British Columbia

Volunteers rally to support animals displaced by B.C. wildfires

As wildfires continue to rage throughout British Columbia, community members are rallying together to keep farm animals safe and fed. 

'We're just going to keep going until these animals have an address,' said one volunteer

Katie Pasitney has been collecting donations for animals displaced by B.C.'s wildfires. (Katie Pastiney )

As wildfires continue to rage throughout British Columbia, community members are rallying together to keep farm animals safe and fed. 

Genna Barzan is spearheading efforts in Vernon, B.C., to collect animal supplies for pets and farm animals impacted by the wildfires.

The biggest need is animal feed — everything from wild bird feed to cat and dog food — and while donations to the Animal Auxiliary Thrift Store have been plentiful, Barzan says demand is even higher. 

"All the donations are absolutely fantastic and fabulous," said Barzan, adding that monetary donations are particularly helpful as needs change. 

Katie Pasitney's ostrich farm benefited from the Animal Auxiliary Thrift Store's outreach. Her family owns 500 ostriches in Edgewood, B.C.. Their property was put under an evacuation order last month but they refused to leave the birds behind. 

The family started a crowdfunding campaign so they could feed the birds and buy generators, which are needed to spray the ostriches to keep them cool. But the family was unable to get the money released by the time they needed it. So, Barzan stepped up. 

"Ostriches eat three pounds of food a day. So, those animals were eating 1,500 pounds a day. Those two trucks and trailers that we got in for them, that only lasted about five [or] six days. It just goes to show you how much food that we're actually going through, which is huge amounts," says Barzan. 

Pasitney's farm is back on its feet and she is now collecting donations that will go toward Barzan's efforts. She has been gathering donations in a trailer on her property, which she plans to take to the thrift store on Monday. 

The work to support at-risk animals extends to those that have been relocated, as well as those, like Pasitney's flock of ostriches, that stay put despite the risks. 

"We're just going to keep going until these animals have an address again with their families reunited," said Pasitney. 

Fairgrounds offer temporary shelter

Many animals on farms under evacuation order have been relocated to other farms, barns, and fields that have some room to spare. 

In Barriere, B.C., the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association opened its gates to animals in need at the beginning of the summer, much like they did during 2017's wildfires.

When nearby properties were first evacuated due to wildfires earlier this summer, stalls on the fairgrounds immediately filled up. But as evacuation orders have come and gone, so too have animals needing shelter. 

Jill Hayward, president of the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association, says they currently have space to accommodate more hobby farm animals. 

"We do have quite a bit of room here and we have the ability to build probably 30 paddocks at a moment's notice," said Hayward.

The fairgrounds are currently housing ponies, goats, sheep, and lots of horses.

The North Thompson Fall Fair is housing animals evacuated due to the B.C. wildfires. (Jill Hayward )

"We can't take herds of animals … but we can take a couple of cows from somebody's backyard or we can try and help to find a farmer that can take them." 

The association is also receiving donations of hay from community members but Hayward says they would prefer monetary donations so they can purchase feed for all the animals and pay for medical care if needed. 

In 2017, animals remained on the fairgrounds until mid-September. Hayward said they are prepared to house animals as long as they need homes. 

The Salmon Arm Fall Fair is also taking in animals. 

With files from Akshay Kulkarni, Katie Nicholson


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