Animals evacuated from northern shelters near B.C. wildfires

Fifty-two animals were evacuated Sunday from SPCA shelters in Quesnel and Williams Lake, B.C., where wildfires are burning nearby.

52 dogs, cats and kittens transferred to SPCA branches in the Lower Mainland

Buttons, a three-year-old Shih Tzu mixed-breed, is one of 52 animals evacuated from northern B.C. on Sunday. (Alex Migdal/CBC)

Buttons embarked on a lengthy trip Sunday. 

The three-year-old Shih Tzu mixed-breed travelled by van from Quesnel, B.C. to Chilliwack, B.C. — a journey of more than 550 kilometres — before settling into her new home at the Vancouver SPCA.

She was one of 52 animals evacuated last weekend from SPCA shelters in the Central Interior communities of Quesnel and Williams Lake where wildfires are burning nearby.

Shih Tzu, a three-year-old Shih Tzu mix, is up for adoption at the Vancouver SPCA branch. (Alex Migdal/CBC)

Christie Lewis of the SPCA in the Lower Mainland said the two shelters weren't under evacuation orders, but staff worried that the highways could become tough to navigate for their transfer trucks if the fires grow worse.

Animals are already sent every week from northern B.C. to the Lower Mainland where adoption rates are higher.

"At that point, we made the call to move everybody down and get them to safety before we even had to worry about it," Lewis said. 

Ready for adoption

The 52 dogs, cats and kittens were loaded in vans early Sunday morning — in what staff call an intense process that can be stressful for the animals — but all arrived in good condition.

Most were dispersed in shelters across the Lower Mainland, including West Vancouver, Surrey and Maple Ridge.

Billy is a nine-week-old kitten from Quesnel, B.C. (Alex Migdal/CBC)

That's put some stress on the branches, Lewis said, which need kennel space to accept other surrendered animals and strays. 

Lewis said all the evacuated animals are up for adoption and won't be sent back to the northern shelters.

"Our shelters will fill back up as soon as they have the go-ahead."

Visitors have already come in to ask about the evacuated animals, Lewis said. 

"It's just added more traffic, which is great."

Teeka, a two-year-old German Shepherd mixed-breed from Quesnel, B.C., is full of energy, staff say. (Alex Migdal/CBC)

With files from Rafferty Baker