Published: January 10, 2018
Happy New Year! While we are still in recovery mode
following the fires, we have had some time to reflect on our work in the
immediate response to the fires.
Through our de-brief process, regular
check-ins with regional partners and community feedback, we’ve learned a lot
about what worked for our community and where we have room to grow. We are so
grateful to the animal welfare community we have been so fortunate to work
with, especially during the fire response.
Collaborators near and far, from pet
supply stores to shelters and rescues to local restaurants, veterinary
professionals and committed community members—we couldn’t have done it without
you! By sharing this update, we hope to share not only our success, but the
success of our animal care community as a whole.
Field operations includes all work done by Animal Services
Animal Control Officers and partner agencies responding to animal-related needs
in our county. During the fires we worked county-wide. During non-emergency
times, our officers jurisdiction includes the City of Santa Rosa, the Town of
Windsor and the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. Field operations works
closely with Shelter operations, especially upon the arrival of stray animals
at the shelter.
operations ran 24/7 for the first 10 days following the fires. Hours for
officers have since returned to the regular schedule (7 days/week) with
officers on-call after hours.
- Officers and mutual aid officers cared for
hundreds of animals in the field performing welfare checks, leaving food and
water, creating temporary enclosures, providing veterinary care (with
veterinary professionals), and evacuating animals.
- Officers have responded to nearly 5,000 calls
for services since October 10, 2017—a 51% increase over the same time last
- In the past month, disaster-related calls have
been significantly reduced and field work has re-focused on full-time rabies
control, enforcement of state, county, and local animal ordinances and
regulations, and ensuring the safety and welfare of animals and our community.
Shelter operations includes all medical and behavioral care
that goes into sheltering stray, surrendered, and adoptable animals. Shelter
operations works closely with Communications to ensure up-to-date information
on an animal’s status, opportunities to reunite an animal with its family,
programs and services at the shelter, and any changes to regular operations.
- Since the fires broke, Animal Services has seen
a 40% increase in stray animals arriving at the shelter since the same time
- Managing the shelter population is essential to
ensuring animals in our care are healthy and have the best chance at finding
their "forever home." Transferring animals to trusted partner shelters and
rescues is a great resource to help manage the size of the shelter population.
Since the fires, Animal Services has increased their transfers by 217% since
the same time last year. When the fires first started many of our regional
partners stepped up to help empty our shelter of animals to free up space for
those animals that were affected by the fires.
- Reuniting lost/stray animals with their families
are some of the shelters greatest success stories. Since the fires, Animal
Services has returned 243 animals to their families! Current microchips,
licenses and identification tags were a huge help with this!
- Adoptions did not resume, following the fires,
until November 17th due to the extended stray hold time put in place
to allow fire-affected families more time to search for their lost animals.
- Animal Services has seen a significant reduction
in the animals coming in with fire-related injuries in the past month. However,
Animal Services is still treating a few fire-affected animals that have arrived
at the shelter more recently and has partnered with another local organization
to provide some veterinary care to fire-affected families for their animals if
they cannot otherwise afford it.
Communications and Outreach
Communications connects the work of the shelter to our
community by providing up to date information on animals in our care, programs,
services, changes in operations. Communication at Animal Services also works
with and through communications officers at the Department level and in the
Joint Information Center during times of emergency. Outreach efforts focusing
on meeting the needs of our community through direct-service programs.
- Animal Services website
page have been the primary channels for direct communication from Sonoma County
- Both Adoptable AND Lost and Found animals are
updated every hour, on the hour. Just follow the links to either Adopt
an Animal or Lost
and Found (and click the buttons) to view them.
- Reunification of families with their lost pets
is on-going. During the fires, Animal Services used full-page print and
recurring digital ads in the Press Democrat, posted flyers for hard-to-reunite
animals in the areas they were found, posted photos and videos on the website
and Facebook page, and collaborated with our local and online partners who had
teams of individuals working to match lost animal reports with photos of found
animals at our shelter and at other locations.
- Animal Services added an additional (optional)
statement in the Adoption Contract that allowed an adopter of a fire-animal to
opt-in to being contacted by Animal Services should the original owner of a
fire-animal come forward following the adoption.
- Animal Services has distributed more than
20,000lbs of donated animal care supplies to our fire-affected community
members in the form of food, crates, beds, collars, leashes, litter, litter
pans, toys, and more!
- Regular programs for low-cost spay & neutering
of owned animals have resumed after being suspended during the fires
- Education and outreach events have also resumed
following a hiatus during the fires. See our Events Calendar
for more information.
Areas for Growth During a Disaster or Emergency
- Managing donations—we were overwhelmed by the
amount of in-kind donations that were brought to the shelter doors. We needed
storage for donations and consistent process for receiving donations from the
- Getting the word out we were open to the
community—with our power out during the first 48 hours of the fires. It took us
another couple days after power was restored to get the word out to our broader
community that we were here and ready to help them with their animals.
- Managing lost and found reports—the volume of
reports of lost and found animals was disproportionate to the available
personnel to try to match the two. Thankfully, we had some great partners to
work with who helped us streamline and comb through all these reports. We hope
to have an established, unified system in place for lost and found animals
moving forward to make it more manageable for shelters like ours and create
less work for our community searching for their lost companions.
- Utilization of our volunteer force to supplement
our operations—There are many ways to volunteer with the shelter. We have such a
generous volunteer base and while we were able to use some volunteers on a
limited basis, we would love to have involved more volunteers. We’re already
working on our Animal Disaster Service Worker program to build up our
coordinated and safe volunteer response during disasters!
- Better coordination with private sector
organizations and resources—We found we were doubling up on efforts to serve
the same members of our community in the same ways. This led to some
inefficiencies for our organizations and proved to be a bit overwhelming for
our community in need. Earlier (and more often) communication with these groups
would help in the future.
- Community education about Animal Services role
in disaster response—We all had a lot to learn in responding to the disaster
but we’d like to play a larger role in educating our community in how to safely
get involved in responding to animals in disaster.
- Utilizing the media in a way to provide more
updates—we were busy taking care of animals but making time to communicate what
we do for our community is important. We would like to be more proactive in
getting the word out to local media sources about our work.
Accomplishments in Response to the Fires
- We made ourselves available to our whole
community—we were open 24/7 for the first 10 days following the fires with
extended hours for another week. We made sure our emergency and department
operations centers knew where to refer animal-related calls and inquiries,
teams of volunteers and mutual aid officers were able to help us attend to each
member of the public who walked through our doors in the wake of the fires.
- We made space for all animals—Animal Services
transferred nearly 100 animals (that had been at the shelter prior to the fires
and whose stray holds were up) to local shelters and rescues in the first week
following the fires effectively making space for any animal coming our
way…including birds, rabbits, cats, dogs, chickens, goats, pigs, and koi fish!
- Our shelter never reached capacity-we were
always one step ahead of the incoming animals and had kennels and animal care
facilities ready to receive every stray animal (and even owned animals that
needed boarding or veterinary care).
- Donation distribution-while we were overwhelmed
by the influx of donated animal care supplies, we have successfully distributed
more than 10 tons of them to our community through on-going communication,
outreach events and collaborations with our partners in the county and other
- We utilized the expertise of partners who had
lived and worked through disaster response before, and reached out to local (and
far off) animal care partners for help when we needed it. Animal care really is