The Current·Q&A

This N.S. resident created a team to rescue pets from wildfires

Wildfires are still raging outside of Halifax, and people are worried about what’s waiting for them when they return to their communities. As the flames came, Lisa Parsons rescued 18 dogs — and she has since put together a volunteer force to try to rescue as many pets as possible.

Lisa Parsons is continuing to rescue pets after she saved 18 dogs from an evacuation zone outside Halifax

A small black and white dog looks out of a cage.
A dog named Bobby who was among the dogs rescued. (Mary Catherine-McIntosh/CBC)

Read transcribed audio

Like so many in Nova Scotia, Lisa Parsons has had a chaotic few days as wildfires rage near Halifax.

When a wildfire in Tantallon, N.S., erupted Sunday afternoon, Parsons rescued 18 dogs who were staying at her kennel, as well as pets from nearby residences. She did this all on foot. 

More than 200 structures, mostly homes, have been destroyed. Parsons, who is the manager of Pampered Paws Inn in Hammonds Plains, N.S., has not received confirmation as to whether her home is still standing. 

Two women look over a map on a desk.
Lisa Parsons, left, and a volunteer, right, plot another pet rescue on Tuesday, 30 May, in Halifax. (Mary Catherine-McIntosh/CBC)

Yesterday, she was directing about 30 volunteers from across the province in an effort to rescue as many pets as possible. Her hope is that their efforts will reunite lost pets with their owners, as residents remain displaced from their homes.

Parsons and her family had been sleeping on the gymnasium floor of a church in Bedford, N.S., until that building was evacuated yesterday when the situation worsened. After they left, they were taken into a stranger's home, while accompanied by four dogs and two cats. 

Parsons spoke to The Current host Matt Galloway. Here is part of their conversation. 

They don't have an advocate, and I can't stand there and watch. It's just not in me.- Lisa Parsons

Tell me about what you have been doing in this first evacuation from your home with all those dogs you decided to rescue. What was going on?

Our house was actually in the Westwood Hills area. We were actually going to try and stay put in our home as long as possible, with people on the outside of the subdivision contacting us, saying, "Can you go to our house to get our animals?" So we were trying to stay put as long as possible. We've got friends' cats and dogs.

Then we went into another person's house, got their two cats and puppy, and then, all of a sudden, we went to the end of our road and saw the fire across the street. We were like, "We need to get out." So we left the subdivision with eight dogs and eight cats, and then it just all got a whirlwind from there in regards to where do we go next. We reunited some animals, and then we had to then go and try and get to Hammond Plains, where 18 dogs were being boarded, and get them out. 

A brown dog is walked in a hall by a young girl.
A dog named Whiskey who was rescued from the fire by Lisa Parsons, is pictured with her daughter Mia. Whiskey is waiting for his family, who were traveling, to pick him up. (Mary Catherine-McIntosh/CBC)

These are really desperate circumstances where people have been forced to leave with a few seconds notice in many cases. For you to do this work, why is this important?

I've always believed in animals since I've been little. And unfortunately, I've always put the lives of animals in front of mine.... Just because they don't have an advocate, and I can't stand there and watch. It's just not in me.

My family, unfortunately, sometimes look at me and just give me that look going, "What are you doing?" And I'm like, "But it's an animal ... they're not programmed like us. They need as much help as possible."

People who have had to flee, they were told to take their animals, but they may not have had time and they may not have known what to do.... It's a panic situation. When you reunite them with their animals, what is that like? 

I think I've cried every single timeIt's the most beautiful, heartwarming thing because dogs are their babies and they've just been so grateful that we've managed to get their baby back to them. These are family, whether they've got four legs or two.

There's been a second evacuation, so your work continues now?

We are currently set up at a warehouse ... where we are still getting a number of messages saying, "Have you seen this dog, this dog?" We are actively setting up groups to go out and search as well to see if we can find any animals. We just want to return [them] and have some sort of some sort of normality when we do get families put back together again. 


Oliver Thompson is a writer, producer and musician. Originally from the UK, where he worked for the BBC, Oliver moved to Canada in 2018.

Produced by Mary-Catherine McIntosh and Meli Gumus. Q&A edited for length and clarity