Organization rescues animals of all sizes from NorCal wildfires


As the wildfires continue to ravage the West Coast and force people from their homes, pet owners face an unthinkable decision of having to leave their animals behind.

Some hotels or shelters don’t accommodate pets and owners of larger animals sometimes don’t have the resources to transport them on short notice.

That’s where the International Fund for Animal Welfare comes in. The non-profit, started in 1969, has spent years running into the flames to rescue animals that are left behind or trapped by the wildfires. Now, with fires raging across the West Coast, they’ve been working nonstop.

IFAW crews are on the scene with the wildfires burning in Northern California, where they have been able to rescue animals of all sizes from cats, dogs, chickens, goats and horses.

“Basically anything you could imagine has entered our facilities here,” said Jennifer Gardner, an animal rescue officer.

The animal rescue officers face challenges when trying to rescue animals from the fire, but Gardner says that does not compare to the panic the animals faced during the flames.

“It’s really hard for us to imagine what these animals have gone through,” said Gardner. “Oftentimes after the animal is rescued, we just all sit in disbelief and think ‘how did these animals survive?’ And how scary would that be for these animals to see the flames and see the smoke. It’s just unimaginable.”

After the fires, Gardner said IFAW treats the animals with care and gives them time to decompress from the traumatic experience.

The animals get treated by a veterinarian then go to an emergency shelter. Gardner said that being a pet owner in certain communities can be terrifying, especially knowing they may not have the ability to rescue their pet because of road closures.

“These are the same areas that have been hit by the Camp Fire just two years, it’s very terrifying to be a pet owner in these communities,” said Gardner, speaking from Oroville, California.

Owners can come to the emergency shelters to reclaim their animals. But even after being reclaimed, pets can continue to stay there while families get back on their feet.

The non-profit says it has rescued more than 275,000 animals since 2000 and is active in more than 40 countries.

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