The day of Monday, December 4th started like any other for The Humane Society of Ventura County. The 501-C Non-Profit is nestled in the idyllic Ojai Valley located approximately an hour and a half northwest of Los Angeles. On a regular day, the four-acre shelter has 20 employees and a myriad of volunteers to take care of the numerous dogs, cats, goats, and horses who were either neglected, abused or surrendered by their previous owners . They work day in and day out to help find good, stable homes to adopt them.
Around 7:00 on the evening of December 4th, what would become the largest fire in California state history—the Thomas Fire—broke out in upper Ojai/Santa Paula and would make it’s way to the hills surrounding Ojai within the following days. By 9 o’clock the entire staff and many volunteers were at the shelter and ready to venture into the smoke and ash to bring all the escaped and lost animals to safety. If the fire and air quality wasn’t bad enough, the power was out at the shelter and their fire alarm was blaring throughout the night.
In short, the next three days would be nothing short of arduous. The shelter went from having eighty animals to hundreds within a matter of 48 hours. Eventually the shelter was home to nearly 400 animals. Volunteers used the little shelter as a headquarters for rescued animals and stray humans who had lost their properties to the flames.
The Thomas Fire burned approximately 281,893 acres and wasn’t fully contained until January 12th of this year. It forced over 104,607 residents to evacuate their homes and required over 8,500 firefights to fight the flames. While recovery from the fire will take years, if not decades, the shelter is finally being able to clean and organize and return to business as usual.
I visited the property and toured the facilities with their media and marketing coordinator Franki D. Williams. Franki introduced me to all their loving, barking, meowing, quacking, braying tenants. She explained to me how many of the rescued animals remain in the shelter since their homes were consumed by the fires. Their people will regularly visit and spend time with their furry family members, but it’s not quite the same obviously. While the fires have dramatically changed the area for the worse, the Humane Society of Ventura County is a shining beacon of hope. A place where people are dedicated to the safety and well-being of animals of all sizes.
Franki wanted me to express how important it is to disaster-prepare as a household and a family. But being prepared as humans is not only crucial, it is also vital to consider your pets and farm animals. Do you have their medical papers available and ready to go if you need to evacuate quickly? Do you own crates in the case of immediate transportation? Or if you’re not home, have you set up an escape plan with your neighbors who can help get your pets out of danger? Are you aware as to where your nearest animal shelter is? Probably most importantly for pets like dogs and cats, are that they are tagged and microchipped. Microchips can be the difference between losing your loving pet to having them back in your caring arms. It is easy to objectively judge someone who loses their pet in the midst of a disaster, but unless you’ve experienced such a traumatic event; you don’t know what sort of impossible decisions have to be made in split seconds.
When the fires broke out, we at Sonoma Pharmaceuticals donated several cases of our MicrocynAH products with which to treat all the animals with cuts, burns, scrapes, wounds, sores and abrasions. We also recommended they keep product on hand wherever the animals are kept to quickly treat any wounds that may appear. Because MicrocynAH is completely non-toxic and offers unparalleled shelf stability, it’s a great resource for any shelter. Of course, they were very appreciative of the donation, but since they are still recovering from all the work it took to keep the facilities running during the disaster relief, they are still in dire need of monetary donations.
It takes approximately $3,200 to operate the shelter for just a single day. During an emergency the costs can be as much as three times that. Per Day! Visit their site http://www.hsvc.org/ to determine how you can best help, or if you’re in the area and have time; they can always use new volunteers. They also have plenty of animals who are in need of nice, loving homes. Like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hsvc.org/ to see their irresistible animal faces if you’re in the market for a new furry family member. At Sonoma Pharmaceuticals, we are proud to stand with shelters such as The Humane Society of Ventura County and assist in any way we can. We are saddened by the amount of destruction caused by the Thomas Fires but so thankful for saints like these who are willing to sacrifice so much to protect the lives of our critter friends. We continue to work with The Humane Society of Ventura County to ensure all the animals are healthy and happy and eventually are adopted by loving families.