“Sarah is total hero to the animals in our community. When the Oroville dam crisis happened, and the Northwest SPCA animal shelter had to be evacuated, she took 16 of the more challenging dogs in at The Canine Connection, organized a troop of her paid staff and volunteers to walk and care for them, and found homes or fostered herself almost all the dogs so they did not have to return to the shelter. For 5 years, she has organized Walk Woof Wag (helping Chico youth Bryce Velasco realize his dream of creating an event to help Chico Animal Shelter), a huge undertaking, to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the shelter’s medical fund. She has created an army of helpers since the Camp Fire to care for and help foster and home the displaced animals. I could go on….”

Kym Casperson

Camp Fire Response

From Dr. Sarah: My work with the Camp Fire impacted animals began immediately after the fire and continues to this day. Hundreds of animals were left at the emergency animal shelters as people fled the Camp Fire and then navigated through the horrendous aftermath. Hundreds more were picked up as “strays” while they were fleeing or caught in the fire. In total, more than 2,000 animals – mostly dogs and cats – were housed in the emergency animal shelters. The recovery from this tragic fire will be long and the animal needs continue.

In the days immediately after the fire, I was contacted by NVADG (North Valley Animal Disaster Group) and asked if I could put together an A-team to help out with Del Oro animal emergency shelter. That call came at 7pm and by 7am the next morning, I had arranged for ten of my staff and friends (all friends were previous volunteers from the Oroville Dam evacuation in 2017) to be on duty at Del Oro to assist during this time of chaos and crisis. For the duration of time the emergency animal shelters were open (through early January 2014), The Canine Connection continued to collect and deliver needed supplies for the Del Oro shelter, sending out calls to our generous clients for needed supplies and delivering their donations on a daily or weekly basis. We were immersed in helping. Many of those friends I initially called on stayed involved with the shelters until they officially closed in early January. Our clients, our friends were generous beyond measure with donations of time, money, and goods.

I was then asked to assist at the second (of what came to be three) animal emergency shelters, the Chico Airport shelter, where there were some dogs that were hard to handle and needed special care. With a team of extremely dedicated volunteers, I helped care for what became known as the “Airport Dogs.” These were the dogs that did/do not have identified owners and so were awaiting, for many weeks and for some, months, some kind of decision about their fate. In late January 2019, the “Airport Dogs” that had not been claimed were released to area shelters (Chico Animal Shelter, Paradise Animal Shelter, Northwest SPCA) where they could be adopted or (if needing medical or other care prior to adoption) fostered. I continued to help with their care and am currently fostering one of those fire refugees, Rudy, who had severe separation anxiety and medical needs. I am also fostering a relinquished Camp Fire dog, named Woody, whose owner was, sadly, unable to reclaim him after the fire since they had no place to live.

Click HERE to see a short clip of television coverage of some of the “Airport Dogs,” including Rudy, at at the end of their lengthy shelter stay.

Camp Fire Foster Animal Connection

By the second week following the fire, it was clear that the animal emergency shelter situation was like none other. While hundreds of people had left their pets at the shelter when fleeing the fire, the massive loss of homes and the uninhabitable environment even for those whose homes were left standing meant that it was going to be a very long time before people would be able to be reunited with their pets. Again, I was called on by NVADG and asked if I would set up a foster network system so that those needing foster homes for their animals could connect with those people willing to foster. Because of the urgency involved, it seemed that the creation of closed Facebook group would be the fastest and easiest way for people to connect with one another. Within weeks, over 4,000 people had joined the group and many foster connections were made. Months after the fire, the group is still active as new homes are needed for fostering and some animals are now needing permanent adoption. Please join our Facebook group HERE. There is still a need for fostering and adopting Camp Fire impacted pets. Work is currently underway to develop a more permanent database of animal foster guardians so that this group can be activated in the event of a future emergency. Let’s hope we never need to draw on it.

Oroville Dam Evacuation

In early February 2017, the  situation with Oroville dam looked ominous and the entire community of Oroville was asked to stand by for evacuation. To get ahead of the situation, the Executive Director of Northwest SPCA decided to get the animals out, fast. A no-cost adoption event was held, animals were transferred rescues, and staff took home to foster those animals they could. Sixteen larger or behaviorally challenging dogs were left and I received a call – would I take them in at The Canine Connection. Yes! Of course!

As soon as the dogs arrived, we got to work. The dogs were fed and secured in our comfortable kennel areas. But that was just the beginning. I put out a call for volunteers and we soon had a brigade of people grooming, walking, feeding, and cleaning up after our guests. We oversaw play sessions for them in our dog play yards. And, most importantly, we facilitated the adoption of many. We were more than happy to help our neighbors, honored by the way our Canine Connection community jumped in to help, and thrilled that so many dogs landed in happy homes following the “damn dam evacuation/”