Rescue and Reunion

Animal rescue teams have been hard at work since the Fort McMurray fires broke over a week ago and some wonderful progress has been made in rescuing and reuniting pets with their owners. There were some reports that rescue groups had initially been blocked from entering the city by police causing a concern that pets would not be found in time. Fortunately the situation was rectified and soon the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo took the lead on coordinating all pet rescue in the area.

Both the RCMP and first responders were helping out by giving food and water to animals that they came across and transporting them out to animal control facilities when possible.

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A RCMP officers offers food to a cat in Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday May 6, 2016. RCMP will do what they can to assist pets they may come across in carrying out search and rescue operations. Image calgaryherald.com

To date a multitude of officials, rescue groups, shelters, veterinarians and volunteers have worked tirelessly together to locate, health check, provide care for and return animals to their owners. Hundreds of animals are being housed by the City of Edmonton Animal Care and Control or fostered until they can be returned to their families.

One happy and tearful reunion via Rescued, Reunited, and Unclaimed Pets Of Fort Mac

 

Today the Alberta SPCA reports that the official count from the Fort McMurray People and Animal Reunion Centre in Edmonton is:

  • 955 animals checked in and health-checked
  • 486 animals reunited with their owners
  • 206 animals scheduled for reunions

One cat named Tux, christened the ‘Miracle Stove Cat’, survived in a house that burnt to the ground. Temperatures reached a thousand degrees, but Tux managed to survive by crawling into the stove. They think the glass in the stove broke from the intensity of the fire and he crawled in to hide, the stove fell over and Tux remained trapped until firefighters found him. Another cat named Sky also survived possibly by escaping from an open door, however two other cats from the same household are still reported missing.

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Firefighter Alex Jackson after saving ‘Stove Cat’ and bandaging his paws. Image Alberta SPCA

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Sky the cat rescued along with Tux the Stove Cat

One man who stayed behind in Fort McMurray is being called a hero after he took care of dogs, cats and rabbits that he came across, or that people on Facebook had asked him to check on. In an interview Lee Ellis tells CBC Radio that he visited about 20 houses per day for four days, helping about 80 pets. He went around door to door when the requests started coming in via Facebook and says that the animals were starved not just for food but also for attention. He avoided detection by riding around on a bike for the first three days, then on the fourth day while using a vehicle he was caught by the RCMP and escorted out. Lee says that he did manage to rescue a few more animals before leaving for good the following day.

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Lee Ellis with one of the many cats in Fort McMurray that he fed while remaining in the city after it had been evacuated. (Facebook.com/lee.ellis.980) via CBC.ca

Besides cats and dogs other animals like horses, chickens and even a pig named Marshall have been rescued. Michelle Coutu told CBC News that there was no advance notice of the evacuation and the sight of the flames sent her family scrambling. While she was able to cram her daughter, her grandson and her three dogs into the back of her truck, there was no room for the pig. “All I could do is let Marshall out of his pen and put some food down for him and pray for the best.”

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Marshall the “tough little” beer-loving pig – Image – CBC

Michelle reported Marshall missing and social media did the rest. The RCMP found him alive and tweeted a picture of an officer feeding the lucky pig a watermelon. The very resilient Marshall is now staying with friends and animal control until he can be reunited with his family.

While it could be weeks before residents are allowed to start returning home, for some being reunited with their animal companion is an important first step in the healing process.

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