Horses, donkeys, parrots, dogs and cats: Volunteers step up to care for displaced animals after Slater Fire

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News

When families have to flee their homes due to emergencies such as the Slater Fire, the safety of their pets is a major concern.

“We want (people) to know that they don't have to worry about their animals and they have one less thing to worry about,” said Tom Taylor, a volunteer who is taking care of horses and other large animals at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds while their owners deal with the immediate needs that come with being displaced.

Rescue Ranch, the Siskiyou Spay-Neuter Rescue Program, the Siskiyou Humane Society and the Siskiyou County Animal Control have all stepped up to help animals affected by the Slater Fire.

Rescue Ranch is housing displaced dogs and one large blue parrot, as well as several chickens at their facility in Yreka.  

SNIP is taking care of cats and housing them in the air conditioned small animal building at the Siskiyou County Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka. 

Cats are being sheltered in the small animal building at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds.

Large animals such as horses are being cared for by Siskiyou County Animal Control, also at the fairgrounds. 

More:Wildfire: When it's too late to evacuate, experts explain how to survive the flames

More:California fire tracker: Map traces current fires burning across state in real-time

Volunteers could be seen at all three locations on Thursday comforting the animals and making sure they had all their needs met during a stressful time.

Two cats siblings curled up to one another as they looked around their new surroundings. At the Rescue Ranch, dogs barked excitedly at visitors, asking for a pet or a treat. The bright blue parrot in a cage was fed an apple by a volunteer.

To help animals that remain the Happy Camp area, volunteers and workers from Rescue Ranch and the Siskiyou County Humane Society, under direction of Siskiyou County Animal Control spent time Thursday  feeding and watering animals  that were sheltered in place and rescuing animals that needed it.

Tom Taylor, head volunteer for large animals at the fairgrounds, was caring for five horses and a donkey.

Taylor has volunteered with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office for several years and with many different groups, such as the marijuana eradication team. He also volunteered to oversee the large animals during the Klamathon Fire, which ravaged Hornbrook in 2018.

A volunteer interacts with a dog that is being sheltered at the Rescue Ranch in Yreka.

Taylor expected more animals to arrive Friday, including more horses as well as cows and pigs.

“We have lots of room here, so we’ll be ready to house several animals if we have to,” Taylor said. He understands how precious animals are to their owners and likes to do his part to help out during times of crisis.

He said they carefully keep track of who owns each animal and who brought them in, so things go smoothly when the owners come back to pick them up.

Taylor himself owned a horse for 34 years before it passed away due to old age.

He has been at the fairgrounds from early in the morning to the evening hours to make sure the animals are taken care of and to be ready if more animals came in. 

The animals already seemed to take a shine to Taylor Thursday afternoon. A  more than 20-year old grey mare particularly enjoyed getting her head scratched by Taylor. 

“She’s a nice horse and is in pretty decent shape for her age,” Taylor said.

At the Rescue Ranch on Thursday, they just ready to take in eight chihuahuas. The animals staying at the Rescue Ranch due to the fire are on top of the 40 shelter dogs they already have. 

Many people come by throughout the day to visit their dogs, which is a positive for the displaced people and their canines, said  shelter manager Rick Formanek.

While it’s busy, Formanek said staff and volunteers are focused on providing the animals with the best possible care.

“We're making it work,” he said. “There’s a need for animals to be sheltered here in our community. When something like this takes place, we’re ready to assist. We're a community-based organization, and we want to help.”

He said it has helped that many people and businesses have donated things like dog food and money to their organized to help them in their mission.

“There’s a great need here, and we’re glad for the support from the community,” he said.

More:Think your pet is cute enough to be in a calendar?

More:For the dogs: Mount Shasta teen builds, donates canine agility equipment as Eagle Scout project

At the fairgrounds, around 50 cats are being housed. SNIP board president Alisa Fraser said there were several volunteers who have stepped up and donated their time to help. She added that everyone who works at SNIP are volunteers.

“Without volunteers, there’ll be no SNIP and no help for the animals,” she said.

She said it’s SNIPS’ goal to create a safe environment where the cats feel calm and safe during such a stressful time.

Both Taylor and Fraser thanked the fairgrounds and its executive director, Cliff Munson, for his generosity in allowing them to use the facilities.

The organizations said many folks have been generous donating money and supplies this week, but they all said they could use more. 

Information on how to donate can be found on both the SNIP and Rescue Ranch Facebook pages. Rescue Ranch can be contacted by calling (530) 842-0829, while SNIP can be reached at (541) 531-1086.