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December 11, 2017. As the Director of the Disaster Relief Unit at FOUR PAWS and a certified red card wildland firefighter, our global responders and I are constantly watching and monitoring various kinds of emergencies and disasters. We were able to respond to local disaster and emergencies to assist communities in need this year in Europe, Asia, Florida and the Caribbean.


My experience responding to wildland fires in the US, Indonesia and Australia has not made any of the fires that we face any easier but hopefully a little safer. Upon my return to our office after being in Puerto Rico and South East Asia and  getting news about the recent devastating fires in Southern California, the devastation was almost unimaginable. The images of huge tracts of land ablaze along the 405 on the morning commute is incredibly sad. Not to mention, these fires will have vast impacts on the local communities and the animals in their environment for decades to come. 

You might have seen the video of the young man rescuing a wild rabbit on the side of the road or the people running through a horse stable trying to convince the horses to leave their stall. There are many example of heroic acts during these very dangerous situations by first responders and bystanders.


In these harrowing times with extreme changes with the weather and environment. The most effective way to adapt to these changes, is in how we can plan for possible emergencies then prepare ourselves and our family with our animals.


  1. Have an evacuation plan and listen to fire authorities when asked to leave an area. Know where you can go and places where you can bring your animals with you. Always take your pets with you when evacuating - If you love them don’t leave them!
  2. Know where your family and pets are at all times. Understand the health dangers associated with wildfires for people and animals, from squinty, teary, red eyes and rubbing at eyes to coughing, difficulties with breathing, animal may display excessive licking, chewing or scratching of affected skin and lethargy. Visible burns of skin and areas around the nose and mouth require a doctors’ visit to make sure there was not excessive heat exposure to the respiratory tract. Check animal paws for burns as well, because we wear shoes and may not be aware of the temperature of the ground and possible burning debris.
  3. Make sure your pet is properly identifiable by a stranger, in case your pet is separated from you. Collars, tags and microchips are great to make sure you pet can be returned to you.
  4. Keep two weeks of food and water per animal along with possible medications, health records, transport crates, leashes, cat litter, etc. Things that are needed on a daily or regular basis for the duration of at least 2 weeks.


FEMA, along with state and local authorities will provide you with the most up to date information using your smart phone or through local news and radio. FOUR PAWS also has recommendations about how to plan and prepare yourself with your animals on our website. The most important thing to remember is to be safe, have a plan before something happens, and evacuate early.


Please stay safe and I hope that the new year will be a more resilient year for all of us. 

-Jackson Zee, FOUR PAWS Director of Disaster Relief Unit