Animal Rescue Mistakes After a Wildfire

Colorado suffered a terrible wildfire, caused by high winds, at the end of 2021, which ravaged neighborhoods and entire cities. Find great stories about the Marshall Fire here. In the midst of devastation? So many lost and terrified pets, and people desperate to help them. Facebook groups popped up instantly with people sharing photos, locations, and more. for lost and found animals. As much as everyone wants to help, many make animal rescue mistakes. Here are the main things NOT to do, in my humble opinion.


Animal Rescue Mistakes – What NOT to do

1. Do not deploy into or after an active wildfire.

First responders don’t need a group of people who find themselves in an already difficult situation. Even in the days immediately following the fire, it is not safe to walk around and search through the destroyed neighborhoods.

Having a group of strangers wandering around the neighborhoods can scare pets that are already panicking. If they start running or wandering into unfamiliar areas, it can be a big animal rescue mistake and hamper the process of reuniting people with their beloved pets.

Ask about the possibility of joining organized and qualified research teams, if you really need to be in the field.

2. Don’t ask/expect instant updates from families desperately trying to find their lost pets.

Honestly, it’s not their job or their priority to keep you up to date. Be patient. Some success stories will come with time.

3. Don’t go catch or trap every cat you see.

Some may be pets. Some may be community cats. If they seem unharmed, it is best to leave them in areas where they feel safe. Removing them, even if you take them to local pet-friendly shelters in the wildfire area, can reduce the chances of reuniting with family or caretakers.

Cats, in particular, require a specific type of rescue operation. Often specialists come once it is safe to help with these efforts and work for weeks and weeks to locate and trap lost cats. If you want to know more, they sometimes do quick formations before deploying to the area. Helping lost cats is VERY different from helping lost dogs.

4. Keep your judgments to yourself.

During the Marshall fire, in particular, there was a dog daycare that couldn’t get all the dogs into their cars as they fled the fast-moving fire, so they let some of the dogs in ( including their own) at large. With almost no time to react, everyone has done their best and certainly does not need the judgments of those who are not concerned.

PS All 41 dogs in this daycare survived.

5. Donate only what local animal rescue agencies say you need.

Yes, everyone feels helpless in these situations and wants to do something/anything, but an avalanche of items they don’t need, can’t use, have no place to store, etc don’t help and only add to the burden that animal shelters face when dealing with complicated scenarios and people making mistakes rescuing animals after something like a forest fire massive.

6. If you help rescue a displaced dog, keep it really, really safe.

Panicked dogs will run away, even when their families are there to retrieve them from a rescuer. Several dogs that have been lost and then found have gone missing again (sometimes for a few days) when they become frightened during transfer to their grateful families.

Maybe do the exchange in a well-fenced area, if possible.

7. Don’t just post comments on social media. Report them to the right people.

Don’t just post sightings of possible missing pets on social media. Often, animal rescue agencies and disaster teams like this have ranger teams to round up lost animals. Take photos if possible. Note the exact location and direction of travel and report this information to the appropriate authorities (or families, if you are fairly sure you have seen a pet on the missing list).

8. Don’t post supportive comments on social media that just flood important threads with too much useless information.

Instead, use the reaction buttons to show your support, while keeping the threads of families trying to find lost pets, so they can easily see any possible sightings or information more important than the thoughts and prayers of your loved ones. ‘a stranger.

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