WEST KELOWNA - An animal rescue team is doing everything possible to ensure no pet is left behind while a forest fire rages in West Kelowna.
The Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) has recovered over 60 animals from the evacuation zone near Smith Creek, including 16 horses, 21 cats and 21 dogs.
Spokesperson Petra Leinemann says some animals didn’t make it out with their owners.
“If people have to leave on short notice and a pet is used to roaming the neighbourhood, they may not find them in time,” Leinemann.
Others may be at work when the evacuation order falls and not make it home before the barricades go up.
CDART is activated by Emergency Social Services, the Fire Department, police or other agencies when a missing pet is reported by an owner. Teams then enter the evacuation zone with an RCMP escort and attempt to find the animal. If it can’t be found, teams leave food, water and sometimes cat traps and return later on hoping the pet will be there.
The successful missions end with happy reunions.
“There are tears of joy, relief, crying. It’s amazing because pets are considered one of the family, it’s just like getting a family member back,” Leinemann says.
CDART has also been caring for around 82 chickens and 8 turkeys within the evacuation area itself by leaving food and water.
“When there’s so much more that people have to worry about, like potentially losing their houses, not having transportation, and all that stuff, knowing that we’re able to take care of their animals, it eases their minds. It makes them feel better that someone is looking out for them,” Leinemann says.
So far, CDART has been able to reach every identified address within the evacuation zone.
Residents on evacuation alert are encouraged to prepare for their pet, as well as themselves, if they need to leave. Leinemann recommends getting a pet ‘grab ‘n’ go’ kit with food, a blanket, a water dish and medical records together.
CDART is providing care for animals at the Emergency Social Services reception centre at Mount Boucherie Secondary in West Kelowna.
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