This is part of a ten-part series showcasing the volunteerism, community and resilience surrounding those evacuated due to the wildfires engulfing parts of the B.C. Interior.
Four Paws Food Bank volunteer Suzanne Flukinger describes the efforts to care for displaced animals due to the wildfire crisis in the province as nothing short of incredible.
A shelter located at the evacuation centre at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops is currently housing roughly 200 animals including cats, dogs and other small animals, however, Flukinger noted over the course of the past week and a half roughly 1,000 animals have been cared for.
“The people helping out here are amazing,” she told the Tribune. “We have hundreds of volunteers from dog walkers, to people cleaning kennels, and others keeping track of all the animals, making sure they’re fed and watered and everything else.”
She said efforts are being made to provide everything a pet could need. The area is sheltered with large tents, fans are set up, damp, cooling blankets are covering dog and cat cages and, for the cats, lavender cloths are being hung on the doors to calm the pets.
As the shelter fills up, Flukinger said they are also taking registration for families who would like to foster animals while evacuees are displaced from their homes. Anyone interested can sign up at the shelter.
Additionally, thousands upon thousands of dollars of pet food has been donated by multiple businesses, pet stores and pet suppliers and is being handed out free of charge to evacuees.
“The donations of food has been incredible,” she said.
“Businesses, pet food suppliers are coming in with trucks full of it.”
Veterinarians and animal technicians are also on site to make sure animals are safe, along with animal whisperers whose job is to calm pets down should they become stressed.
She added the donations from the public have also been overwhelming.
“We’ve had little children giving their allowances, kids setting up lemonade stands to raise money,” she said.
Flukinger said the main goal is to help people, and they will do whatever they can to make sure the animals can be provided food and water in a safe environment.
“There’s enough to worry about right now and to know you can just come here and pickup what you need for your pet whether it be food or leashes or little boxes, we want to be able to take care of that for you for a while,” she said.
“People just care. For all you people are going through if we can help ease part of that we want to be able to do that.”
Outside the Sandman Centre, animals are also being cared for at the Kamloops Exhibition Grounds (KXA), said Four Paws co-ordinator Bonnie McBride.
“We have goats and sheep and chickens here,” she said. “Anything else we are ill-equipped to handle, but we’re working collaboratively with the people at the KXA to make sure we help people get their horses or livestock out and make sure they’re being fed and watered regularly in their absence.”
She said currently volunteer fire departments are doing the best they can throughout the Cariboo Regional District to ensure reported animals are being fed and provided water.
“We’re urging people to report animals that have been left behind,” she said.
If anyone has animals they were forced to leave behind, including livestock, they are asked to call the Emergency Operations Centre at 1-866-759-4977.