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July 05, 2012

Helping Animals Affected by Wildfires and Severe Weather

Fires, floods, and other natural disasters aren’t selective. They make victims of people and animals. That’s especially true for people and pets, since their lives are bound together.

Dog helped during Montana wildfires
Our team provided food and water for pets in
evacuated areas in Montana.

Over the past several days, we've been reaching out to local agencies to offer assistance in the West, where there are hundreds of wildfires–the worst of which have evacuation orders associated with them. We coordinated the delivery of more than 30,000 pounds of hay from Cavietta Ranch to help feed 200 horses at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, where the Ash Creek fire has caused a shortage of grazing land for livestock. We've also provided food and water to pets left behind in evacuated areas, and we're providing hay for a horse owner in Fairview, Utah, who has lost 11 of his 120 horses as a result of the Wood Hollow fires.

The HSUS continues to work with local leaders to ensure the needs of animals are met. Our Montana director, Wendy Hergenraeder, sent this dispatch from her first visit to the Northern Cheyenne reservation:

We first stopped in Lame Deer at the Red Cross shelter...The director of the shelter suggested we take the pet food and supplies to Ashland, which was still under evacuation orders. Tribal police gave us permission to go past the roadblock into the burned areas. We dropped off some supplies at the human shelter in Ashland and talked to locals, then proceeded out to the residences with pets. We fed and watered several dogs who were very happy to see us, and checked on some horses in the area...

On our way home, we noticed a huge fire by the road on the Crow Reservation...The fire had burned right up to a pen with horses in it next to the road, but the horses, including a newborn foal with its mom, were safe.

With high temperature records being broken and drought conditions parching so much of the county, or violent storms that created havoc in the East and Midwest, it’s a reminder that the debate about climate change is neither an abstraction nor just a future prospect. We seem to be experiencing the effects now. That means all sorts of problems–for polar bears and seals reeling from the effects of the loss of sea ice. But also native wildlife and our pets who must contend with the effects of fires, floods, and other disasters created by our especially volatile climate. More than ever, we have to be prepared for natural disasters and all that they mean for pets, farm animals, and wildlife, too.

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