For many people, pets are like family and in times of crisis ensuring they’re safe from harm and receiving adequate care becomes the highest priority.
Last Friday hundreds of evacuees began arriving in Wagga from Tumbarumba, Adelong, Batlow and surrounding areas as the risk to life and property from catastrophic Dunns Road bushfire increased.
Almost overnight Wagga’s Multi-Purpose Stadium at the Equex Centre was transformed into a Register, Find and Reunite Centre supporting displaced persons.
Those people evacuating with large or small pets or stock, including dogs, cats, rabbits, poultry, goats and alpacas, were directed to the Wagga Showgrounds to utilise resources provided by Local Land Services.
Caging, stalls and space was provided at the Showgrounds, but extreme heat and adverse conditions made if difficult for some families to keep their animals cool, comfortable and hydrated.
To ease the pressure on families and ground staff, Wagga Wagga City Council opened up temporary accommodation at the Glenfield Road Animal Shelter.
“The big thing on Saturday was obviously the heat,” Manager Environment and City Compliance Mark Gardiner said.
“By moving some of the dogs to the Glenfield Road Animal Shelter we were able to ensure they were kept in cooler conditions, where they were provided safe accommodation in a secure location.
“They were watered, fed and well-cared for … giving their families one less thing to worry about in an otherwise stressful time.”
Fifteen dogs, from eight evacuated families, were taken into care at the shelter.
“We took some of the smaller dogs – a mix of Jack Russells, Shih Tzu Terriers – who were not coping well in the heat,” Mr Gardiner said.
“One lady was very relieved to see all five of her dogs go into the care of the shelter.”
Council staff opened up the shelter outside normal hours on Sunday afternoon to allow families to see and spend time with their pets.
“They were able to go in for a cuddle and reassure themselves that their pets were fine,” Mr Gardiner said.
Mr Gardiner said opening the shelter to evacuated pets was likely a first for Council, the unprecedented heat influencing the decision.