Wildfire Evacuation of Pets and Livestock

June 20, 2012; 4:10 PM ET
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Cattle photograph is courtesy of Scott Barrow/Corbis.

Animal owners may be reluctant to follow evacuation orders during a wildfire because they are unsure what to do with their animals.

When a wildfire becomes a danger to homes and property, having an evacuation plan in effect is crucial. Time may be short, and a quick evacuation can save the lives of livestock as well as people.

Wildfires in the western U.S. peak during the months of July through September. Thunderstorms produce lightning that can ignite fires by striking dry, dead timber.

The fire can be spread quickly by wind and change direction in a matter of seconds. Once a fire threatens occupied areas, emergency personnel will begin to evacuate residents. Evacuations need to be done as quickly as possible.

When you have to leave your home, there are places you can contact to assist you with your pets and livestock. The local Humane Society may be able to house your small animals temporarily until you find a place to relocate. They can also assist with animals that have been lost during a wildfire. One-time water assistance for animals left behind is another service that may be offered.

"People are evacuating as they have been told and are bringing their animals to us," said Larimer Humane Society Spokesperson Stephanie Ashley.

The Larimer Humane Society in Fort Collins, Colo., is able temporarily to house cats, small mammals and farm animals (the size of a goat or smaller) that have been displaced by wildfires, according to larimerhumane.org.

"People who leave their animals come back and visit them every day and pick them up when they find a place to stay."

The Larimer Humane Society can also assist people in their area find boarding facilities or kennels.

When evacuations are necessary, help is available to evacuate your horses and/or cattle.

"The fairgrounds are opened up immediately when an evacuation order is given," said Don Hatfield. Hatfield is a New Mexico State Law Enforcement Officer who works with the New Mexico Livestock Board.

"Residents take their animals to a neighbor's, relative's or the fairgrounds," Hatfield said.

When local ranchers need trailers or vehicles, volunteers in the area are able to provided the needed equipment.

Hatfield said, "All the volunteers have been working to evacuate the animals since Saturday. They worked from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. MDT, and all the animals in the danger zone were evacuated by Sunday. We were even able to locate animals that got out, and they have been evacuated also."

Before a wildfire threatens your home and animals, make some calls to find out what resources are available to you during an emergency.

Contact Numbers

Colorado High Park Fire

Larimer Humane Society (970) 226-3647, ext. 7

The Ranch Events Complex (970) 619-4000

(Livestock boarding)

New Mexico Little Bear Fire

Humane Society of Lincoln County (575) 257-9814

New Mexico Livestock Board (575) 649-2578

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