Reuniting pets and owners lost by wildfires

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Lisa Starr, spokeswoman for the Austin Humane Society, spends some time with a dog in the Recovery room. The dog, rescued from the Bastrop wildfires, is recovering from burns on her paws and has not been claimed by an owner yet.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

The recent wildfires in Bastrop County have destroyed homes and disrupted daily life for local residents and their pets.

Officials at area animal shelters say they are doing what they can to reunite pets and their owners that were separated during the evacuation, but the process is far from complete.

“Many people weren’t home when their neighborhoods were evacuated and weren’t allowed back in to get their pets,” said Austin Pets Alive! spokeswoman Gretchen Meyer. “Some people had just a couple of minutes to get out and could see the fires coming and their pets, spooked, wouldn’t let them catch them or ran away in fear.”

Austin Pets Alive!, a non-profit that promotes no-kill animal shelters, is working with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control to go door-to-door looking for pets that were left behind, Meyer said.

“There were a lot of people concentrated in a few areas — most likely where the fires first broke out in Bastrop — who were worried about their pets dying of starvation or dehydration, trapped in their homes because they weren’t allowed in their neighborhoods for so long,” she said.

Meyer said the organization is holding an adoption event on Saturday and Sunday for animals from area shelters to free up space for the evacuee pets so their owners can find them.

Austin Pets Alive! has had a station set up in Bastrop for almost two weeks, offering veterinarian care, pet supplies including food and leashes and temporary foster homes where people can drop off their pets while they get back on their feet, she said.

Austin Animal Control assisted the Bastrop County Animal Control by going to areas affected by the fires to pick up stray animals and take them to the Bastrop Animal Shelter.

When the Bastrop County Animal Shelter reached full capacity, Animal Control started taking pets to the Austin Humane Society, which also took in animals in need of medical care.

The Austin Humane Society is housing more than 100 dogs and cats that have been displaced by the wildfire, said Austin Humane Society spokeswoman Lisa Starr. While there have been close to 60 reunions, there are still pets that have not found their owners, Starr said.

“We’re working everyday to find the pets’ owners,” she said.

“We don’t have a determined time as to when they’ll all be reunited but we’re going to get every opportunity to do so.”
In an effort to reconnect more animals with their owners, the Austin Humane Society created a lost and found photo album on its Facebook page and is keeping it as up-to-date as possible.

“We are working really hard to find owners of pets,” Starr said. “We are just seeing a lot of happy endings but there are still some looking for their families.”