simply grabbed her purse, turned off the slow cooker and the television, and made sure her two cats had enough food and water to drink, thinking she would be coming home soon.

Later that night, staying with relatives, he saw images of his suburban Denver home burning on television, his entrance recognizable due to his father’s old Corvette on fire. Her home was one of nearly 1,000 destroyed in the fire, leading her to fear that her calico cats, Joy and Noelle, 5-year-old sisters, would die in the fire.

Most of the people were safely evacuated from the wildfire that was propelled by 169 kph (105 mph) winds, but Young is among dozens of owners who had pets who died, had to struggle to find them, or have yet to know the fate of their dogs. or cats.

If the windows in his house were smashed in the heat of the fire, there is a chance that the cats, who were wild as kittens and cannot be carried unless they are willing, have escaped, he said.

“There is little hope,” said Young, who has been comforted by the daily visits to care for her horse, which was safe from the flames in her boarding stable.

There have been some happy endings. Neighbors of a police officer who was working when the fire broke out were able to rescue his family’s three dogs before his family’s home was destroyed. Another man who was at work when his house burned down was reunited with his cat, whose face was burned, after someone heard him meow outside a surviving home nearby.

The Humane Society of the Boulder Valley has reunited more than 25 pets with their owners since the fire destroyed homes in the Louisville and Superior communities, including a dog that had spent two days outdoors and had some burned paws. said the group’s chief executive, Jan McHugh-Smith. . The organization has also been caring for around a dozen animals, including a turtle and a cockatoo, at its shelter that cannot live with their owners in their temporary living situations, he said.

Like Young, many pet owners have posted messages and photos of their pets on a Facebook page created to help find lost animals. Others who have tried to help have also been posting photos of pets, primarily cats, spotted in their areas and offering to take in temporary housing for pets that cannot live with their owners.

Site organizer Katie Albright, a missing area animal recovery specialist who now lives in Oregon, is careful not to draw any conclusions about the likelihood of finding a pet after the fire. While working to recover pets after the Holiday Farm fire in Oregon in 2020, some were skeptical that any would be found, but the last cat trapped there was not caught until a year later, he said.

However, people are so eager to help that they may end up harming other animals unaffected by the fire, Albright said.

While dogs have been known to roam away from disasters, cats tend to stay within a mile of your home. Despite that, there have been some reports of people finding cats in communities beyond the fire area and taking them to their local shelters, thinking they are missing cats from the fire area. However, they are more likely to be outdoor cats that live in those areas, and unless they have a microchip to identify their owners, they will likely never return home, he said.

Some owners also want to set up traps to catch stray cats, but Albright recommends first placing some food in an area with some form of cover, such as vegetation, and using a tracking camera, the kind that hunters use to explore areas in looking for wildlife. to check which animals, if any, may be in the area before deciding to set up a trap to avoid capturing a missing cat or wild animal. The traps should also be checked at least every hour to prevent a panicked animal from getting hurt, he said.

People returning to recently reopened neighborhoods can also simply walk around and check out places where cats tend to hide, such as sewers, vehicles and garages, and especially keep an eye on injured cats, he said.

Code 3 Associates, an organization hired by authorities to rescue animals after natural disasters in the United States that is headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, not far from the fire, set traps in hopes of catching missing cats near neighborhoods that were burned. , but they did. Catch none, said Janeé Boswell, the group’s director of education and associations. That, combined with a community typically diligent in reporting stray animals to authorities, makes you think there aren’t many stray animals and that the fire was a “mass casualty event” for pets that were in homes that burned.

“I suppose they probably perished in those residences and the few that did make it out have been located and returned,” he said.

While people have time to pack some belongings and their pets in slower-moving disasters like hurricanes or floods and even more typical wildfires in mountainous areas, many people who were not home when the Colorado fire started never had the opportunity to return home to rescue. their pets, he said.

Young said he won’t have a lockdown until he can return home and find the remains of his cats.

For now, his visits to Foxy, a 20-year-old quarter horse, give him some normalcy and comfort in his deranged life. The horse is so in tune with her that he is tense because he feels how stressed she is now, she said.

On a visit Wednesday, she gave him an apple, supplements, hay, a brushing, a vibrating back massage, a barn cleaning and a final pat on the back.

“I can still hug him. I can still kiss and love him. He’s needy like me, ”Young said, laughing.

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