Rescue services

Central Oregon Pet Evacuation Team Provides Animal Rescue Services

As fires ravage Oregon, many people must evacuate their homes at any time. And some might have pets that also need to be evacuated. That’s where the Central Oregon Animal Evacuation Team comes in. organization works with partners like the American Red Cross and county emergency services to help evacuate pets during disasters like wildfires.

Vikki Sheerer is the Regional Coordinator of the Pet Evacuation Team. Julie Rosqvist-Gérard is a dairy farmer who recently used the organization’s services for her goats, dogs, cats and rabbits. We learn more about the organization and how it can help people with pets in an emergency.

The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: It’s Think Out Loud on OPB. I am Dave Miller. Over the past few years and we have been talking about forest fire evacuations, one theme has come up time and time again: animals. Because very often, people fleeing fires do not think only of themselves. They also have pets or livestock to take care of. In central Oregon, the Animal Evacuation Team is here to help. Vikki Sheerer is the association’s regional coordinator. She joins us now with Julie Rosqvist-Gérard, a dairy farmer from La Pine who recently used their services during the Darlene fire. Welcome to you two.

Guests: Thank you

Miller: Julie Rosqvist-Gerard, how many animals do you have on your property?

Rosqvist-Gérard: We have 40 goats, a number of chickens. We had five rabbits, three dogs, three cats.

Miller: I started writing them down so that I could refer to them later, but I couldn’t because the list continued. But I have the impression that there are a lot of things when you add all that up. Last month, with the Darlene fire burning not far from you, I imagine you were monitoring the situation. Did you already know what you are going to do with the goats and the bull and the dogs and the cats and the rabbits?

Rosqvist-Gérard: No, because we live in a big wildfire area, we always talked about what papers you need and we talked about if we need to evacuate and we could only take a few, what would be the few? -some that we took? But these are the kinds of concepts that you just don’t think about until it really happens.

Miller: So when it happened, what happened?

Rosqvist-Gérard: When they moved the level to the evacuation, we said okay that’s it. We can’t wait, we have to get out. We have friends who reached out to us and said, “Hey, do you need help moving animals? We said yes. People showed up with trailers to help us get everyone out. When we first evacuated, the local place people were evacuating to was not set up for goats. We were really very lucky because the team of pets were already installed on the fairground for the evacuations of another fire. They were all prepared and we evacuated up there. They were wonderful.

Miller: Vikki Sheerer, can you give us an idea of ​​how you are preparing for such a fire? And the animals, are you really ready to welcome them?

Clearer : We’ve been helping animals since 2001, so it wasn’t our first rodeo, so to speak. We work in partnership with the Red Cross and Central Oregon Emergency Services Coordinators. The Red Cross and emergency service coordinators had called us for the Grand View fire and the director of the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond opened the ox barn and another air conditioned facility, we have so were able to accommodate the small animals in an air-conditioned activity center, then we had horses and goats in the ox barn. By the time Julie needed us, we had already been there a few days and had hay, shavings, food and pens all set up and ready to go.

Miller: Julie, I’m not a dairy goat breeder, which is probably obvious, but do you actually have to milk the goats every day?

Rosqvist-Gérard: Yes, we were treating twice a day while we were being evacuated.

Miller: And you were able to go. Could you still use the milk or did it just have to be thrown away?

Rosqvist-Gérard: No, we had to get rid of it because we didn’t have a freezer to keep it. We normally store it and sell it to a soap company.

Miller: So to get back to thinking about fire If this hadn’t been put in place by the animal evacuation team, what options would you have had?

Rosqvist-Gérard: I should have tried to find a farm nearby that would welcome us, which is not easy to do with 40 goats.

Miller: So it’s the goats. But you started with the menagerie list and there are also the chickens and rabbits, which I imagine are more on the farming side. And then your pets, cats and dogs. So what about everyone?

Rosqvist-Gérard: Yeah, that would have been even harder, because we had a puppy that we had just had for a week, so we didn’t know what his training would be. She had never been in a crate, never kept on a leash. We didn’t know how she would react if she was on another farm. Your options become quite limited when you have this number of animals.

Miller: What did you do with all these animals?

Rosqvist-Gérard: Most of them came to the head of the evacuation. We didn’t bring the chickens and we didn’t bring the bull.

Miller: They stayed on the farm and you just wished for the best.

Rosqvist-Gérard: Yes, if the fire had approached the fences would have been knocked down so they could escape as best they could. But luckily, we never got close to it.

Miller: Right now we are talking about taking care of pets and other animals during wildfires. Vikki Sheerer is with us. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Pet Evacuation Team in Central Oregon, and Julie Rosqvist-Gerard is a dairy farmer from La Pine. Vikki Sheerer, I have had reports that during Hurricane Katrina a number of people refused evacuation assistance because at that time they were not allowed to take their animals company with them. And that some of those people, according to reports, have died. How did this national disaster affect the way emergency managers viewed pets?

Clearer : From what I understand, the Red Cross now allows pets to stay in shelters with them. I know there was a Red Cross shelter set up in Sisters and personal pets, pets were allowed to stay there with them.

Miller: So this is a change over the past two decades in the way emergency managers or responders approach people fleeing their homes. Has this resulted in any changes in the functioning of your organization? If you, if you have to take care of fewer pets, does that mean that you are more likely to take care of livestock?

Clearer : Yes. Pets usually stay with their families if they can evacuate with them. Last year, during the Santiam fires in the valley, people were woken up in the middle of the night and were left with just their pajamas and the animals they could catch. We had a number of animals which at the time they entered we did not know who they belonged to.

Miller: How did they end up, say, at the fun fair or where you were set up?

Clearer : The rescue teams went there and were assisted by firefighters and said, ‘there is a horse here, there is a burnt cat here, there is a pig here that needs to be evacuated’, and they loaded them into horse trailers and brought them to us.

Miller: Then their people would come at some point, I imagine, very grateful and find their animals in your emergency shelter.

Clearer : Some people could not reach us because of the location of the fire. Some of them evacuated to the east, and some of them evacuated to the west. There were a number of days where we did not know who owned the animals. We only knew what address they came from. Eventually we got phone calls from the owners who said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a home to go back to so I won’t be able to pick up my animals.” So in this case, we organized foster homes and eventually an adoption, and we communicated with the owners of the animals to participate.

Miller: What advice do you have for pet owners or human friends, especially during fire season?

Clearer : I would like everyone to have a crate available for their animals with food, aquatic vet records, a photo of their pet with themselves, and your neighbors to know where your pet’s crate is, because it You may be at work when your neighborhood goes into evacuation. In this case, the authorities will not let you return to your neighborhood to save your pets. But if your neighbor knows where your pet cages are, they can bring your pets with them when they come.

Miller: Vikki Sheerer and Julie Rosqvist-Gerard, thank you very much for being with us today.

Guests: Thank you. Thank you.

Miller: Vikki Sheerer is the regional coordinator of the Central Oregon-based Pet Evacuation Team. Julie Rosqvist-Gérard is a dairy farmer in La Pine, and she is one of the people who have used the services of the Pet Evacuation Teams. It was last month during the Darlene fire.

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