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Sonoma Humane Society: Disaster Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Thanks to a generous grant from the Petfinder Foundation, Sonoma Humane Society was able to provide safe shelter, food and care for 76 animals displaced during wildfires until they could be reunited with their families.

Sonoma Humane Society’s mission is to ensure that every animal receives protection, compassion, love and care. During our community's recent fires, a generous grant from the Petfinder Foundation allowed us to do just that for animals who went lost or missing during the disaster. The grant covered costs to shelter and care for 76 animals displaced by the wildfires in October 2017. Thanks to your compassionate support, we were able to provide refuge, food and care for animals while we worked to reunite them with their owners.

From the earliest hours of the fires, we received a continual stream of stray animals from many different sources. Some were brought to us by our local rescue partners, and many were brought in after being found by individual community members. In some cases, animals had been found by residents who had returned to fire-damaged homes and neighborhoods looking for their own pets.

With the onset of the fires, Sonoma Humane Society took a lead role in creating a central database to increase our community’s ability to reunite lost pets with their owners. A team of staff and volunteers compiled information from our local animal-welfare agencies and the various social media pages that were appearing daily. This event emphasized the importance of microchips (and keeping them up-to-date). Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM, Director of Shelter Medicine at SHS, states that “microchips were the hero in our shelter hospital, because we knew we’d get to watch a beautiful reunification each time our microchip scanner beeped.”

For the displaced pet owners we were able to reach out to, it was such a comfort to them knowing that their beloved pets would be safe and sound with us, at no cost to them, until they were able to reclaim them. And for pets whose owners we couldn’t readily locate, we continued to search. We extended our stray hold period for fire-affected animals to allow ample time for owners to reclaim their pets. Recently, we’ve begun finding homes for unclaimed pets with the stipulation that, should an owner come forward, they may be contacted to redeem their pet.

While in our care, each animal was able to know the comfort of a warm, soft bed and the reassurance of human companionship. Our Animal Care staff delivered nutritious meals and fresh water throughout the day, and each pet received an exam by our veterinary team and was administered appropriate medical care where needed. Each cat received several daily visits from our Cat Care Partners, helping them to feel soothed and mentally engaged during their displacement. Similarly, displaced dogs received regular walks and frequent interaction with our Canine Care team.

How many pets did this grant help?


Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Butterfly (first photo) is just one of the displaced pets who was able to receive safety, care and comfort at Sonoma Humane Society during the wildfires in our community. The shy gray tabby was brought to us by a good Samaritan just days after the fires started. She was dehydrated and her paws were scorched. She was also frightened and wouldn’t eat for the first two days. In addition to the medical care she needed, our team administered lots of reassurance, as well as a variety of foods to coax her to eat. By day three, Butterfly was eating all her food and purring with every visit. We tried for a month to find her owners, but unfortunately weren’t able to locate them.

The good Samaritan who found her decided that he would like to adopt her, since it appeared that no one was looking for her. He was just days away from adopting her when a family came in, saying they’d seen her online and recognized her as their cat! They came in to see and sure enough, it was their Butterfly. The family had lost their home in the fire and couldn’t take her back right away. We contacted the finder with the news, and he was thrilled that her owners had been found. In a wonderful twist of fate, it turned out that the finder and the family knew each other. The finder is currently fostering Butterfly for them until they can resolve their housing situation.

Crystal (second photo) jumped out of her carrier and took off running while her family was evacuating from the fires. Thankfully, a neighbor spotted the buff-colored cat and was able to catch her as he was evacuating. He brought her to us and, thanks to her microchip, we were able to contact her very-relieved owner. She was grateful for the peace of mind she had knowing we would take the best care of Crystal until the danger had passed. During her intake exam, our vet noted that Crystal’s eyes were irritated and that she had a tender shoulder. A week later, just as soon as it was safe to return home, Crystal’s owner came straight in to pick her up. She’d missed her cat deeply and was so thankful that we were able to care for her cherished 12-year-old cat during the firestorms.

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