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Pet Shelter Set Up For Evacuees Of Backbone Fire

Arizona Humane Society

The towns of Pine and Strawberry remain under evacuation orders as the Backbone Fire grows past thirty two thousand acres, with no containment yet. Emergency shelters have been set up in Payson for people, and for their pets and livestock. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Bretta Nelson of the Arizona Humane Society who is on the ground in Payson with an emergency response team.

What do people need to know if they’re in the evacuation area and have pets to take care of?

The Arizona Humane Society has a temporary animal shelter set up at the Rim County Middle School in Payson, Arizona, that address is 304 South Meadow Street in Payson…. We provide 24-hour care to pets of evacuees from the Backbone Fire. So if you are need in help you can come to the middle school and we’ll check your pets in, and we’ll provide food, walks, love, of course, and a safe place for them to sleep overnight.

And what sort of pets are you able to take?

We’re taking companion animals here, we’re up to 25 dogs at the middle school. There is a livestock area set up, it’s my understanding it’s at the Payson Event Center, so if you have livestock you want to go to the Payson Event Center, but for cats and dogs you can come to the Rim Country Middle School.

How are you doing on space, you still have room?

Yeah. Space is a little bit tight, getting tighter in the room we’re in, but we are in the Middle and the Red Cross Shelter has been moved to the High School next door, we do have a bit of an area to expand.

How is everybody feeling, how are people doing out there?

Definitely a lot of emotions, we had a woman drove up yesterday in tears, she has four dogs she needed help with, and was looking for us, and stumbled upon us and was so excited when she finally knew she had somewhere for them to go, she had goats as well, so right after she dropped her dogs off she was going to get their goats to a different a location. Definitely a sense of relief for these pet owners. Some of the pet owners who are staying at the High School, which is really close by, they will actually come by twice a day and walk their dogs, it’s wonderful to see how the pets react. Us working as staff members working with these pets get really attached to them, I have a few favorites I’m going to miss when I leave here. The pets are in good spirits, sometimes they’re a bit stressed when they come in, but we try to make it comfortable as possible them, they have their bedding and blankets, and really big ventilated kennels, and treats coming through, little pieces of cheese, and stuff like that, we’ve been giving them. We have a calming spray we can put on their bedding, and we’re playing some classical music for them right now. We do the best we can, and I think when the owners come in and see that their pets have very cool place to stay—because it is to hot right now, some owners have been taking them with them during the day to different places, but when the heat started to get so high they wanted them to be in air conditioning. Spirits are good, I think pet owners are anxious to get their pets back home, and see if they still have homes when this all said and done, but for now everybody’s in good spirits.

All right, hang in there, thanks for the work you’re doing.

You too, thanks so much.

Updates on the Backbone Fire here: in

Arizona Humane Society, information on preparing for pet evacuations:


Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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