Owners being reunited with rescued pets after the chaos of wildfire evacuations

After learning that his mother’s home in a Hammonds Plains, NS, subdivision was being evacuated on Monday due to the wildfire raging nearby, Darian Savoie’s top priority was making sure her two cats got out OK.

His mother is out of town for a couple of weeks, so he sent a family friend who lives in the area to retrieve the cats, Callie and Maya.

A brown and black calico with bright greenish, yellow eyes sits and looks at the camera.
Callie the calico made it back home after being reunited with Darian Savoie. (Submitted by Darian Savoie)

The family friend was able to find Maya but Callie was hiding and had to be left behind in the house — becoming one of the many pets trapped in the evacuation zones.

Several organizations have stepped up to help get those animals to safety since the evacuation orders first came down over the weekend.

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In Savoie’s case, after two days of worrying he came across a Facebook page called HRM-Tantallon Wildfire Lost Pets, where community volunteers are collaborating with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Halifax Regional Municipality’s Animal Services to help retrieve those animals.

A white man with a beard and yellow shirt carries a white and tan cat in a carrier across a parking lot
Patrick MacLennan with the Department of Natural Resources carries a cat rescued from the evacuated zone of the wildfire burning in Tantallon, NS outside of Halifax on Monday, May 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (The Canadian Press)

Amy Wells started the group. She said that so far, they’ve managed to rescue about 50 to 60 pets — including Callie.

“Now that everything’s okay, I just feel like a weight’s been lifted for sure,” said Savoie, minutes after being reunited with Callie.

He said he wanted to give “the huge-ist shout-out to Amy and the team — it’s actually incredible what they’re doing.”

Wells said she’s received hundreds of messages on Facebook. Some are messages of support, and others are desperate pet owners reaching out for help.

A man hugs a woman in front of a white van.  Another woman watches and smiles.
Savoie embraces one of the volunteers who helped rescue Callie. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Once Wells and her team are given an address and information about a pet by their owner, they relay that information to DNR and Animal Services, who are trying to rescue them from the evacuation zones. If successful, Wells’ volunteers then arrange for a heart-felt reunion with owners in a safe location.

“We’ve had so many tears. [The reunions] are all happy stories,” said Wells.

Retrieving Peppa the pot-bellied pig was certainly a highlight, she said.

“Peppa was very relieved to be out,” said Wells. “She’s probably 200 pounds.”

A black/brown potbelly pig sits in a crate.
Peppa the pot-bellied pig after being rescued by DNR, with the help of volunteers. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

“She had a few dog treats and she was happy,” said Julie Clarke, one of the volunteers working with Wells.

The SPCA is also hard at work helping to save pets affected by the wildfires, in both the Halifax area and Shelburne County.

As of Tuesday morning, the organization has been involved with rescuing or sheltering 105 animals, said spokesperson Sarah Lyon, and that number continues to grow.

“These last couple of days have been overwhelming,” said Lyon. “They have been positive because we’ve been able to help animals and families as well. It’s been tiring, but we absolutely feel we have the privilege to help these families.”

On Wednesday morning, fire officials advised members of the public to contact the SPCA if they have pets who are still in the evacuation zones.


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