I promised we’d talk about pets, and that most of it was good. And it is.
Awesome First Responders
First of all, major kudos to the first responders of this fire. When it first started, Bastrop Fire Department and several volunteer fire departments were the first to go out. As it quickly spread on that windy day, more and more response teams were sent in. These men and women did an incredible job of trying to contain the perimeter of the fire, save houses and structures within the fire, evacuate people and pets, and save pets left at home.
Many homeowners were away from their homes when the evacuation notices were sent out and were not allowed back in to rescue their pets. The pets were not left to fend for themselves. First Responders went house to house, when able, checking for pets and rescuing them. When not able, or if duty called them elsewhere, they left food and water and opened gates and doors so they could escape. Some homeowners have reported coming home to find a wide piece of metal pulled from a fence, a chain cut off a gate and propped open, and even doors busted out and windows broken.
Medical Treatment and Housing
As they were rescued, injured animals were crated and taken to local veterinary clinics, mobile vet clinics, and shelters. As this was happening, and as the main shelter began to fill up, it too had to be evacuated because the fire began to threaten that area and smoke was blowing into the kennels. Already well into evening, shelters and rescue groups from Austin assembled and convoyed out to Bastrop County to evacuate those animals from the shelter to Austin where they would be well out of danger. Large animals were rounded up as best they could be, loaded onto trailers and housed en masse in rodeo arenas or on volunteers’ property.
All in all, there were a lot of animals being moved around, but their safety and well-being were the top priority. The clinics scrambled and stayed open late,taking in all kinds of animals, triaging them, accepting volunteer workers from the community to walk and clean uninjured dogs and cats, and putting out phone calls for assistance to trained animal technicians and veterinary assistants. Several veterinarians and veterinary technicians spent the night at clinics or with coworkers because their neighborhoods had been evacuated or their houses lost. Yet they kept on working
The most common injury seen was burned paws. Nearly every animal had its feet wrapped for three to four days. The severe burns required several days of bandages, and an unwrapping and debriding of dead tissue daily. These animals stayed on a pain killer for most of the time, many not able to walk or put weight on their feet. They are still recuperating, while waiting for their families to come find them.
Lost and Found
Many, many pets were able to escape the fire altogether but have not yet been reunited with their owners. And thus, we come to the wonders of crowd-sourcing and social media. Several citizens took it upon themselves to start websites and Facebook pages to provide a place for owners and rescuers to cross-post the animals they were looking for and working on. The most comprehensive site is Wildfire Pet Rescue. It is clearly divided into Lost pets and Found pets, and also maintains a list of all the other Facebook and Shelter links at the top of the page.
The cat that I ended up fostering had moderate burns on his rear pads and minimal burns on his front pads. He is sweet, gentle, and always takes his medicine well. I try to call him Cat Three because I don’t want to confuse him with his real name. He doesn’t seem to mind, but he pretty much just goes along with everything and stays quiet. It hurts him to walk, so he doesn’t move around much, but he is doing better everyday. I hope that he will be reunited with his true owner because he seems to be healing physically faster than he is emotionally.
Countless cats and dogs have been rescued and are staying at veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or foster homes all around Central Texas. If you have lost a pet in the fires, the chances are very good that your animal is out there, being taken care of. The only problem is that he or she could be any of several dozen places. The best thing to do is keep looking and posting on any of the threads and go to each and every shelter and vet clinic in the area – over and over again. Keep looking. Bastrop is filled with many humanitarians volunteering time and supplies to keep your pet as happy and healthy as he can be until reunited with his original family.
There are still many animals from the wildfires that are still available for adoption or fostering.