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49 Fire takes toll on pets

Shelter caring for furred, feathered, shelled victims
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Pets – from dogs and cats to birds and tortoises – are part of the pain surrounding the 49 Fire. Many died in the fire, others were injured and many have been taken to the Placer County Animal Shelter in North Auburn to hopefully be reunited with their humans. The shelter, located off Richardson Drive near the burn site, was holding four dogs, 11 cats, two exotic birds and two chickens on Tuesday. Twelve cats, five dogs, two horses and a tortoise had been returned to their owners. The first of the fire’s homeless pets started showing up Sunday evening at the animal shelter, which stayed open until midnight to handle the influx. But many animals didn’t make it. At least four dogs and two cats were found at the burn area already dead, according to the county. Volunteer Lynn Howe said Tuesday that the number was much higher because many people were out on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t get in to rescue their pets. Sunday and Monday, the shelter handled the grief-stricken who couldn’t find their pets and didn’t locate them at the shelter. “There were a lot of very sad and very shocked people,” Howe said. Howe, of animal welfare group A New Hope, was on her way to Reno when she saw smoke. She took a turn off the freeway to the shelter because she thought it might be threatened by the fire. Howe said she stayed working at the shelter Sunday evening through Monday night. Mike Winters, animal shelter manager, said many members of the shelter’s population of adoptable animals were moved to the Tahoe shelter or to animal rescue volunteers to handle the surge of fire-related newcomers. As well as A New Hope, other volunteer groups helping ease the demand on staff services were Angels Rescuing Critters, Noah’s Wish and Field Haven. In all, the shelter took in 48 animals – including 28 cats and 13 dogs – from Sunday evening to late afternoon Tuesday. Winters said owners of animals that perished in the blaze can bring their pets in for cremation at no cost. A fund has been set up to pay for the service. The county animal services division is continuing to try to reunite pets and owners while providing temporary shelter for animals that are unable to stay with their fire-victim owners. Winters said donations of cash to the shelter can be made to help defray the extra expenditures now taking place. “Many people have stepped forward and brought pet food and other supplies,” Winters said. “Now the problem is getting it to the burn victims. We’ll probably make deliveries by driving through the area with a truck.”