Volunteer Networks Rescue Cherished Animals from Canadian Wildfires

by Ryan Lee
Wildfire Pet Rescue

Amanda Dengler, a resident of Canada’s Northwest Territories, has been compelled to evacuate her home three times over the last year and a half due to rampant wildfires. On each occasion, her feline companions managed to elude her grasp.

Most recently, she had to vacate her residence in Hay River on August 13, owing to the proximity of a wildfire. Dengler speculates that her own apprehension may have fueled her cats’ skittish behavior, rendering them uncooperative.

Consequently, Dengler left her home taking along her two dogs, some clothing, and essential electronics. She provisioned her cats with a bathtub filled with water and a bag of dry food, assuming her absence would be brief. However, as her absence lengthened, she sought external aid.

Dengler stumbled upon a social media message from Dr. Michelle Tuma, a Yellowknife-based veterinarian and member of Veterinarians Without Borders. Dr. Tuma has been actively assisting families with pet evacuation, recovery, and monitoring during Canada’s unprecedented wildfire season.

Tuma’s inaugural mission was aiding residents of the small community of Behchoko, which is located about 100 kilometers northwest of Yellowknife. Many of those evacuated could not take their pets due to transportation limitations, leaving the animals stranded.

An ad-hoc assembly of volunteers, under the owners’ consent, facilitated the rescue of over 100 animals from affected areas. These pets were then temporarily housed at boarding facilities, animal shelters, or with one of the more than 80 foster families that had offered to assist.

As weeks unfolded, the urgency grew with further evacuations. Eventually, Yellowknife itself was subjected to an evacuation mandate, prompting approximately 20,000 of its 23,000 residents to flee. Dr. Tuma, deeming herself an essential worker, chose to remain behind.

In collaboration with Veterinarians Without Borders, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and local authorities, Dr. Tuma has been engrossed in saving, transporting, and caring for pets as firefighters valiantly combat the encroaching flames. This collective effort included ensuring food and water for stranded animals, coordinating the supply of essential transport crates, and even accommodating pets on military flights.

Dr. Tuma’s team also tackled challenging rescues, such as a frightened cat concealed behind a washing machine and an irate snake requiring special handling. Additionally, she provided medical care and sedatives for pets that were ill or stressed.

Maggie McGuane, the daughter of the late Canadian actor Margot Kidder and an associate of California-based charity Wings of Rescue, reached out to offer assistance. A volunteer pilot duo flew out 17 animals on August 20, partly funded by a $10,000 donation from American company Tito’s Handmade Vodka and its Vodka for Dog People Charity.

Among the animals flown out were two of Dengler’s cats from Hay River, which is situated a five-hour drive from Yellowknife. Her third cat, Stitch, has been sighted but remains elusive. Dengler, who is currently residing with friends in Calgary, expressed relief that her other pets were secure.

Dengler encapsulated the sentiments of many when she stated that in these trying times, pets serve as invaluable emotional anchors. She asserted, “Even if I lose my house or belongings, the lives of my animals remain irreplaceable.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wildfire Pet Rescue

What regions in Canada are affected by the wildfires?

The text specifically discusses the Northwest Territories, including towns such as Hay River and the capital city of Yellowknife, as being affected by unprecedented wildfires.

Who is Dr. Michelle Tuma and what role does she play in the rescue operations?

Dr. Michelle Tuma is a veterinarian based in Yellowknife and a member of Veterinarians Without Borders. She has been actively involved in helping families evacuate with their pets, reunite with them, or keep tabs on animals left behind during the wildfire crisis.

What organizations are involved in pet rescue during the wildfires?

Veterinarians Without Borders and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are prominently mentioned as organizations involved in pet rescue. Additionally, Wings of Rescue, a California-based charity, contributed by flying out stranded animals.

How are pets being accommodated during evacuations?

Pets are being temporarily housed in boarding facilities, animal shelters, or with foster families who have volunteered to assist. In some cases, military and commercial flights have allowed pets aboard without requiring a crate.

What kinds of animals have been rescued?

The text mentions various types of pets, including cats, dogs, and snakes. More than 100 animals were reportedly rescued and brought to safe locations.

What provisions were made for pets left behind?

Residents like Amanda Dengler left water and food provisions for their pets, hoping their absence would be short-lived. Upon realizing the extended nature of evacuations, they sought external aid for their animals’ rescue and care.

How is the community supporting the pet rescue efforts?

More than 80 foster families have come forward to assist, and some residents have offered help through various organizations. Financial aid has also been provided by companies like Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

What are the emotional implications of rescuing pets during wildfires?

The text highlights the emotional importance of pets as family members. Amanda Dengler, a resident affected by the wildfires, expressed that the lives of her animals are irreplaceable, even in the face of lost property.

More about Wildfire Pet Rescue

  • Veterinarians Without Borders
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
  • Wings of Rescue
  • Canada’s Northwest Territories Government Information on Wildfires
  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka Corporate Philanthropy

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Lena_S August 26, 2023 - 9:38 am

Dr. Tuma staying back in Yellowknife is brave. In crisis, community really shows its strength. Amazing what people do to help each other and the pets!

Kevin_42 August 26, 2023 - 11:56 am

This is exactly why I support groups like Veterinarians Without Borders. They do the work that sometimes gets overlooked. Essential indeed!

Mike J August 26, 2023 - 1:03 pm

Wow, that’s intense. Can’t believe how many times Amanda had to evacuate! The pets are like family, glad they’re being taken care of.

SarahD August 26, 2023 - 2:22 pm

i never thought about what happens to pets during disasters. Big props to Dr. Tuma and the volunteers for stepping up. Animals need heroes too!

EllieP August 26, 2023 - 3:55 pm

Stories like this remind me why community is so important. In tough times, we gotta stick together, humans and pets alike.

JennyM August 26, 2023 - 10:35 pm

As a pet owner, this hits home. I can’t even imagine leaving my dog behind. Thx to all the volunteers for helping out, youre the real MVPs!

RickyB August 27, 2023 - 3:31 am

Man, the emotional toll must be sky high. Good to see that some companies are pitching in with funds. More should do the same.

TimQ August 27, 2023 - 3:59 am

3 times in 18 months? thats insane. Hope Amanda and her pets finally get a break from all this chaos.


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