Helping Animals Impacted By the North Complex Wildfire

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Our Behavior Team answered the call to support two shelters in Butte County housing burn victims and animals displaced by the fire. The shelters asked for help addressing behavioral issues that some of the animals were experiencing, including stress-related aggression.

The SF SPCA worked closely with Butte County to help with the devastating wildfires in 2018. So when we got the call for help this year, we of course said “yes!” Less than 48 hours later, our team hit the road.

In Butte County, we found well-organized facilities that kept the needs of the animals at the forefront. While it was truly impressive what local animal rescue staff and volunteers were able to accomplish during the emergency, housing and caring for large numbers of animals is a huge undertaking. No matter how well established, a shelter is a stressful place for an animal, especially in an emergency situation.

Shelter staff and volunteers, including those from the National Guard, had concerns about stress-related aggression exhibited by some of the dogs and cats. Our Behavior Team was able to address these concerns and provide guidance on how to make caring for the animals a bit easier.

In areas where dogs were walked too close to dogs in other kennels, which can lead to barking and bite risks, the team made adjustments like erecting movable barriers. They guided staff and volunteers on subjects lie using enrichment toys and offered a training session focused on how to put the suggestions into action. One of the trainees had never taught a dog to sit and was able to teach two dogs in less than two minutes!

On the cat side, our cat behavior expert made housing suggestions like moving cats in lower cages to higher ground, and swapping out aluminum foil litter boxes for plastic ones. Volunteers watched challenging felines change into sweet, relaxed cats.

It’s not everyday that we’re called to provide extensive full-day trainings, and we were grateful that we could help the teams in Butte County. We will continue to offer them support — in fact, right after the training, we sent 70 boxes of flea medication for the felines in their care.

As this tragic wildfire season continues, we anticipate getting more requests for assistance. Our lifesaving work relies on your support. Please donate today so that we can always answer the call to help animals in need: Donate Today!

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