Pets Remain Priority for Displaced Californians Fleeing Homes From Wildfires

Troyann Chappell needed help this week when she evacuated from Spring Valley to flee the fires. Not only did she have to get her 92-year-old friend Adele MacAdam out, she also had to take with her 14 cats, two dogs, three rats, a cockatoo and a parakeet.

Hers was a plight facing many displaced Californians who couldn't bear leaving home without their pets. What they found were shelters willing to accommodate the animals along with the people.

"It was quite a variety," said Amy Maher, the board chairwoman of Noah's Wish, a pet charity that sent 30 personnel to Qualcomm Stadium Monday night. "People evacuated everything: chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, horses, llamas, goats. We had a lot of birds."

Noah's Wish, which has provided assistance for other natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, offered shelter for around 200 animals at the stadium and provided food, water and veterinary assistance for evacuees and their pets.

Click here for photos of pets in shelters.

Click here for photos on fighting the Witch Fire.

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Maher said evacuees heeded the warning that if it's not safe for them, it's not safe for their pets.

"A lot of people took that to heart and got them out of there which is a really good thing," she said.

Veterinarian Dr. Richard Tramp took in about 40 horses and their owners at his horse breeding business, Exclusively Equine Reproduction in Valley Center, Calif.

"People had gone through it before and just knew it was time to move," Tramp said.

In San Diego County, the nation's most horse-populated county, moving the equines to safety was a priority.

Del Mar Fairgrounds, which doubles as a racetrack, stabled around 1,900 horses with many of the owners bunking in the jockey quarters.

"As of Monday afternoon, for the first time ever in history, we started taking human evacuations with their domestic pets – dogs, cats, all kinds of things," said Kina Paegert, a spokeswoman for the fairgrounds.

Though many had gone home by Friday, Paegert expected several hundred new equine evacuees from San Clemente in Orange County Saturday.

That's where Chappell bunked Friday night with her pets – including 7-week-old kittens she hopes to give up for adoption, her daughter and MacAdam. The group had traveled north from Qualcomm when it closed Friday.

At Del Mar, the humans lounged on cots next to the animals, which slept in cages donated by Noah's Wish.

"They're doing pretty good," Chappell said of her pets. "I'm sure they would like to be out. Every time I open the door to feed and water 'em they want to get out. I hold them and pet them and try to give each of them a few minutes."

They'll return, she said, once they get the all-clear.