Tara Gallant put her love for animals into action following the devastating fires in Fort McMurray.
The local realtor was deployed to Fort McMurray with the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART). The organization played a large part in the effort to save pets left behind during the frantic evacuation of Fort McMurray.
Gallant arrived in Fort McMurray on May 24 alongside three other volunteers and spent five days assisting authorities with providing food and other necessities for animals that had been left behind.
“We were off the bus for five minutes and the next thing I knew, I was in a peace officer’s car and we were gone,” Gallant said.
Gallant spent five days in Fort McMurray entering evacuated homes at the request of the home owners to feed pets that had been left behind. Local authorities and the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) evacuated many animals in the days following the fire, leaving mostly small pets such as birds, fish and lizards for Gallant and the other CDART volunteers to look after.
Gallant said that pets left outside or able to escape through pet doors fled town but are beginning to return looking for food.
“There are just boxes of requests that people sent in saying Fido was in the backyard and we had to leave, maybe he got away. Some of those will still show up,” she said.
Food is being left out for animals that return to the area and local animal control and bylaw officers are attempting to trap them and return them to their owners.
Not all the stories coming from the animal rescue efforts are happy ones. Gallant and her fellow volunteers had to remove dead pets, such as birds or fish from some homes.
Gallant described the devastation in Fort McMurray, saying that they patrolled entire neighbourhoods reduced to dust and that the ash was so thick in some places that they were fitted for respirators in order to work safely.
The events in Fort McMurray highlight the need for specialized help with animal welfare when disaster strikes. CDART is accepting new members and there will be a training session held in Salmon Arm on June 18. The training session is an introduction to Emergency Pet Services Course, one of three courses required to be a full-fledged CDART volunteer. Registration for the course is $35. More information is available at www.cdart.org/training.