Rescues, volunteers step up to care for pets Manitoba wildfire evacuees had to leave behind

While wildfire evacuees wait to find out when they can go home, some are worried about the pets they had to leave behind. 

In the last week, six Manitoba First Nations have been evacuated because of the wildfires, but many evacuees weren’t allowed to take their furry family members with them. 

In some of First Nations there were community members who were able to stay behind to check on people’s homes and have been checking on pets, too.

First Nation leaders have also been working with animal rescues and RCMP to make sure the animals left behind are cared for.

An RCMP officer feeds a dog in Little Grand Rapids First Nation. (Submitted by Debra Vandekerkhove)

In Berens River, Delilah Sawanash, a volunteer with K9 Advocates Manitoba, has taken in seven dogs and three cats. She’s also been going around the community to give food and water to people’s pets. 

“We check on them every day, make sure they’re all right, and they’re taken care of so nobody has to worry about their animals,” she said. 

Still, she said she’s worried about the pets that the community’s security team can’t get to because there’s no way to get inside the home. 

She said they’re working on getting in touch with those owners to get permission to get inside the homes and check on the animals. 

On Pauingassi First Nation, everyone had to leave, meaning close to 200 dogs were left alone to fend for themselves for more than a week. Pauingassi is located near the Ontario border is are only accessible by plane.

A note left by a pet owner outside a home in Pauingassi First Nation, which was fully evacuated this week. (Submitted by Debra Vandekerkhove)

The First Nation’s leadership was finally able to fly back Thursday to check on the animals, said Melanie Chudyk with Manitoba Animal Alliance, an animal rescue that has been working to get food and water to pets in the community. 

Dogs getting food and water in Pauingassi First Nation. (Submitted by Debra Vandekerkhove)

She said they were able to take photos of the animals to show their owners they were OK. 

“It’s good that people have that reassurance that, OK, there’s a picture of my dog, my dog’s OK, my dog’s just been fed,” she said. 

The rescue is also co-ordinating flights to get some of the animals out, focusing on those who are very old or very young, or that have health issues. 

A volunteer feeds a cat in Pauingassi First Nation. (Submitted by Debra Vandekerkhove)

“I don’t think anybody knew how long this would be, right? But definitely our goal is to bring in as many dogs as we can, keep them healthy, safe, and then reunite them with their owners,” Chudyk said.

The Winnipeg Humane Society will then treat any of the pets that need medical care and has agreed to take some of them in until they can be reunited with their families. Manitoba Animal Alliance is also fostering some of the animals. 

Unfortunately, after going days without food or water, Chudyk said there are likely some pets that didn’t make it. 

“It’s very heartbreaking for the people who live in those communities to know that they may not have their fur baby to go home to,” she said. 

The Winnipeg Humane Society is looking for donations to help care for these animals. 

They’re in need of pet food and clean four-litre ice cream buckets for water.

You can drop those off at the shelter at 45 Hurst Way.

The Manitoba Animal Alliance is also looking for monetary donations as well as dog food. You can find out more on their website.

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