An animal advocate says emergency responders were not well-prepared to help families on Mount Charleston with pets.
There were no known indoor animal shelters available Thursday night when the Carpenter Canyon wildfire prompted the mandatory evacuation of residents in Trout and Kyle canyons as it moved onto the east side of Mount Charleston.
“I just feel that we can do a better job going forward,” said Gina Greisen, president of the Nevada Voters for Animals. “I think this is a lesson to learn from.”
Red Cross Shelters were opened at Hafen Elementary School in Pahrump and Bilbray Elementary School in Las Vegas.
A family with a couple of dogs and a bird sought shelter at Bilbray Elementary on Thursday night, but pets were not allowed inside, according to Vicki Kallman, a volunteer with the Red Cross.
Regardless, the Red Cross was able to accommodate the pets. They found a place for the dogs outside with food and water. The bird was able to come inside the shelter with the family, Kallman said.
“We did the best that we could,” she said.
On Friday morning, a man brought his dog to the shelter. He was allowed to stay inside, but the dog had to stay in the man’s RV, which was parked outside, Kallman said.
No pets were at at Hafen Elementary School in Pahrump on Thursday night, and access for pets was restricted to outside, said Marie Pate, a volunteer with the Red Cross.
State and federal laws require that people with pets be helped during a disaster situation, Greisen said. “There needs to be at least one designated place” to take pets, she said.
Nevada law requires that “a political subdivision or a local organization for emergency management must, without limitation, address the needs of persons with pets, service animals or service animals in training during and after an emergency or disaster.”
“People consider pets as part of their family,” she said. “People will not leave without their pets. This is a critically important issue.”
It was not appropriate for the pets to be outside in the heat , she said.
Volunteers with Greisen’s organization are willing to transport and shelter animals, she said. Other locations, such as Bonnie Springs Ranch, are making space available to shelter horses.
April Hopper, one of the owners at Bonnie Springs, said Friday morning she had not received any calls from people needing shelter for their horses, but they are still offering help.
On Friday morning, Jack Grote was allowed access through Kyle Canyon Road to visit Rocking H Ranch, where he keeps a horse. The ranch was only about five miles up the mountain, he said.
He hadn’t decided whether he would be taking the horse, but he kept a trailer at the ranch. He worried about the fire spreading.
“If worse comes to worst” he would haul his horse from his residence, Grote said.
Two pet shelter mobile units and a horse trailer were deployed Friday morning to set up outside Bilbray Elementary School, said Irene Navis, plans and operations coordinator for emergency management with Clark County. They were deployed as soon as officials found out they were needed Friday morning, she said.
The mobile units, with cooling and heating systems, will be able to house at least 20 small- to medium-sized pets .
Volunteer veterinarians with the Medical Reserve Corps deployed to the area, Navis said. At least one animal control officer is required at the scene at all times.
But, Greisen said, those resources were a day late. She said better communication could have helped inform residents with animals about available resources.
Service animals, such as those assisting the blind, were allowed inside the Red Cross shelter, Navis said. The county was organizing efforts Friday with the Red Cross, the city of Las Vegas and private organizations.
Greisen also wondered whether the mobile units would have been enough to meet the needs if the fire was of a larger scale.
The pet shelter mobile units had little traffic throughout the day Friday, Navis said. As of late Friday afternoon, Bonnie Springs wasn’t housing any horses from evacuated families.
Families with pets in need of help can contact Bonnie Springs Ranch at 702-875-4191 or Nevada Voters For Animals at email@example.com
“There are people who still need help evacuating animals, but we need to identify them,” Greisen said. “We don’t know who those people are.”
Reporter Mike Blasky contributed to this report. Contact reporter Yesenia Amaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.